BMW HP4 RACE | Review

BikeSocial
By Michael Mann
MannOnABike BikeSocial's Web Editor. Been riding bikes since 1984 and writing about them since 2013. Commuted in Central London for 10 years, fast and smooth road rider, does a reasonable job in a track day quick group. 6 ft and 14 st.

 

Few people outside of the World Superbike and MotoGP paddocks have ever had the chance to ride anything quite like this. And unless you’ve got a cool £68k to drop on a track bike then experiencing a BMW HP4 RACE will remain a dream...

With an extraordinary power to weight ratio that would humiliate a World Superbike, the carbon-fibre framed BMW is more than just a showpiece for the German marque who are preparing to roll the technology out into mass production. BikeSocial was whisked to Almeria in Spain to attempt to tame the adrenalin-fuelled 215hp beast.

 

BMW HP4 RACE review inc. interview with the Project Leader
Watch the HP4 RACE in action and hear what Project Leader, Christian Gonschor, has to say about the future of carbon fibre technology at BMW

 

Price

OK, so the main figures for the HP4 RACE that most will be interested in initially are power, weight and price. And £68,000 for a limited-edition World Superbike-spec track bike is on first reaction steep but break down the individual components and the design and construction process and things start to make sense. Especially when you consider a set of full factory forks could set you back £11,000 and the electronics package, straight from WSB, features the ECU complete with wiring loom, dash and race-spec handlebar buttons is another £7,000.

There will only be 750 individually-numbered bikes in the world and 20 have already been sold in the UK… 3 to the same bloke. You know, one for the UK, one for Spain and the other for his metaphorical mantelpiece.

 

BMW HP4 RACE | Review

 

Power and torque

The latest incarnation of the S1000RR is hardly shabby. In fact, it’s one of my favourite motorcycles thanks to its versatility and sheer pace. But when it’s role is the warm-up act then you know you’ll be riding something spectacular afterwards. After a 20-minute session behind BSB’s Taylor Mackenzie familiarising myself with the Almeria circuit on a bike fitted with slicks and a race fairing it was time for the headliner. Seeing four of them sitting side-by-side perched on paddock stands with Pirelli Diablo SC2 slicks wrapped in tyre warmers was as intimidating as it was exciting. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to unwrap my gift.

Each bike had a dedicated mechanic and mine clicked the masterswitch by the side of the dash before ushering my thumb towards the black ‘Start’ button on the right-hand ‘bar. The purebred racing 999cc, water-cooled in-line four woke from its slumber ready to pop, crackle and catapult me towards turn 1 but not before I’d snicked first on the race-shift pattern gearbox selector and pootled down pit lane. Feeling mildly inadequate behind Mackenzie Jnr I knew he’d be looking back to see if I could keep up with his ‘guide rider’ pace; I knew the tyres were warm, I knew the bike would be ready to offer its 215hp (212bhp) at 13,900rpm and 120 Nm at 10,000rpm… but would I? I had to keep up and because he was on the RR I had the weapon to do so.

Those are figures which I urge you read again. Now let them soak in. Peak power is so close to the red line figure of 14,500rpm (up by 300 over the S1000RR) that the engine is truly screaming at the top of its lungs before all the horses are charged and they effortlessly devour the silky tarmac around the Spanish circuit. Beautifully smooth as it gallops along, it hardly needs encouraging as it smashes through the rev range before I feed another gear.

 

BMW HP4 RACE | Review

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

Such is the classy application of power and quantity of mid-range torque available to my right-hand that I find myself requiring 2nd and 3rd gears alone, with the exception of the back straight of course. It’s almost a crime not to enjoy the off-throttle crackle, and on-throttle pitchy roar from the 4-2-1 titanium Akrapovic system as often as possible especially with the joy it brings. I imagine the loin-friendly commotion would sound and feel a whole lot better if I’d have dropped £68k on the HP4 RACE myself. Though perhaps less so when you discover the 106dB it emits would restrict it from many UK track days, courtesy of not being strangled by Euro4 limitations. That said, you’d have to be confident in your skills to pitch up at Donington or Silverstone on an HP4 RACE.

Five of the six gears were recalculated with first and second having longer ratios and gears four to six are shorter for optimum track use. The up and down shifter, in its race shift pattern is impeccable.

The engine is similar in specification to the 6.2 and 7.2 that feature in the BMW Endurance and World Superbike championship contenders; a blueprinted hybrid of the two built by hand by a small and dedicated team in Berlin and then run in on a test bench to ensure the maximum power output is achieved and so customers can use its full capacity straight away. They think of everything, those Germans. In fact, each bike takes one day to build by one dedicated mechanic.

