It's a good thing BMW reverted to its "Ultimate" this-'n'-that slogan, because every time a new project arises, it gets that tagline. The latest twist comes from the Associated Press, tagging a new bobsled "The Ultimate Sliding Machine." .
The U.S. won Olympic gold in women's bobsledding in 2002 and a four-man gold in 2010, but the two-man gold has eluded the Americans since 1936. Ironically, that was won at Garmish-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, by Ivan Brown and Alan Washbond.
BMW also has a sponsorship arrangement with the U.S. Olympic Committee through the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and the company is the official mobility partner for the USBSF, U.S. Speedskating, USA Swimming and USA Track & Field. BMW's talks about this project with the USBSF go back to at least March 2011, with both sides exchanging ideas about how the technology of building fast cars can translate into fast sleds.
"They've helped us think outside the box on what they can do to tap into what they do really well, and that's technology and high-performance," said USBF CEO Darrin Steele.
Bobsleds are like race cars - there are very specific rules about how to build them, and to the naked eye, most seem identical. But BMW and the USBSF say this one will look different.
"What we've got so far, it is recognizably different," said Michael Scully, a creative director for global design at BMW. "It can be what bobsleds in the future are identified as, or it can come to define something that doesn't work. We're really in the early stages of testing."
BMW is headquartered in Germany - a huge bobsled rival for the U.S., and the irony of this arrangement has not been lost on anyone involved. "It is going to be interesting," Steele said. "They're sponsored as well, but this one is going to be a little bit different."
Some U.S. drivers, including reigning Olympic and world champion Steven Holcomb, tested the prototype sled on the 2002 Olympic track in Park City, Utah, earlier this year. There's no announcement about when the sled would make a competitive debut, but the World Cup circuit makes a stop at Park City this coming weekend.
Scully did not know much about bobsledding when his role with the project began, though he's a accomplished in auto racing and alpine sports - which combine in bobsledding. Scully's goal now is simple: He wants to help build a sled that gets Americans to the medal stand in Sochi.
"This whole project is about delivering the fastest tool that we can deliver to the athletes," Scully said. "It really is about us trying to provide them with the very best equipment."
BMW says its "EfficientDynamics" technology that works for cars is being applied to the sled plan, with lightweight materials, optimized aerodynamics and chassis dynamics.
"We're no strangers to sport performance characteristics such as agility, speed and aerodynamics," said Ludwig Willisch, the president and chief executive officer for BMW of North America. "We can't wait to see this finished sled on the ice."––Paul DucheneBack to News