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Olympic Sprinter Out Accelerates a BMW 320d

By John Rettie of Road & Track

By Exhaust Notes May 17, 2012 1:22PM

Via Road & Track.

It’s always been accepted that a human can accelerate faster than a car, initially at least. Yesterday BMW set out to prove it in a series of serious sprint tests on a sunny Sunday afternoon on The Mall in London.

BMW pitched a 320d EfficientDynamics up against British Olympic Gold medalist Mark Lewis-Francis. Professor Greg Whyte, a sports scientist, helped record acceleration, reaction time and speed of the sprinter.

Prof Whyte explained: “From the split second that the gun sounded up until 4 seconds Mark was, perhaps surprisingly, quicker than the BMW. Through looking at Mark’s results and measuring how they compare to the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics we’re able to put into context how well an Olympic sprinter accelerates.”

Via Road & Track.Lewis-Francis, who won an Olympic gold medal at Athens 2004 in the 4 x 100m relay, said: “It was an amazing experience to take part in such a unique event in a world-renowned London location and it all adds to excitement of London 2012. People regularly ask me to explain how I can run so fast and what the crucial elements of our technique really are. Today has shown just how important those small efficiencies are and how they equally relate to engineering in cars. I did not expect to be able to outrun the BMW for so long!”

(Via Road & Track.)*Data from test results in Munich

Via Road & Track.It’s quite amazing that Lewis Frank was able to out drag the 320d up to almost 100 feet. However when you see Prof Whyte’s explanation it’s fully understandable:

Reaction Time: “As a professional athlete Mark is adept at sprinting from a starting gun and we are able to measure his reaction time from the moment the gun sounds to the point he explodes from the blocks. Along with other factors, it is how efficiently he is able to relay that response which allows him to pull away. Equally for the BMW – whilst the vehicle can make available the maximum propelling force limited only through the traction of the tyres – the reaction time of the driver is critical along with his ability to appropriately apportion the accelerator and clutch to achieve optimum wheel slip. To achieve this, the traction control must be switched off.”

Via Road & Track.Acceleration: “In measuring the rate of acceleration we looked at three particular aspects; the time it took for Mark and the BMW to travel their particular distances, the starting velocity of Mark and the BMW, and also the finishing velocity. Given the greater power to weight ratio that Mark has, he is able to accelerate very rapidly over short distances. This, together with resistance against the starting blocks enables him to achieve a starting acceleration of over 1G making him quicker than the BMW for just under 30 metres, until the point when then the sustained acceleration of the car consumes his head start.”

You’re probably wondering why BMW undertook this experiment?

It’s because BMW is the Official Automotive Partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games. It is providing 4,000 low emission diesel, hybrid and electric cars as well as motorcycles and bicycles to help ferry officials, media and competitors around Britain during the event, which gets under way in July.

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May 18, 2012 10:37AM
I think it's pretty amazing that Lewis-Francis was able to beat the BMW in the first 30m.  Granted he has less mass to get moving and the BMW is a diesel.
May 18, 2012 7:15AM

When I clicked on the link I was picturing a race between a BMW and a Sprinter VAN.  I guess I missed the part that said "Olympic." 


However, I found the actual article to be much more interesting.

May 18, 2012 5:19AM
Let's try this again with their 335ix with an automatic and launch control.
May 18, 2012 5:17AM
Rerun the race against an all-electric car like the Nissan Leaf.  Yeah, I know what you're thinking "A Nissan Leaf"?  Yes.  Although it may not be very impressive in the traditional accelloration measures like 0-60 or quarter mile, pure electric cars like the Leaf tend to kick butt in off-the-line accelloration because most DC electric motors have maximum torque at zero rpm.  This is exactly the characteristic needed to leap forward from a dead start.  The Leaf is FWD, but AWD (and traction control) would further leverage the benefit by reducing wheelslip at takeoff.
Mar 26, 2013 5:01AM

True story

     One day at work, in the early 80's a co-worker said he could beat a truck in a 50 ft. race. He was in relatively good shape but no great sprinter. We marked off 50 ft. and got a Ford pick up and lined them up. When both were ready the race began. The winner, the human but it was close. If you don't believe it find some one in decent shape and try it. We were also shocked.

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