A Fast “Train” to Success
- Tuesday, 01 April 2014
In Sochi, Russia on February 23, Steven Holcomb, Steve Langton, Curt Tomasevicz, and Chris Fogt captured the Olympic bronze medal for the USA in the four-man bobsled designed by Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project Inc., a North Carolina-based company created by former NASCAR champion Geoff Bodine. The Night Train 2® sled was the passion of Bodine and his engineer, Bob Cuneo.
“I was watching the 1992 Winter Olympics, and our bobsled athletes weren’t doing too well,” said Bodine. “They were bouncing off all the walls. The announcer said maybe the reason was that they have to buy equipment from their competition. They were getting the leftovers — the sleds nobody wanted.” He realized that what the athletes needed was a better bobsled. He and Cuneo developed and built the Night Train.
“Bob Cuneo and I didn’t know anything about bobsleds,” admitted Bodine. “We did our own design and it was completely different from anyone else’s. A lot of the design, engineering, and mechanical things we took from NASCAR and applied to bobsledding. The biggest thing was the importance of testing and getting data from those tests, looking at that data and understanding what it meant, and then making adjustments from it.”
Said Cuneo, “We do a lot of computational flow analysis and integrate that with the wind tunnel time. In the wind tunnel, we not only verify the data we learned from the computation, but we also position the athletes and learn a lot about how they have to ride in the sled. The inner mechanics of the sled are just as important as the body. A lot of people think it’s just a shell with skis on it, but it’s a pretty intricate mechanism.”
The original Night Train sled was a fiberglass body, and won the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The NightTrain 2 was upgraded to a carbon fiber body in 2013.
“ For the Vancouver Olympics, we knew it would be the fastest track on Earth — up to 95 miles per hour — so we put extra emphasis on the aerodynamics,” explained Cuneo. “Sochi was a slower track — only about 85 mph — but very technical. We put all our emphasis this time on control and the actual physics within the chassis to make the sled more precise to get them on the right line for the uphill sections.”
The USA Night Train 2 team captured the 2014 World Cup in Germany just weeks before the Sochi games. Some European teams have asked about purchasing the carbon fiber composite sled, which costs about $50,000, but Bodine won’t sell it to them. It was designed and built strictly for the United States team, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. For more information, visit www.bodynbobsled.com.