Germany has dominated Olympic bobsledding for years, winning eight gold medals at the past five Games. How do you beat them? Hire BMW to build your sled. In 2011, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation asked the automaker to develop the fastest bobsled ever built.
Engineers used technology similar to what was used in BMW’s Formula One race cars to craft a hull from carbon fiber and synthetic laminate (instead of the more commonly used fiberglass), to reduce weight and vibration and allow the sled’s driver to rattle less and focus more.
They also scanned the bodies of two of the team’s bobsledders to produce mannequins for testing and to fine-tune the sled’s ergonomics for more precise steering. So how much faster are the new models? BMW won’t say. But it’s a good bet that if Team USA wins a medal, there will be hefeweizen at the after-party.
Besides a new ride, the U.S. men’s bobsled team has one more powerful tool for reaching the podium: Steven Langton’s lower half. The six-foot-two, 225-pound Langton, 30, anchors both the two- and four-man teams, and has emerged as a dominant force in the sport. His explosive start-line pushes enabled him to capture the U.S.’s first World Championship gold medal, with pilot Steven Holcomb, in 2012.