16 February 2014
McLaren wins in Sochi
McLaren F1 offshoot helps Great Britain claim first gold medal of Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Fully eight months before Russia debuts on the F1 schedule, McLaren has claimed a notable victory in the mountains above the Sochi grand prix venue.
The Woking company, looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 F1 season as the sport moves into a new technical era, has been applying its know-how to other areas, including the design and development of equipment for Team GB's bob skeleton team. That involvement paid off handsomely on Friday, when Lizzy Yarnold claimed the gold medal in a discipline that has already proved bountiful for the British.
Four years after Amy Williams claimed gold in Vancouver, Yarnold decimated the opposition at the Sanki Sliding Centre, using a sled perfected by design engineers Rachel Blackburn and James Roche at McLaren Applied Technologies. The pair were behind Williams' successful sled while PhD students at Southampton University, and now work hand-in-hand with McLaren's sideline, which also helped deliver 30 medals – half of them gold – in cycling, rowing, sailing and canoeing at the London Olympics in 2012.
“We have taken a rigorous scientific look at sled design,” Roche told Britain's Daily Telegraph, “We fitted a range of sensors to various sleds, analysed a lot of data to build an effective computer model and only then did we really get a picture of what was working and what could be improved.
“One improvement that we identified was the potential to adapt sleds to suit individual athletes and configure them to suit particular tracks. That has always been our approach in F1, to consider every detail and make even small changes if they make the car better suited to the driver and the circuit. We have been able to bring the same refinement to skeleton bob for the first time.”
Hoping to build on the success of the 'Blackroc' sled– a name derived from a combination of the designers' surnames – McLaren is also involved in the future of British bobsleigh racing, although its input came too late for much of its development to be taken to Sochi. However, a battle with Ferrari, which is aiding the Italian team, and BMW, which aids the USA, both four years from now and in the intervening FIBT World Cup competitions is a mouth-watering prospect.
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