BMW 3D Scanned Its Riders To Work On Aerodynamics During the Pandemic

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan
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With the World Superbike championship set to resume again this weekend in Jerez, after a long Coronavirus-induced break since the season opener at Philip Island in February, BMW felt it necessary to tell everyone how it was spending its time in lockdown – and it’s pretty fascinating.

While lockdown meant racing has stopped, development of the S1000RR World Superbike challenger has not. Specifically in the area of aerodynamics. Cutting through the air as efficiently as possible is a big deal when racing at the highest levels, and while it’s easy enough to place an S1000RR in the wind tunnel, doing so without a rider aboard is pointless. But what do you do when your riders are in different countries, unable to travel to Munich because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic?

bmw 3d scanned its riders to work on aerodynamics during the pandemic

You build life-size 3D models of your riders, of course. Turns out Eugene Laverty just happened to be at BMW HQ in Germany shortly before the lockdown started. These kinds of things are not unusual, as the riders visit the factories to meet the team and get comfortable on the motorcycle. This time, BMW also used the opportunity to take detailed 3D scans of Laverty – fully suited – while in the tucked position.

The precision of these measurements means every individual glove finger, every contour of the helmet, every seam in the leathers, and every crease that could affect the aerodynamic drag and airflow was measured. “Based on the data from the 3D scan, we created a plastic model made of two halves. It took about a week to get all the details right, however our 3D Eugene was then ready for action,” said BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director Marc Bongers. Considering the impending pandemic, and the havoc it would cause on the schedule, the timing couldn’t have been better.

bmw 3d scanned its riders to work on aerodynamics during the pandemic

The plastic version of Laverty has now been used over 50 times, as he’s sat patiently atop the S1000RR. BMW’s wind tunnel is equipped with a 2,600 hp electric motor, able to recreate speeds of nearly 160 mph. “Using a 3D model like this allows us to work more efficiently on development of our RR,” explains Bongers. “While a real rider must travel to get here, the plastic version is available at any time for testing in the wind tunnel. This means that we can evaluate and implement updates even faster.”

As for the 3D model itself, the real Eugene Laverty joked, “He’s just a few shades paler than my Irish complexion.”

bmw 3d scanned its riders to work on aerodynamics during the pandemic

While not a track that sees high top speed, the Jerez circuit will be a chance to see what advantages the aero improvements have provided to both Laverty and his teammate Tom Sykes (who wasn’t available for the initial 3D scan, but has since also been recreated in plastic). Of course, all the other teams have also been working on their machines during the lockdown, so any expectations of significant gains is unrealistic. Still, having the capabilities to 3D-scan a rider and recreate them for these purposes is amazing, and a testament to how creative teams will get to look for an advantage.

Source: BMW Motorrad Motorsport

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

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  • MotoBlock MotoBlock on Jul 29, 2020

    How do they factor the affect of the rider weight?

  • DickRuble DickRuble on Jul 31, 2020

    "having the capabilities to 3D-scan a rider and recreate them for these purposes is amazing" -- and expensive, and useless.. when a run of the mill dummy dressed in a leather suit (friction coefficient identical to the rider's, unlike plastic) would have worked better. Fancy bad ideas trump sound engineering every single day in the corporate world.