BMW Technology Equips German Bobsleigh Team For The Olympic Games – Video
The German Bobsleigh and Sled Sports Federation (BSD) athletes have a score to settle at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang (KOR) in February 2018. Four years ago, the successful bob athletes came away without a medal. At the three world championships that followed, Germany returned to winning ways and appears to be ready for the Olympics. BSD technology partner BMW was also involved in the development of the sporting equipment. A whole host of BMW engineering expertise is incorporated into the sleds: aerodynamics, ergonomics and structural analysis.
As the long-standing premium and technology partner of the BSD, BMW supports the association with the development and optimisation of the sleds. BMW brings its extensive expertise from car manufacturing, as well as its unique infrastructure. In the BMW Group’s aerodynamic test centre and in the wind tunnel, the BSD is able to test and optimise the sporting equipment, as well as consult with the BMW aerodynamics experts. BMW also provides important expertise on carbon technology. In the area of CFRP (carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic) in particular, BMW has unique knowledge as the first car manufacturer to make use of the material carbon in mass production.
Bobs are manufactured from carbon, a material with which BMW is very familiar; BMW demonstrates its expertise not only in car manufacturing and motorsport, but also in the America’s Cup, the most challenging sailing competition in the world. Thomas Hahn, who is head of the BMW technology transfer, has spent many years working on the construction of the high-tech racing yachts for two-time America’s Cup winner ORACLE Team USA. He knows the challenges and the potential of carbon. The aerospace engineer uses his specialist knowledge to support bobsleigh builder Johannes Wallner, who manufactures the 2-man and 4-man bobs for the reigning world champion bob teams Lochner and Friedrich.
The positions of the three pushers require different qualities. For example, two requires more power, four requires more speed and a higher step frequency. In the 4-man sled of Francesco Friedrich, this position is held by former decathlete Thorsten Margis, who is an imposing 1.92 metres tall. He needs more space to position himself as flat as possible in the bob to reduce air resistance. The position of his seat needed to be adjusted for this.
Head coach René Spies said: “Over the summer we optimised the Wallner bobs for the teams Friedrich and Lochner. Many ideas for improving the aerodynamics of the sleds and for the seat positions were developed and implemented. The valuable tests in the BMW wind tunnel enabled us to confirm the positive results and get that last hundredth of a second for our Mission Gold. A big thank you goes to BMW for this.”
Hahn said: “Changing the seating positions is nowhere near as trivial as one might think. Such optimisations change the centre of gravity and the handling, among other things. But we are very pleased with the result. Identifying and implementing the optimum compromise is a challenge that has to be mastered every day in car manufacturing.”
The seating positions of the athletes have a huge influence on the aerodynamics. The strict regulations allow only very restricted options for optimising the sleds. “The aerodynamic losses related to the crew and shape of the sled need to be minimised,” said Lochner. “The wind tunnel of the BMW Group is invaluable for getting the last modicum here. We need to scrape together every hundredth of a second that we can find so that we can celebrate a gold, silver or bronze medal again at the Olympic Games.”
The sophisticated infrastructure of the BMW Group’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) in Munich, which the BSD has access to, contains one of the largest and most innovative wind tunnels in the world. It facilitates wind speeds of up to 300 km/h. And, thanks to enormous computing capacity, various aerodynamic models can be calculated within a very short time. “We can optimise the bobs here in exactly the same way as we optimise our cars,” said Holger Gau, BMW expert for 3D simulation methods. “We look at turbulence, analyse pooling regions and use appropriate shape changes – or changed seating positions – to try to minimise resistance.” A final test before the Olympic Games showed that the aerodynamic measures achieved a reduction in air resistance of up to six percent. In theory, this should make the sleds a tenth of a second faster per run. However, compared with the test laboratory, factors such as weather and track conditions, as well as the sliding line, are significant in the ice channel.