BMW Racing Wheelchair to Debut at Rio Paralympic Games

BMW racing chair  - H 2015
Courtesy of BBC One/ Netflix

BMW's Designworks developed the chair in conjunction with Team USA athletes and coaches.

BMW's Designworks built the two-man bobsleds driven to three medals by Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

On Wednesday, the Newbury Park, Calif. design studio unveiled a sleek racing chair that will make its competitive debut with the U.S. track and field team at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in September.

Like the Designworks bobsleds, the racing chair makes extensive use of carbon fiber, a high-tech composite used in place of aluminum and steel in airliners and in BMW's cars because it is much lighter and stronger. (The sixth generation BMW 7 Series sedan, introduced last year, dropped 286 pounds thanks in part to its carbon fiber body shell.) 

The racing chair's design was complicated by rules that specify the maximum diameter of the chair's wheels, the shape and texture of the handgrips and a host of other specifications. 

Designworks faced similar challenges designing the Team USA bobsleds. The restrictions require the design "to be optimized really, really well," Michael Scully, lead designer of the sled, told The Hollywood Reporter. "Your solutions have to be absolutely spot on."

Before BMW was chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee to build a better bobsled, the U.S. team hadn't medaled at the Olympics since 1952. After adopting the BWM-designed sleds, the U.S. won 36 medals in the 2014-2015 World Cup competition and set several track records in addition to winning silver and bronze Olympic medals in Sochi.

The 16th annual Paralympics will be held Sept. 7-16 following the XXXI Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.