Scientists and engineers from BAE Systems, the UK’s leading defence, aerospace and security company, have been applying the same technology used to develop the world’s most advanced jet fighter – the Eurofighter Typhoon – to help improve the racing speed of the Great Britain bobsleigh team.
The four-man team – medal hopefuls for next year’s Winter Games – spent three days in the wind tunnel facility at Warton in a bid to shave seconds off their time.
The wind tunnel, normally used to test fighter jets at speeds of over 200mph, was used to simulate full bobsleigh racing conditions and examine how different sled set ups and crew positions affect wind resistance at speeds of well over 65mph (100kmph).
The testing, which was carried out alongside experts from McLaren Applied Technologies, focused on the plastic composite helmets worn by the team Joel Fearon, Bruce Tasker, Stuart Benson and driver John Jackson, to ensure they pick the right one to take to the Games in Sochi, Russia, next February.
Gary Anderson, performance director for the GB bobsleigh team, said the team had been 0.07 seconds off a podium finish at the world championships in January. “Our aim is to top the podium at the biggest events and we are leaving no stone unturned to maximise our performance. We are talking the narrowest of margins and the aggregate of these can be the difference between fourth place and making it onto the podium.”
During the testing the teams were joined by a BBC film crew from Dara O’Briain’s Science Club programme. Presenter Alok Jha was able to experience the full force of the wind tunnel both inside the bobsleigh and securely harnessed into the tunnel itself. Viewers will be able to see the wind tunnel at work in Thursday’s (1 August) episode of Dara O’Briain’s Science Club at 8pm on BBC Two.
Kelvin Davies, BAE Systems Project Manager for the Technology Partnership added: Designing and engineering some of the world’s most complex products means that we are at the forefront of technological innovation. To be able to share this considerable expertise with athletes so that they can make adjustments that will enhance their performance is tremendously exciting.”
Mark Spore, Group Leader for Aerodynamic Testing, said the testing took place in the 4m Low-Speed Wind Tunnel, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country: “On a normal day, the wind tunnel would be used to test the aerodynamic performance of the world-class aircraft we produce, but having had cyclists and wheelchair racers in the tunnel before, it was great to welcome the bobsleigh team.”
This isn’t the first time that BAE Systems engineers have applied their expertise to help British sports. A five year partnership (2008-2012) between BAE Systems and high performance sports agency UK Sport saw the Company spend tens of thousands of hours applying high-tech defence technology and expertise to help some of Great Britain’s sporting heroes and heroines.