Wheels of Evolution – The BBS Story
Arguably the most underrated aspect of a performance automobile has to be wheels and tyres. Its way too often that they are taken for granted and are hardly given the due importance that they duly deserve. To bring things to perspective, whenever we have discussions of improving the performance of a car the first thing that comes to mind are power and suspension, it is seldom that tyres and wheels feature among the top picks. Ironically enough, the easiest way to have a car lap a track faster is by putting some light weight alloy wheels and some sticky rubber.
BBS is no stranger to us enthusiasts, in fact though it’s has a top of the mind recall for performance wheels, we still don’t pay much heed to the technology used to bring that performance. We might probably even know the exact algorithm running on that Active Suspension, but we can hardly spell out the distinguishing features of the state of the art technology used on our wheels. To bring to light the importance of tyre and wheel technology, we take a look into what can be arguably the best company in making performance wheels, BBS.
BBS was started by Heinrich Baumgartner and Klaus Brand in Schiltach, Germany. What began as a factory producing plastic components for automobiles transformed into the state of the art wheel manufacturing company. The name BBS is basically the name of both the founders followed by the place they started it in. BBS is known for it’s three piece racing wheel introduced in the year 1972, which at that point of time was a revolutionary design in the world of Motorsports. The three piece racing wheel had the spokes and the outer rims separately manufactured and bolted together using titanium bolts, this helped in a considerable weight advantage and also provided high level of structural rigidity.
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Another iconic wheel from the BBS stables has to be the Cross – Spoke design which almost resembles the wire wheel, giving it a very retro look but also providing a much higher rigidity and load bearing ability as compared to the wire wheel. The recent notable technological achievement by BBS has to be credited to their Air Inside Technology (AIT) which is essentially to compensate for ultra low profile tyres having very less air in them. The structures inside the wheel have hollows allowing tyres to carry low air. The lightness of the wheel is also a significant improver of the performance of the car, by keeping the unsprung weight low and having low rotational mass making the car highly responsive in both building speed and killing it.
The level of expertise possessed by BBS has made them one of the main suppliers of racing wheels to Formula 1 teams. Similar kind of demand is also seen in other forms of racing like GT racing and Indycar. The level of technology displayed in the wheels used in motorsports doesn’t end with weight design and looks, it advances further into aspects of providing effective cooling to the red hot brake discs. Today’s racing advancements have meant that every ounce of structure on the car serves multiple purposes, and the extent to which racing wheels are designed have expanded into them acting as crash structures in the event of a crash. They are needed to absorb energy and dissipate it by disintegrating.
It therefore no secret that BBS has remained the frontrunner in Wheel Technology, with their innovations bringing in so much more performance and safety into motorsports and also improving economy and performance in road cars. These aspects have made BBS a wheel of choice among OEM manufacturers and especially for their elite models. So hopefully the next time we look at a finely crafted BBS wheel we will be able to comprehend the amount of technology that goes into designing and manufacturing it and give it the respect it duly deserves.