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Feb 04, 2014 - 06:17 PM
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IndyCar Paddock Adds Technical Expertise To Olympic Bobsled Effort
Posted by: newsla on Feb 04, 2014 - 06:15 PM
IndyCar News
IndyCar Paddock Adds Technical Expertise To Olympic Bobsled Effort

When the Olympic bobsled competition begins later this month in Sochi, Russia, the IndyCar Series paddock will have a watchful eye.


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Former Panther Racing engineer David Cripps and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal have played a role in getting Team USA into medal contention.

Aside from relative speeds, there are parallels between bobsleds and IndyCars that intrigue Cripps, the former Panther Racing chief engineer. Since June, he's been an integral member of the USA Bobsled and Skeleton team seeking to strike gold at the Sochi Olympics this month.

"My responsibilities are very similar to an IndyCar race engineer. I am basically responsible for the performance, reliability, development and day-to-day running of the sleds," Cripps said a few days ahead training runs on the serpentine run in Russia. "There has been a fairly large amount of development upgrades coming up to the Games."

Cripps' move to winter racing can be traced to the IndyCar Series race at Belle Isle in 2012 when he provided a tour of the Panther Racing operation for USA Luge officials, who were guests of team sponsor National Guard.

"There are similarities to IndyCar racing, and it has been such an invigorating challenge to learn a new form of racing," Cripps said. "So far, this has been an amazing adventure and the best is yet to come. It truly has been an honor to work with such an amazing group of athletes and coaches. Their level of effort and dedication is commendable. I think we will be assembling one of the strongest pit crews ever for this year's Indy 500."

Like IndyCar racing, technology drives the bobsleds and its two-man sled was older than some of the athletes competing in the Vancouver Games. So the team turned to BMW DesignWorks USA to supply a new sled and later to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for technical advice.

Six of the two-man sleds for the Games, designed and built by BMW Group DesignworksUSA studio and made from the same carbon fiber that comprise much of an IndyCar Series chassis and components, received a steering upgrade from the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing group in Hilliard, Ohio.

"(Technical Director) Jay (O'Connell) suggested various changes to the geometry of the steering and we manufactured the pieces in the shop and the guys absolutely loved it," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "The first race they dominated. It makes you feel good that you contributed to the success of the program."

Rahal has been a major contributor since August 2012, when he was named chairman of the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Foundation.

"My major responsibility as chairman of the foundation, which is different from the actual team, is to create the funding opportunities so the program continues to have financial stability and not just going year to year looking for sponsorship," he said of the 501c3 charity. "It's meant to create a financial base, and that means me contacting companies and individuals to contribute. We've had some good response and raise some significant sums, but that's a never-ending process.

"It's a thrill for me, and I'm a huge fan and supporter of the Olympic ideal and spirit, especially Americans competing against the best the world has to offer. Hopefully, we'll bring that gold home again."

And there's a good chance. Steven Holcomb and his push crew have had a successful World Cup season heading to Sochi, winning nine of 16 four-man and two-man races. On Jan. 27, Holcomb won the World Cup overall title in two-man and finished second in the four-man standings. He's seeking to become the first American pilot since Bill Riske in 1928 and '32 to win consecutive gold medals in the four-man competition.

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