The Great Britain four-man bobsleigh team has been spending time in the wind tunnel facilities at the BAE Systems jet-building facility in Warton, Lancashire, as part of their preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Working with aerodynamic experts from BAE Systems and McLaren Applied Technologies - assembled as part of BAE System's technology partnership with UK Sport - the team spent three days in the tunnel discovering how different sled set ups and crew positions affect wind resistance at speeds of over 65mph.
The scientists studied the kits worn by the team and also their racing positions to determine how this affected their aerodynamics on the track.
Team pilot John Jackson said the hundredths of seconds which could be shaved off their time by using this aerodynamic advice could be the difference between success and failure in the team's bid for a podium finish.
“When it comes to the Winter Olympics you need a bit of luck with the right conditions,” Jackson said, “but there are a lot of things you can do to make your own luck.
"If you can get the right equipment and four good runners, you have a chance, but anything you can do which can give you an edge, you need to do if you want to win a medal.”
The wind tunnel, which reaches speeds of 240mph when testing jets, battered the team with wind speeds of nearly 80mph to recreate competition conditions.
Gary Anderson, performance director for GB Bobsleigh, said the world's elite teams all had access to wind tunnel facilities. “We need this type of world-class facility if we are going to compete at the highest level. We can do everything we can do to get our guys to their peak but there is no question aerodynamics play a huge part in this sport, and that is where the experts come in. Using this type of facility they can look at what we are doing and tell us what needs to be done to find those margins."
Mark Spore, group leader for aerodynamic testing, said the testing took place in the four-metre Low-Speed Wind Tunnel at Warton, 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,” Spore said.
The testing is delivered in partnership with the English Institute of Sport, the science, medicine and technology arm of UK Sport.
The bobsleigh team’s preparations are one example of the technology relationship formed between BAE Systems and UK Sport. Worth £2.3 million in kind to support British athletes in preparing for sporting success at the Olympics, Paralympics, World and European Championships, the relationship has already benefitted more than 20 different sports and 140 athletes and is now in its second phase. Through the arrangement, sporting Britons gain access to leading-edge technologies and considerable engineering knowledge and expertise.