THE WEIGHT IS OVER

£68,000 is a lot of money, but what it buys you is as­ton­ish­ing. 215bhp, and just 171kg of wet weight. BMW’S HP4 Race is a mas­ter­piece…

BIKE (UK) - - BMW HP4 RACE - By James Hay­don Pho­tog­ra­phy BMW

JUST HALF A lap out and my mind is reel­ing. I’m just stunned by the HP4 Race, es­pe­cially the su­perb turn-in. It feels so in­cred­i­bly light, ef­fort­less and easy. On this open­ing lap I ac­tu­ally run up and over the in­side kerb – not once, but twice. I’m sim­ply mis­judg­ing the min­i­mal ef­fort needed to get the re­quired re­sult. The HP4 is pin sharp; the com­bi­na­tion of low un­sprung weight from its car­bon wheels and low over­all weight from the car­bon frame bless this bike with a unique and vastly su­pe­rior cor­ner­ing abil­ity to… well, pretty much any­thing. I have to com­pletely re­cal­i­brate my in­put. Even af­ter plenty of laps the BMW is still an eye-opener. The way the HP4 scythes through the in­cred­i­bly tight chi­cane here at Es­to­ril cir­cuit in Por­tu­gal is unique for a su­per­bike. It flashes from full over on the left, up, over and down to max­i­mum right lean as eas­ily as a lit­tle Moto3 bike. It’s be­wil­der­ing, ground-break­ing and ut­terly im­pres­sive. I can’t stress enough how much of a dif­fer­ence the bike’s gor­geous car­bon-fibre frame and wheels (and body­work) truly make. I can’t think of an­other bike – ex­cept maybe a del­i­cate 250cc GP bike – that al­lows such free­dom of lines, ei­ther go­ing in, round or out. It’s as if the bike is some­how hard­wired into my thoughts. Want to tighten your line? Do it, it will. Add cor­ner speed? Do it, it will. In fact, the lim­its are so high on

this bike most will be un­lock­ing its lay­ers of abil­ity for years to come. BMW have con­sid­er­ately brought along a stan­dard S1000RR for com­par­i­son, the 998cc and 194bhp sports­bike that the HP4 is based on. The RR is one of my favourite road bikes, and its con­fi­dence-boost­ing han­dling proved great for learn­ing the cir­cuit

ear­lier on. But hav­ing an­other blast af­ter the HP4, I’m shocked – it’s like the S1000RR is rid­ing un­der trea­cle com­pared with this new car­bon gym­nast. Less weight means greater straight-line per­for­mance too. Es­pe­cially as the donor RR en­gine is tuned-up into a ra­bid an­i­mal. It’s epic. The HP4 is wonderfully, nearly scar­ily fast. Race camshafts, Pankl con­rods, matched pis­tons and crank shells (on a 200g-lighter crank) and longer, wider trum­pets are among the mods in­creas­ing the in­line four’s out­put to 215bhp and a tyre-tor­tur­ing 88.5 lb.ft. This is as quick as any­thing I’ve rid­den, ever. Yet it’s beau­ti­fully con­trolled too. The map­ping al­lows easy con­nec­tion from the throt­tle, be it at low-rev pick up, fast or slow open­ing. Then get it up top and it’s a ban­shee, de­liv­er­ing a mas­sive kick and a hard, cut­ting scream. What a noise, es­pe­cially with the close-ra­tio rac­ing gear­box giv­ing fran­tic, re­lent­less drive. Don’t think the BMW isn’t play­ful or feel-some, though, or that the HP4 will sud­denly catch you out. Any rider of any abil­ity could ride this and love it. That’s a very clever trick to have pulled off. Not only is me­chan­i­cal grip as­tound­ing, the chas­sis also has loads of feel and al­lows you to keep ex­plor­ing and chip­ping away, at your own pace. It’s car­bon and it’s stiff, yes, but flex is en­gi­neered in for feed­back and rider con­fi­dence. This is BMW bring­ing in new car­bon fibre tech­nol­ogy for pro­duc­tion mo­tor­cy­cles, not just rac­ers, and so it needs to be fun and ex­cit­ing for all rider abil­i­ties. This HP4 Race is surely the first step to mass pro­duc­tion of car­bon fibre bike parts. A few years ago it would have taken weeks to build just a frame of this com­plex­ity. With BMW’S clever new pro­cesses the HP4’S main part is made in two hours. Think how alu­minium re­placed15-stage There’s trac­tion­steel more as de­li­cious­the con­trol, chas­sis stuff. anti-wheelie,ma­te­ri­alThe HP4of choice. ad­justableis loaded This with en­gineis the elec­tron­ics brak­ing,fu­ture. – quick­shifter,judged it’s al­most au­to­blip­per im­pos­si­ble– but to they’refeel themso care­fully work­ing. weight­edWhen they and do