The throttle connection is sublime, the pulling power from standstill; astounding. Epically quick yet so easy and rewarding to ride. It’s as courteous as a gent treating a lady on a first date while being able to knock seven bells of hell out of your senses as soon as you roll the throttle on, mid-corner especially, when the array of MotoGP-rivalling electronics do their thing. The HP4 RACE’s technology-loaded assistance offers a baffling range adjustments from the -7 to +7 range of traction control which, alongside the engine braking options are adjustable from the red or green handlebar buttons. Intervention of the wheelie control as well as engine braking can be set per gear, for example. Clever stuff, indeed. Launch control, pit lane speed limiter and a 2D race-style dash offer extra gadgets to play with. The dash offers a read-out of your last lap time and the current delta, adjusting all the time which is essentially a red rag to a bull because you never want to ever see +0.5 on your previous best time, right?

 

BMW HP4 RACE | Review

 

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

The way in which it seeks an apex is all about the precision engineering dedicated to the BMW’s ace card – the carbon fibre one-piece frame. All 7.8kg of it. Having seemingly floated along the lengthy Almeria straight as I’m hard on the throttle pushing the needle towards the red line before using that sweet, slick and almost touch-free race-shift style gearbox, then, spotting my brake point and down four gears faster than you can say “down four gears”, the bike’s razor sharp agility and beautiful poise come into their own. Slick, precise and begging for the power before you’ve hit the apex, you can give in to its wishes because those damn fine electronics have got your back. The audible stutter of the traction control lets you know everything is cool as you plough onto the next corner, slick Pirelli rubber assisting all the way.

Top spec and fully adjustable Öhlins FGR 300 Superbike forks and Öhlins TTX 36 GP shock offer a sumptuous, complementary and not-too-sturdy foil to the light weight frame – the same weight as a 6-month old baby, about which Christian Gonschor, the HP4 RACE Project Leader, tells us, “It’s the biggest (single) piece BMW has ever done. When you compare a frame from a K1600, 6-cylinder bike, it’s several cast parts welded together.”

Gonschor continued, “It’s 8kg less than World Superbike and just 3kg more than MotoGP. Because if you compare in FIM-regulated weights, then MotoGP stops in parc ferme with 157kg, this BMW with 160kg and WSBK must be a minimum of 168kg. So, it’s 8kg less than World Superbike but all the rest of the components are equal so you can get a perspective of the performance.”

This is undoubtedly a masterpiece of engineering that makes you look and feel like a world class motorcycle racing superstar. Be warned; £68k just became almost justifiable.

 

HP4RACE_BS

 

Brakes

It doesn’t come much better than Brembo GP4 PR monoblock calipers with coated titanium pistons and a single-piece aluminium calipers that are nickel-plated no less. They are potentially the best combination of materials available to halt a 215hp machine that weighs less than a KTM 690 DUKE. Beautifully sensitive and just as effective after 10 laps at the end of the flat-out 900 metre straight down from 6th to 2nd gear as they were on lap 1. It’s easy enough to pin the throttle in a straight line but it requires a degree of bravery to tell yourself that the epic brakes will be just as epic next time you need to rely on them. Thankfully the top spec brakes work in tandem with the gorgeous and sublime suspension and chassis to keep the rear wheel on the ground and the entire bike nice and stable even under extreme braking.

Even trailing the front brake while leaning into the long 3rd gear left that tightens is comfortable.

 

BMW HP4 RACE | Review

 

Comfort

For such a race-hardened animal, the BMW is remarkably roomy. The wide handlebars and seating position offer plenty of space to move around the bike even for me at 6ft tall. Its race seat is firm yet grippy and allowed me to remain in control while leaning while the bubble-style race screen offered all the wind protection I needed along that big straight. But then again most of this bike is adjustable to suit every rider so if you need the rearsets moving, the rake and trail or even pivot point on the WSB-inspired swing arm. Indeed there are three seat heights ranging from 816mm – 846mm.

 

BMW HP4 RACE | Review

 

BMW HP4 RACE verdict

This type of exquisite hand-build craftsmanship has rarely been seen before on a production motorcycle; Honda’s RC213V-S is as close as it gets. In fact, imagine the lap time difference between the Japanese and German entrants. Excuse me while I wipe the dribble from my keyboard.

The BMW HP4 RACE is as suave as 007, as blinged up as Jay-Z, as dexterous as Fred Astaire, as predictable as 1+1 yet has plenty in reserve to scare if you get complacent with its raft of high class electronics keeping you in check. It’s a work of art and you’d be forgiven for wasting an afternoon just staring at it.

Has there ever been a more magnificent motorcycle for under £70k? Magnificence might be in the eye of the beholder but BMW cannot be denied a big shiny medal for demonstrating what could easily be the future of motorcycle construction.

If it played football it would be Pele, if it raced cars it would be Senna, if it painted it would be van Gough. And just like when you marked your school desk with a compass aged 14 and in love… ‘I heart the HP4 RACE’. Right, back off to dreamland…

 

BMW HP4 RACE | Review

 

Three things I loved about the BMW HP4 RACE…

  • Pace, poise, precision
  • Electronic and engineering excellence
  • A power-to-weight greater than a Superleggera and RC213V-S

 

Three things that I didn’t…

  •  Noisy for most UK circuits
  • An expensive 'toy'
  • I can't afford one!

