The main content of this page begins here.
The first Japanese bobsleigh designed and built in four weeks
Tokyo's Ota Ward boasts 4,000 firms specializing in metal components for motorcars, bullet trains, and other hitech products. The area is a hotspot of high-quality industrial design and production. Proud of his neighborhood, Satoshi Kosugi hit on the idea of getting all this local know-how together to create a single product that would demonstrate to the world the quality and excellence of the technological skill concentrated in a one place: Ota. To be really noticed, the product would have to compete on the world's sporting stage in a field in which Japan had yet to shine; it would have to be manufactured in a short time, and within the comparatively limited budget of ¥30 million ($300, 000).
A bobsleigh is born!
When Kosugi unveiled his idea to local firms, the general response was, "A bob-what?!" Because bobsleighing is not a sport that is well known in Japan. Nevertheless, thanks to the enthusiasm generated by the idea of a grand collaborative project in volving the whole neighborhood, Kosugi managed to convince 32 firms to take up the challenge. Junichi Hogai, the CEO of MATERIAL, immediately took on the leadership role for the project. In the record time of only three weeks, the first Japanese bobsleigh was born. The design followed the strict criteria set by the International Bobsleighing and Tobogganing Federation (FIBT), and benefited from the constant collaboration of athletes, including former Olympian Toshio Wakita. The first model is destined for a women's team, who immediately understood that the new bobsleigh was completely different from the secondhand toboggan they' d been using until then. At the Japanese winter sports games in Nagano, the women won gold, and also beat their personal best time. The professional athletes of the FIBT immediately realized that the new bobsleigh will shake up the international rankings.
What's so special about it?
At 10.5 feet (320 cm) long and weighing 408 lb (185 kg), the sleigh' s ultra-light composite carbon hull weighs just 44 lb (20 kg). DOME CARBON MAGIC developed the unique square aerodynamic design by applying their expertise in molding composite car bodies for Formula 1 and other elite motor sports. The internal steel "skeleton" consists of 120 components specially designed by the 32 partner firms and assembled in the most efficient way possible. The guidance system and breaks have been adjusted to be an exact match to the athletes' requirements. The handmade springs were tested and adjusted one by one so as to absorb all vibrations. The booster seat was crafted by hand during the tests on the track, to mold the inside of the toboggan to the body of the pilot. This component will be an integral part of the madeto- measure concept of the next generation of Ota bobsleighs.
An Ota bobsleigh costs around ¥10 million ($100,000) and is built to order. Because bobsleighing is an extremely dangerous sport--as the sleigh can reach speeds of 87mph (140 km/h)--athletes must be at least 18 years old to take part. The sport is often described as "Formula 1 on ice." Thanks to team Ota, the Japanese will become important players on the international bobsleigh scene, especially at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. The next models are already on the drawing board: A new more compact and ergonomic sleigh for the women' s team, and two completely new two- and four-seater designs for the men's teams.
Kosugi is proud to have been able to show that the Ota district, just 23.3 square miles (60.42 km2) in area and located close to Haneda International Airport, is a real gold mine of technological know-how, quality, and rapid development and production. He's demonstrated that in getting together all the stakeholders, he's achieved some pretty impressive results. Will a gold medal in Sochi crown his efforts? To be continued....