Bobsleigh is not the perfect place for applied science. Believes and disbelief, hope and a lots of "secret sauce" is usually what you find when it comes to the question what makes
runners fast. The huge nations spent quiet an amount of time and budget into extensive testing.
At iXent Sports we believe understanding and managing the physics of the problem is the base for a development of an exceptional product. Bobsleigh runners are a perfect example to demonstrate this.
Usually the development of a runner starts with a person thinking about an optimum rocker shape of
the runner, put it into production and give it to the pilot to test it on a certain track.
Test results usually depend on track condition, personal shape of the pilot on the day,
track tendencies and lots of other issues which have to be considered. Often a runner gets sorted out
after one or two runs not able to show its full capacity due to subjective judgement.
All these factors are ruled out in the simulation environment. If there is the capability of accessing the physics of a runner via simulation all of a sudden there is nothing like a track tendency, nothing like the personal judgement of a pilot or a trainer. It just comes down to the numbers.
The challenge of setting up such an environment is that nobody knows exactly how bobsleighing works down to the details. What we’ve figured out at iXent is a performance criteria for the computer. This enables us to simulate hundreds and thousands of variants of runners and pick the best variant for different tracks or even for one specific track.
Although this is a high effort for the computer clusters involved (it takes several days to compute thousands of shapes, Figure 1) it is cheap compared to the effort and the quality of the result of a real test. Just imagine the effort and the procedure of testing 10 different runners on a track and judge at the end of the day.
Different Runner Geometries designed and evaluated by a supercomputer – Pick yours!
Every modern industry nowadays relies on simulation and only verifies the simulation result in a final testing procedure before launching the product. Exactly the same happened during our runner development, we tested only 2 prototypes (different Radii for Mono and 2-men) and just verified the simulation results. Next thing they saw were the training weeks in China and from then on there were used by different athletes during World Cup season.
Informed by this outcome interested teams started into the 2021 / 2022 bobsleigh season equipped with iXent runners. iXent followed their races closely and had a sharp look at the results. Will the runners be up to the task when it comes to real racing?
We compared the performance of athletes and equipment over the last 2 year – before iXent runners were available and after the introduction of iXent runners:
During this year’s BMW IBSF Worldcup in Altenberg in December 2021 the 2-man bobsleigh teams of Brad Hall, Christoph Hafer, Romain Heinrich and Patrick Baumgartner were equipped with iXent runners. As well as during the World Championships in early 2021 the hardly surprising winner was Francesco Friedrich.
In a detailed analysis significant differences to Friedrich’s win during World Championships (when iXent runners weren’t on market) can be seen. With starting deficit (up to 0.25s) all pilots managed to close the gap to Friedrich. Unlike the lines in figure 1, which are drifting away straight-line, all curves in figure 2 return the trend of drifting away and almost close to the zero line. After losing time due to less starting speed all athletes on iXent runners gained time on the track compared to Friedrich. Christoph Hafer was even rewarded with his best ever World Cup performance winning the silver medal.
During this year’s World Cup in Sigulda the same picture could be seen when Brad Hall got second after Friedrich. With less initial velocity due to 0.05s start deficit, he managed to almost overtake Friedrich. (Figure 4) The curve also went from drifting away to a sharp turn closing the gap quickly. If the track would have been just a few meters longer…
For sure bobsleighing is much more complex and there are multiple factors influencing performance. But there is quite some evidence that iXent runners should be part of a maximum performance package for an athlete.
Being pleased with the already achieved performance, we will not stop and improve the development even more. More variables will be included in our optimization as for example runner length, height, rocker and vibration dynamics are just a small part of what we are already working on. Be curious, keep in touch and stay tuned!
When interested in getting more information on pricing and how to purchase, just get in touch via E-Mail info[at]ixent-sports.com