How Fast Does a Bobsleigh Go?
The fastest ever bobsleigh is clocked at 156kph (97mph). This was a 4-man sled at the Whistler World Championships in 2019. The whistler track, which hosted the bobsleigh event for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics is the fastest in the world, and as such most of the world speed records have been set there. Though the 100mph barrier has yet to be broken, many believe that it can be under the right conditions, both of the ice as well as the push and drive of the team.
A normal top speed for a sled on other tracks varies from 80mph to 90mph (130 – 145 kph), with some tracks opting for more technical turns over raw speed. Even at this pace the athletes are required to steer the sleds round the complex series of turns, and many tracks will hit there top speed long before the end of the track, and must finish their run carrying that velocity.
The speeds and severity of the corners mean that the athletes inside the sleds experience a large amount of G-force as they hurtle through the corners. However, it is only the driver who can experience the speed as all other athletes are tucked into the “cowling” (body) of the sled.
The speed of the sled is governed by a number of factors. The first is the push at the start of the track. All of the athletes, whether that is in the 2-man of 4-man events will push the sled for around 50m – 60m and then load in. The speed at which they do this governs the top speed at the bottom. A sled simply cannot be fast down the track without an effective start. Any mistake made on the push is amplified 3x by the bottom, so a tenth of a second lost on the start is three tenths by the finish! Other factors include the efficiency of the sled. Making sure that, just like a race car, the vehicle itself is fast is key. However, these differences are made in the manufacturing process and are very hard to alter. The runners the sled slides on however can be changed and different runners are adept at different temperatures and for different tracks, again much like the tyres on a car. Lastly is the drive down the hill. Obviously, the drive is key to maintaining speed. The driver must take the fastest possible line down the hill. Combined with the other factors this drive then dictates the top speed.