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In a major first for the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) Bobsleigh Team, they have joined forces with Lotus Cars who have been commissioned to repair and refurbish one of the sleds.
With the Inter-Services Ice Championships for 2008, being held at the 1200 metre Innsbruck/Igls Olympic Bobsleigh track in Austria, the Team are taking the opportunity to test Lotus’ engineering skills by running this newly refurbished sled on the track.
“Initially we had a requirement to repair a sled which had sustained significant nose cone damage, a huge body crack in the main chassis itself and multiple other cracks and damage that had been sustained over the years” said Bobsleigh Team Manger Flight Lieutenant Craig Dickie. “As an engineer myself and with an understanding of Lotus’ expertise in dealing with composite materials, I approached their engineering department initially to discuss the possibility of them assessing a sled with a view to me paying for any work that needed carrying out. Lotus recognised the value of an affiliation between themselves as an elite car manufacturer and an extreme sport like Bobsleigh and this developed into the repair of the project prototype; which so happened to be the worst sled in our inventory.”
The result was 70 plus hours of engineering time dedicated to repairing the sled and preparing it for the extreme conditions of competitive Bobsleigh. For Lotus it was an ideal opportunity for them to demonstrate their state-of-the-art engineering skills; Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive for Group Lotus Plc is very enthusiastic about the association, “When the RAF Bobsleigh Team approached us, we were immediately grabbed by the very clear association between our high performing, exciting and high technology sports cars, advanced RAF aerospace engineering and the exciting and extreme sport of Bobsleigh. We are regarded as a world leader in composite research, development and manufacture and we are delighted to be given the opportunity to demonstrate our skills outside the car industry. The advanced composites repairs have been done to an extremely high quality, keeping weight to a minimum and are another example of our skills and the resulting Sled has been returned to the RAF as good as new.”
Shooting by at 85 MPH with Olympic Bobsleigh driver RAF Sergeant Michelle Coy at the controls and Junior Technician Caroline Gray as brakeman, it was hard to imagine that just a few months ago the sled’s condition had been assessed as a safety hazard, with little hope of it being restored to use without significant funds being diverted from more pressing priorities. With the cost of buying a new sled ranging from £11,000 for a training sled to £25,000 for a top-of-the-range carbon fibre racing version, the benefits of working with Lotus are obvious.
Now all that is left to be seen is whether the new sled will carry the RAF team to victory against their Service rivals in this week’s Inter-Service competition which are due to conclude on Friday 29th February.
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