Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt versus sports cars

Friday, 5. August 2016 | Benedikt Lüchinger

The exceptional sprinter is the fastest person on the 100-meter track. But how does he compete in a direct comparison to luxurious sports cars? We have the answer.

The starting point of Usain Bolt versus sports cars

On the fifth of August, the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil takes place. The attention of the whole world of sports will be focused on the first South American edition of the tournament.

A special highlight in track and field is the 100-meter dash. Decided in below ten seconds, there is still an enormous amount of adrenaline being discharged on this short track. One name receives particular attention in this discipline: Usain Bolt.

The Jamaican sprinter is called Usain St. Leo Bolt with his full name and is decorated with various awards from the Olympics to world championships to world records. He is the sole person to run the 100-meter dash with a time of below 9,6 seconds, 9,58 to be precise.

But how effectively can the exceptional sprinter Bolt stand his ground in comparison to powerful sports cars? The ES Magazine made some calculations.

The challenger

Usain Bolt achieved his world record in the 100-meter dash in 9,58 seconds. He accelerated with 9,5 m/s2 and reached a top speed of 43,92 km/h. He generated 3,5 horse power and a power to weight ratio of 26,587 kilograms per horse power (kg/HP).

The air drag coefficient was 1,2. Only 7,79% of the energy Bolt released during the sprint was effectively used for the acceleration. All other energy dispersed because of the large aerodynamic drag.

The opponents

The Porsche Boxster S, the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Bentley Bentayga compete against Usain Bolt. This means competition from a medium-powered sports car, one of the fastest cars of the world and the brand-new super-SUV from Bentley. Here are the details of the three cars:

The Porsche Boxster S reaches an acceleration of 5,555 m/s2 and a top speed of 279 km/h. It has 315 HP and a power to weight ratio of 4,254 kg/HP. The drag coefficient is at a low 0,29. The Porsche Boxster S covers the distance of 100 meters in 6 seconds.

The Bentley Bentayga accelerates with 7,037 m/s2 to a top speed of 301 km/h. Mighty 608 HP result in a power to weight ratio of 3,9836 kg/HP. For an SUV, the drag coefficient is at a surprisingly low 0,34. The Bentley Bentayga covers the distance of 100 meters in 5,0198 seconds.

The Ferrari 458 Italia reaches a top speed of 330 km/h with an acceleration of 8,17 m/s2. It has 570 PS and a very high power to weight ratio of 2,5877 kg/HP. The drag coefficient is minimally lower than the Bentayga’s: 0,330. The Ferrari 458 Italia covers the distance of 100 meters in 4,95 seconds.

The Analysis

With an acceleration of 9,5 m/s2, Usain Bolt accelerates faster than all cars in comparison. Even the Ferrari is slightly slower with 8,17 m/s2. Though, this is put into perspective due to the striking differences in top speed. Bolt can’t compete against a speed of over 300 km/h with his top speed of about 44 km/h. Of course, even the fastest cars can’t reach 300 km/h in just 100 meters but top models can’t make it to about 150 km/h.

Furthermore, Bolt has to battle against an enormous drag coefficient of 1,2. He can use only 7,79% of his power to accelerate and reach the finish line while most of the energy evaporates in his fight against the aerodynamic drag. The sports cars feature bodies that have been optimized in wind tunnels, with drag coefficients between 0,29 and 0,34. Additionally, the power to weight ratio lays between 4,2 and 2,6 kilograms per horse power, being a lot more efficient than Usain Bolt’s 27 kg/HP.

Usain Bolt Beschleunigung
Beschleunigung von Usain Bolt in 100 Metern.

The conclusion

Usain Bolt is an unbelievably fast person. But even he can’t compete against highly developed sports cars. All selected cars beat him by at least three seconds. Nonetheless, it is impressive how small the differences turned out. Besides, it has to be remarked that we used formulas for constant acceleration from a standstill for an easier calculation of the times the cars had to cover a distance of 100 meters.

Overall, it is unbelievable to see how much speed a person can generate. To release the power of 3,5 HP (!) in just a single human is huge. The achieved top speed of over 40 km/h by foot is extremely fast. Usain Bolt is the sports car among the sprinters, so to speak!

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