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BMW's California design studio designs bobsled for U.S. national team

January 21, 2013|By Jerry Hirsch
  • BMW's design studio in Newbury Park developed this bobsled for the U.S. national team.
BMW's design studio in Newbury Park developed this bobsled for the… (BMW )

Usually, BMW doesn’t want its vehicles to slide freely on ice. But that’s exactly the goal of its latest project – developing a two-man bobsled for the U.S. men’s bobsled team.

The sled raced for the first time at the FIBT World Cup in Igls, Austria, on Saturday but didn’t put the U.S. on the winner’s podium. The Swiss won. The U.S. teams running the BMW sled finished 14th out of 30 entrants.

Another U.S. team running a different sled came close to a podium finish in fifth place.

Still, the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation wasn’t disappointed with how the sled – which was designed at a BMW design studio in Newbury Park – performed.

“Our top driver raced in this sled without making any training runs,” Darrin Steele, chief executive of the federation, told The Times’ Highway 1 blog.

The team wanted to get the new sled on the ice as soon as it arrived in Europe so that it can start gathering data and making tweaks in preparation for next season and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia. The best way to do that is to get the sled into competition at the highest levels as quickly as possible, Steele said.

That’s why the federation handed the controls to driver Steven Holcomb, a gold medalist in the four-man race in the Vancouver Olympics.

With BMW’s help, the federation hopes to produce a two-man sled that could help the U.S. win its first Olympic gold medal in the event since 1936. 

BMW is using strong but lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber used in its electric vehicle development program, in the sled and is working to optimize its aerodynamics to design the new sled. The automaker said the new sled has “a significantly lighter body shell with a low and centralized center of gravity.” 

The automaker is designing a sled that is “sleeker, lighter and we hope faster: essentially a BMW on ice,” said Michael Scully, creative director of BMW Group DesignworksUSA.

The sled will next race this weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

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