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Speed with Guy Martin: Breaking a world record

Lead engineers Nick Hamilton, Terry Senior, John Hart, Steve Haake

Funded by North one Television

Aim

North One produced a TV series where Guy Martin would attempt to break a series of four speed records. CSER were tasked with designing an unpowered sledge capable of breaking the existing world record on snow set by Rolf Allerdissen in Germany of 62.2 mph (100.18 km/h). The CSER team came up with a series of concepts to minimise retarding forces on the sledge, but allowing directional control and most importantly safety. 

A unique braking system was designed, manufactured and built in to a prototype chassis. This chassis also included mechanisms to allow the width, camber and toe of the attached skis to be tested at a variety of angles. This test ‘mule’ was initially trialled at an indoor snow dome proving the concept at speeds up to 35 mph. Nick Hamilton and Terry Senior then took the prototype out to Zermatt where they tested it on a glacier achieving speeds of over 60 mph. This was a crucial step allowing the camber and toe of the sledges skis to be refined, improving the tracking and stability of the sledge while proving the parachute system.

To optimise the aerodynamics of the sledge Dr John Hart initially completed a detailed laser scan of Guy Martin. This captured the 3D geometry of this body so that the design of the shroud could be optimised to his body shape. Using computational fluid dynamics to refine his designs he created an aerodynamically efficient body shell. Shrouding the sledge and pilot was critical to minimising the drag forces and maximising peak velocity. His detailed simulations were beautifully rendered and featured in the broadcast. This design was then manufactured in carbon fibre by a sub contractor then assembled at Sheffield Hallam.

In December 2013 the team travelled to Grandvalira in Andorra. The record breaking run took place on a purpose built speed ski slope, Pista Riberal. Working over two days the Centre for Sports Engineering Research team advised on how the attempts should be conducted safely. Guy built up from low down on the hill gradually learning how best to control the sledge and gaining confidence in its performance. The final result was a resounding smashing of the record with a speed of 83.49 mph and the awarding of a Guinness world record.

Impact

The show was watched by over 2 million viewers on Channel 4 and was by far the most viewed of the whole series. It is still currently being repeated.

View the final run here.

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