16/05/2012 12:00 | By Sean Carson, contributor, MSN Cars

Man v car: Olympic sprinter takes on a BMW

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Olympic gold medallist sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis has raced a BMW down The Mall in London. Man versus machine has been an age-old battle, and the competition has now been renewed by Lewis-Francis and the German carmaker in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic games.

Mark Lewis-Francis (© BMW)

Why race a sprinter against a car?

Sports scientist Professor Greg Whyte outlined the experiment was to investigate the parallels between the acceleration of a world-class sprinter and a BMW production vehicle.

Lewis-Francis went up against a BMW 320d EfficientDynamics saloon - one of the Olympic partner firm's 4,000 strong fleet of vehicles for the 2012 games - in a series of sprint tests.

Both Lewis-Francis' and the BMW's reaction and acceleration times - as well as speed - were recorded across five different distance intervals of 5m, 10m, 20m, 30m and 100m.

To give the sprinter - who achieved gold in the 4 x 100m relay at the Athens games in 2004 - the best possible chance, special "Mondo" Olympic standard running track was laid down for Lewis-Francis to run on.

Which was faster?

According to Whyte, "From the split second that the gun sounded up until four 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."

From 0-5m the manual transmission 320d EfficientDynamics took 1.5 seconds, whereas Lewis-Franics' explosive power out of the blocks saw him complete the same distance in just 1.333 seconds.

Lewis-Franics was also quicker over the 0-10m and 0-20m intervals taking 1.99 and 3.137 seconds respectively. By comparison, the BMW took 2.3 and 3.3 seconds to dispatch the same distance.

By 30m however, the car had come back at the Olympic gold medallist and was 0.121 seconds quicker, taking 4.0 seconds exactly. The BMW recorded a 7.5-second 0-100m time compared to the sprinter's 10.04 effort.

Mark Lewis-Francis (© BMW)

Which had better acceleration?

Although the car completed the 100m sprint 25 per cent quicker than the athlete, Lewis-Francis recorded higher peak acceleration - resistance from the starting blocks enabled the sprinter to achieve peak acceleration of over 1g, making him quicker than the BMW for just under 30m.

Lewis-Franics commented: "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!"

Why is the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics in the 2012 Olympic fleet?

The BMW 320d EfficientDynamics is one of two main vehicles - the other being the 520d EfficientDynamics - that makes up the 2012 London Olympic games fleet of vehicles.

Returning 68.9mpg with 109g/km CO2 emissions, the car falls under the 2012 London Olympic Games Organising Committee's 120g/km CO2 threshold for official vehicles.

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