Jaguar Land Rover and the jet-powered man
British skiing champion and five-time Olympian, Graham Bell, next year hopes to become the fastest man on skis, and Jaguar Land Rover is the driving force to get him there.
With the help of Jaguar Land Rover’s team of aerodynamics, engineering and design experts, Bell hopes to reach speeds of over 160mph, beating the current world record for downhill skiing of 156mph, held by Italian Simone Oregone.
Wearing a specialised suit and propelled by two tiny jets hidden in his boots, Bell and the team will undertake the record attempt at Jaguar Land Rover’s cold weather testing facility in Arjeplog, Sweden in 2017. Before then however, there will be a lot of preparation needed to ready the team for the task.
Starting out with high-speed training in the Alps, Bell will be towed at speeds of up to one hundred miles an hour behind a car, in a sport known as skijoring, which sees skiers being pulled behind a horse, a pack of dogs, or a motorised vehicle to gain speed. However, as well as ensuring Graham is physically (and mentally) prepared for flying down a snow covered track at more than 160mph, the design team over at Jaguar Land Rover will have their work cut out to make him as quick as possible.
Ian Anderton, the thermal and aerodynamics manager at Jaguar Land Rover admits that as far as engineering challenges go, they don’t get much more unique than this one. When it came to designing the suit, engineers not only had to think about streamlining the suit and reducing drag to make Graham as fast as possible, they also had the important considerations of how to keep him safe and warm as he hurtles down the mountainside. To do this, the ski-joring exercises, as well as getting Bell used to reacting in high-speed situations, also helped the design team to assess his skiing position, and measure factors such as wind and chill, especially in the icy minus conditions.
“In many ways, it’s very similar to the car design process, necessitating the perfect balance between aerodynamics, engineering and design for ultimate performance.” Said Anderton.
Despite his 45 years of experience on the slopes, Bell admitted this would undoubtedly be the biggest challenge of his life. To reduce the amount of fuel Bell will have to carry, he will first be pulled behind a Jaguar XE all-wheel drive vehicle, relying on the vehicle's all-wheel drive capabilities to get him up to speed, before firing up the twin-jets to reach 160mph and take the record.
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