 

BMW HP4 RACE | Review

 

BMW HP4 RACE specification

ENGINE

 

Capacity

999cc

Bore/stroke

80/49.7mm

Output

158kW/215hp/212bhp @ 13,900 rpm

Torque

120Nm/88.5ft lb @ 10,000rpm

Type

Water-cooled in-line 4-cylinder engine

Compression/fuel

13.7-13.9:1/min Super Unleaded, min. octane number 98 (RON)

Valve/accelerator actuation

DOHC (double overhead camshaft)

Valve activation

via individual rocker arms

Valves per cylinder

4

Ø intake/outlet mm

33.5/27.2

Throttle valve diameter

48mm



ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

 

Alternator

406 W

Battery

12/5 V/Ah, Li-ion maintenance-free

Starter

0.8 kW



POWER TRANSMISSION - GEARBOX

 

Clutch

Multi-plate anti-hopping wet clutch, mechanically activated

Gearbox

Constant-mesh 6-speed racing gearbox (EVO) with spur toothing (gear 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 optimised)

Primary ratio

1.652

Transmission ratios

1st 2.388

2nd 2.000

3rd 1.727

4th 1.545

5th 1.400

6th 1.291

Rear wheel drive

Chain

Transmission ratio

2.647

Traction control

DTC 15-level adjustment

Engine brake

EBR 15-level adjustment



SUSPENSION

 

Frame construction type

Carbon fibre monocoque RTM frame with adjustable steering head angle and swingarm centre of rotation, load-bearing engine

Front wheel control

Öhlins FGR 300 Superbike World Cup fork, adjustable rebound and compression damping, adjustable spring preload, adjustable Öhlins SD052 steering damper, quick front wheel changing system by means of rotating forklegs with mounted front wheel cover (brake calipers do not have to be dismounted to change wheels)

Rear wheel control

Aluminium underslung double-sided swingarm, Öhlins TTX 36 GP central spring strut, adjustable rebound and compression damping, adjustable spring preload, spring strut attachment point adjustable at the top (0/3 mm), adjustable spring strut deflection (tension strut length), support surfaces for wheel spacer sleeve on chain tensioners for simple/hands-free wheel mounting, titanium chain tensioner on the outside, aluminium on the inside, CFRP assembly stand mountings on the swingarm

Spring travel

front/rear mm 130/120

Wheel castor

102.5mm (adjustable from 95-112)

Wheelbase

1440mm

Steering head angle

65.5° (adjustable by 0.0°, +-0.5°, +-1°)

Tension strut

113 mm (variably adjustable +- 5mm)

Swingarm length

604mm

Fork bridge offset

30 mm (adjustable to 26 mm, 28 mm, 32 mm)

Wheels

Carbon fibre wheels incl. firmly fitted wheel spacer sleeves for simple wheel mounting

Wheel size

front 3.50 x 17"

rear 6.00 x 17"

Tyres

front 120/70 ZR 17 Pirelli Diabolo Superbike Slick SC2

rear 200/60 ZR 17 Pirelli Diabolo Superbike Slick SC2

Brake (front)

Brembo Racing twin disc brake , T-floated racing brake discs, diameter 320 x 6.75 mm, 4-piston monoblock Superbike World Cup fixed caliper GP4-PR with titanium pistons, Brembo Racing handbrake pump RCS19x18 incl. adjustable Brembo Racing brake lever, Brembo Racing clutch lever (without clutch switch)

Brake (rear)

Brembo Racing single disc brake, 4-piston Superbike World Cup fixed caliper with titanium pistons, brake disc diameter 220 x 4.0 mm

Footrest system

Rigid footrest system in milled aluminium, adjustable to eight positions



DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT

 

Seat height at unladen weight

816 mm (lowest position), 831 mm (delivery state), 846 mm (highest position)

Usable fuel tank volume

17.5 l (incl. reserve approx. 4 l)

Dry weight

146kg

Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled)

171.4kg



EQUIPMENT (SELECTION)

 

Standard equipment

BMW Motorrad Race Dynamic Traction Control +/-7; Engine Brake Regulation +/-7, 4 riding modes (WET, INT, Dry1, Dry2), 2D data recording/stick logger/lap timing/GPS, 2D dashboard, 2D data recording prepared for spring travel sensors / brake pressure sensors, Pit Lane Limiter, Launch Control, adjustable footrest (8 levels), adjustable handlebars (tapering), fork bridge with offset adjustment (variable using accessory kit), seat height adjustment, steering head angle adjustment (variable using accessory kit), swingarm centre of rotation adjustment (variable using accessory kit), HP4 Race Shift Assistant (Up/ Down), shift pattern reversed as delivered, Superbike World Cup button unit, HP Race Brake lever guard, secondary ratio variable using accessory kit (pinion 15, 16, 17 / chain ring 41, 42, 43, 44, 45)

 

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