So now you know what Hicky makes of it, here’s what our tech guru Neil made of the HP4 during the model’s technical launch near Munich…
Unfortunately, a couple of obstacles lay between the HP4 Race and a mantelpiece full of competition trophies for the Bavarians. First of all, BMW have decided not to homologate the HP4 Race for road use, which means that we can’t fairly compare it to other road-legal litre sports bikes. This also means that well-heeled privateer racers won’t be allowed to campaign the bike in most production bike race classes.
Secondly, membership of the HP4 Race ‘owner’s club’ is limited to 750 members and club entry costs a cool £68,000. The bike’s eyewatering cost explains why BMW haven’t submitted the bike for homologation – FIM rules stipulate that production road bikes must cost less than €33,000 (£28,700) to qualify for WSBk. As BMW believe it somewhat unfair to sell bikes at a loss to duck under this rule, the other manufacturers on the grid can breathe easy, for now… Statement of intent If the BMW team were clear about anything at the bike’s technical launch, it was that the HP4 Race represents a ‘statement of intent’ from the German bike maker: BMW Motorad intend to prove that carbon fibre is at least as safe and robust as traditional materials like aluminium and steel. And despite being 34% lighter than the S 1000 RR’s aluminium frame, BMW assert that the special manufacturing techniques developed for the HP4 Race’s carbon fibre chassis make the bike easier than the globally praised S 1000 RR to ride fast. BMW believe the elimination of variables in the manufacture of the HP4 Race’s structural carbon fibre components have not only allowed them to produce an incredibly light and strong bike, but also a commercially viable one.
Developed in partnership with carbon fibre specialists SGL, BMW’s fully automated Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) process has reduced manufacturing time for a structure with the size and complexity of a bike frame from around 20 ‘man-days’ to just two ‘robot’ hours. The project’s carbon fibre advanced development engineer and ex-Formula 1 carbon fibre specialist Elmar Jaeger insisted that these mass production techniques have also enabled BMW to build a carbon fibre chassis with equal or superior rider feel to one made from aluminium or steel. Mass production The Resin Transfer Moulding process consists of loading a fully automated mould of the HP4 R’s frame with pre-formed carbon fibre sections and various aluminium lugs and bosses. The mould then clamps shut and resin is injected into it. An hour later, a fully formed carbon fibre bike frame is ready to have its aluminium engine and swingarm mounting bosses machined in yet another fully automated process.
According to Herr Jaeger, an all in one ‘monocoque’ carbon fibre perimeter frame produced like this gives superior rider feedback to an aluminium frame. Interfaces like welds and joints between frame sections that can interfere with chassis feedback to the rider have been eliminated. Along with tight quality control standards that come along with automation, the BMW project team believe the HP4 R is going to be the first carbon fibre race bike with chassis feedback that will be instantly familiar to riders and racers.
Automating the process means that each frame, wheel or mounting bracket can have identical properties to the next, so unlike a carbon fibre frame that has been made by the hand lay-up method – manually laying one layer of carbon weave over the other – each HP4 R
You can own this for just £68k. BMW has created a thing of beauty.