28 February 2014
TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG) will take to the slopes this month as part of German athlete Andrea Eskau’s bid for Paralympic Winter Games gold.
TMG has implemented its advanced composite technology, honed in Formula 1 and at the Le Mans 24 Hours, to develop a cutting-edge sled to help Andrea in her quest for gold medals in Sochi to add to the silver and bronze medals she won at Vancouver 2010.
The TMG sled is made entirely of carbon fibre, reducing its overall weight from 5.5kg to just 4.172kg, and is designed to fit perfectly around Andrea, who is 42 and from Apolda in Germany.
It was designed in close cooperation with Andrea, whose relationship with TMG began in 2011 when the Cologne-based company cooperated on a seat insert for her double gold medal-winning performance in the cycling at the London Paralympics.
The initial project team of Andrea and TMG staff Gerard Winstanley, Norbert Schäfer and Sergej Blech began with a clean sheet of paper and developed the most ergonomic shape, targeting comfort and weight saving whilst also ensuring reliability at temperatures of potentially -20°C; much colder than those faced by any of TMG’s race cars.
But genuine Formula 1 parts have made it to the final design, with F1 suspension elements used to create strong and aerodynamic legs for the sled, with these parts bonded to the main chassis of the sled.
Specific attention was paid to developing an innovative solution which allows the skis to be easily clipped on and off the legs, saving weight and ensuring optimum performance at speeds of up to 50km/h.
Using experienced gained from the top level of motorsport, TMG’s composites experts crafted a bodyshell mainly of 1.5mm carbon fibre, with 2mm material used directly under Andrea’s body to cope with the extreme load cases generated there.
A Formula 1-style seat fitting was carried out with Andrea, but the resulting foam insert proved marginally too heavy so a specialist insert from orthopaedic specialists, and long-term supporters of Andrea, Rapp und Seifert was chosen instead.
Andrea will take part in a total of seven events in Sochi covering biathlon (6km, 10km and 12.5km), cross-country skiing (1km, 5km and 10km) and a team relay. Her first event begins on 8 March.
Andrea Eskau: “In my sport, a sled has to feel like it is part of you and the TMG sled really feels like a second skin. The quality of design and finish that Gerard and his team have achieved is extremely impressive; when you see the sled it is obviously the result of some serious engineering and manufacturing expertise. I have been training extensively with the new sled and through this process we have fine-tuned the design to deliver optimal performance. As an athlete it is vitally important to focus entirely on the challenge ahead; you don’t want to be distracted by equipment which doesn’t fit you perfectly or moves too much during the event. Thanks to TMG I now have absolute confidence in my sled and I’m determined to reward their energy with medals in Sochi.”
Gerard Winstanley, TMG Manager Composite, Fabrication and Rapid Manufacturing: “It has been an absolute privilege to work with Andrea on this project; she is a truly amazing woman and phenomenal athlete. Her enthusiasm just rubbed off on everyone and really got the project off to a flying start. It was an awe-inspiring experience to meet Andrea at TMG after the London Paralympics and actually hold her two gold medals; everyone involved in the project was energised by that and by her dedication. It has been an interesting technical challenge and one for which we have used a very personal approach, tailoring everything exactly to Andrea’s individual needs. The end result is a unique prototype which we hope will help Andrea to win more medals, which she richly deserves.”