With the Winter Olympics a matter of months away in Salt Lake City, UT, Ford Motor Co. was glad to do its part on behalf of a U.S. bid for a gold medal.

So its engineers scheduled time in the company's new Jacobs Sverdrup Driveability Test Facility in Allen Park, MI, to help an aspiring athlete, Lincoln DeWitt, who is the U.S. National Champion skeleton slider. The sport makes its Olympic debut in Utah. It's a one-man bobsled ridden face-down, head first, at speeds of up to 80 mph.

Mr. DeWitt, a former computer programmer, hopes that Ford engineers, who use the lab to test automobile aerodynamics, can apply the same science to his sport.

Ford has an exclusive lease on the $120 million state-of-the-art automotive lab, which Sverdrup Technology Inc. built a year ago. It was constructed to accommodate cars and trucks, but modifying it for a human body in various positions on the sled required minor adjustments. The facility also can replicate the brisk temperatures of, say, Salt Lake City.

For those who question the sanity of hurtling down an icy chute, literally, at break-neck speed, knowing that the head is the first to hit something in an accident, well, the sport is entirely voluntary.