Lotus Cars joins forces with Royal Air Force for a bobsleigh ride.
Lotus Cars UK has undertaken a slightly unconventional project, joining forces with the Royal Air Force (RAF) Bobsleigh Team to repair and redevelop one of its competition sleds. "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 RAF Bobsleigh Team Manager Flight Lieutenant Craig Dickie.
"As an engineer myself and with an understanding of Lotus' expertise in dealing with composite materials, I approached Lotus Engineering 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 a generous 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 to demonstrate its state-of-the-art engineering skills. Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive for Group Lotus 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 extreme sport of Bobsleigh.
"Lotus is regarded as a world leader in composite research, development and manufacture. 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. The resulting Sled has been returned to the RAF as good as new."
With a colour scheme change from its RAF blue to the traditional green and gold of Lotus, shooting by at speeds of 135km/h 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.
With the cost of buying a new sled ranging from $23,000 for a training sled to $52,000 for a top-of-the-range carbon fibre racing version, the benefits of working with Lotus to rebuild the existing sled are obvious.
With the Inter-Services Ice Championships for 2008 held at the 1200 metre Innsbruck/Igls Olympic Bobsleigh track in Austria, the Team took the opportunity to test Lotus' engineering skills by running this newly refurbished sled on the track - and it excelled on its first outing, finishing third overall in the Inter-Services competition.
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