McLaren win Gold at Sochi…Ferrari and BMW next?

The Olympics in Sochi do have some relevance to Formula 1 but then that may not come as a surprise when you’re trying to go 80mph down a bespoke ice course on blades. As Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold crossed the line to claim the UK’s first gold medal in the 22nd Winter Olympics, she did so on a sled that McLaren Applied Technology helped produce. Alan Baldwin at Reuters caught up with the Woking wonks:

“We got involved after the last Olympics so that sled had already been started and been very successful with Amy Williams (winner in 2010) and we got involved in doing the second set of tweaks and improvements,” said McLaren Applied Technologies director of performance Caroline Hargrove.

McLaren’s expertise in aerodynamics is an added bonus to Yarnold as every 100th of a second counts. That’s not unusual for Formula 1 which is measured in the 1,000th of a second. Refining the sled’s aerodynamic effectiveness is, as you can imagine, an incremental process just like finding another 1,000th of a second from a McLaren F1 car’s front wing.

Each sled is a bespoke creation for the athlete that uses it and this personalization is where McLaren helped as well:

“In each case we personalise the intervention, so for example the sled dynamics are tailored to the particular athlete,” Hargrove told Reuters.

“She [Yarnold] … is an extremely talented athlete and therefore changes that we made to the sled that she liked, she took on board,” said Hargrove. “It made a difference but at the same time it made her a better skeleton athlete.

“We’ve never seen anyone really learn so quickly. Which means that the sled must be good or better than the previous ones in order to get to your high level quicker.”

In years past, Geoff Bodine was a NASCAR driver but in 1992, he was inspired to help Team USA develop a bobsled that could actually win. Bodine has made 18 bobsleds for the US team over the years with several gold medals to show for his efforts. A spilt with the US bobsled organization in 2011 will still see a Bo-Dyn creation in Sochi but it left the door open for a new technical partner—enter BMW.

BMW has also been involved in helping the US team with not only the 2-man bobsled but the luge as well as Skeleton sleds. This technical partnership was sought out by the organization when they split with Bo-Dyn in 2011.

Ferrari has been helping the Italian teams as well and this makes it a sort of F1 extracurricular activity so to speak but one that makes sense when you consider the task at hand.

As F1 heads into the vast unknown with new regulation changes intent on luring carmakers back to the sport with a product that is more road car relevant, perhaps F1’s innovation, like the aerospace industry, are starting to permeate more than one walk of life. If I were working for McLaren Applied Technology, I would make a strong case for me to work closely with the Russian women’s curling team…I’m just saying.

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