Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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BMW, U.S. Bobsled Collaboration Turned Into Film

The project, titled "Driving on Ice," is scheduled to air Sunday on NBC.

By TIM REYNOLDS
|  Friday, Jan 3, 2014  |  Updated 9:34 AM PDT
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In this Dec. 14, 2013 file photo, United States' Elana Meyers with brakeman Lauryn Williams compete in the women's bobsled World Cup event in Lake Placid, N.Y. BMW and the U.S. bobsled team have combined on a documentary detailing how the team's newest 2-man sleds were built and designed with hopes of medaling at the Sochi Olympics.

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The first time Steven Holcomb took the controls of the new BMW-designed sleds that the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation hopes will win medals at next month's Sochi Olympics, a problem immediately presented itself.

He drove into the wall, at the start of that first race.

"Getting everything right," Holcomb said, "was a process."

BMW and the USBSF chronicled that process and have turned it into a documentary, announced Friday and detailing how the team's newest 2-man sleds were built and designed within an extremely tight timeframe.

The project, titled "Driving on Ice," is scheduled to air Sunday on NBC.

"Carmakers, they understand this," Holcomb said. "BMW understands how to make very fast, very drivable cars, and that's what they've applied to bobsleds. It's hands-down, in my opinion, the best sled on the hill."

The documentary largely revolves around Holcomb, who drove the Americans to gold in the 4-man race at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and top women's pilot Elana Meyers. Holcomb and Meyers are the best U.S. hopes for bobsled gold at the Sochi Games, and while the women's program has medaled in past Olympics, no American 2-man sled has won a gold medal in the sport's biggest race since 1936.

"We've won countless 2-man races, but not on that day," Holcomb said. "We just haven't performed on that day. These new sleds will take a lot of pressure off. The sled will keep us competitive, and that's a huge piece."

U.S. coach Brian Shimer tried in vain to end that 2-man Olympic victory drought when he was a pilot. He spoke in the documentary of the challenge of getting the sleds so late in the four-year cycle between Vancouver and Sochi.

"Knowing we haven't dialed them in yet is a little nerve-racking," Shimer said on the film, an advance copy of which was reviewed by The Associated Press. "Are we going to get there prior to the big race?"

That's largely the story line for the documentary.

The sled design, both inside and out, was tweaked several times after feedback from Holcomb, Meyers and other pilots and coaches. So far this season, the fleet of six sleds — three for the men, three for the women — has been off to strong results, and has the Americans confident for their medal chances.

"It's faster than anything else on the track," Shimer said.

BMW and the USBSF announced in 2012 that they had been working for more than a year on a new 2-man sled, and it has been a full-time project for both sides. USBSF CEO Darrin Steele studied how BMW teams managed auto racing by embedding with them at times, and the partnership made plenty of sense in many ways.

BMW Group also has a sponsorship arrangement with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and when the talks between the company and the USBSF turned to sliding, the theory was simple: the builder of fast cars can surely build a fast bobsled.

"To say the bobsled has been a passion project for BMW is an understatement, and seeing this true collaborative effort captured in a documentary is remarkable," said Trudy Hardy, BMW of North America's Vice President of Marketing. "After years of hard work, it's very rewarding to be able to share the journey with the fans of Team USA."

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