step in they are so un­ob­tru­sive and sub­tle, gen­tly help­ing with the light­est touch. More like a lover’s breath on your neck than a heavy-handed dig­i­tal se­ries of 0s and 1s try­ing to stop the fun. This bike is all about in­tu­itive speed, in­ter­ac­tive fun and ef­fi­ciency, and the ex­ten­sive elec­tron­ics are a real aid in try­ing to get near its tow­er­ing lim­its. Sus­pen­sion isn’t elec­tronic, how­ever. It’s con­ven­tional Öh­lins, with an FGR300 WSB fork and TTX36 GP shock. They’re my favourite sus­pen­sion, giv­ing su­perb feel for ev­ery bump and sur­face change, right down to the last mil­lime­tre of travel. Brakes are Brembo’s GP4-PR one-piece calipers with ti­ta­nium pis­tons, and they’re un­real – the stan­dard RR’S brakes feel like they’re off a kid’s bike in com­par­i­son. Mat­ing these parts to the wonderful car­bon chas­sis and a con­ven­tional Suter alu­minium swingarm it’s a deeply con­vinc­ing set-up. I can only imag­ine the hours spent hon­ing the HP4 to get it to feel so com­plete; each part of this bike is so beau­ti­fully in har­mony with the next. And if you’re not en­tirely happy there’s so much ad­justa­bil­ity (swingarm pivot, fork off­set, head an­gle, full sus­pen­sion set­tings) you could play till your heart’s con­tent. With one track ses­sion left I de­cide to re­ally go for it. Jur­gen Fuchs (Grand Prix podium fin­isher and BMW de­vel­op­ment rider) is lap­ping in the 1m 45s and I’ve been do­ing high 46s – so I’ve got a tar­get. I don’t need to, of course… but I want to push it. I get that one-fast-lap su­per­pole buzz. Got to get a good first turn, so I let the brakes off and bury the high-feel front end. Snap­ping the throt­tle, the im­mense power throws me out, quickly through a fast and bumpy kink, the BMW alive and slith­er­ing to the kerb. It’s a dif­fi­cult down­hill right next but the mam­moth

‘Makes a stan­dard S1000RR feel like it’s rid­ing un­der trea­cle’

brakes in­stantly lose speed, and a late apex lets me stand up and fire out. The HP4 is glued to the road with no un­der­steer at all through su­per-late-apex turn four, and I get a su­perb exit. Up to fourth gear for a flat-out kink (ballsy and my favourite cor­ner), I flash through and fire an­other gear at the scream­ing jewel of an en­gine. The pipe crack­les and pops go­ing down to sec­ond for a bumpy left, the bike erupt­ing into a wheelie on the crest at the exit. Hard on the brakes for a down­hill right, the HP4 eats it up and the elec­tron­ics make the ex­haust war­ble on exit, be­fore burst­ing through a flat right be­fore the hideously slow chi­cane. The BMW is still as eye-open­ing here as it was ear­lier, ef­fort­lessly dash­ing through and al­low­ing me to pick my ideal exit. I try and spin the rear to help turn it, but it stays planted, elec­tron­ics pop­ping away. Into the fi­nal cor­ner, a fan­tas­tic, fast, dou­ble-apex right lead­ing onto the 185mph start-fin­ish straight. The HP4 is so pre­cise and easy to place, and I feed the throt­tle open as quick as I dare, the rear lightly slid­ing out to the kerb as I hook fourth… It’s 1m 46.2s. Nearly. The next lap is bet­ter, but I make a mis­take push­ing hard and run wide. Time to call it a day. Not that it mat­ters, of course – the HP4 has me buzzing. Some­times you hop on a bike and it just feels ‘right’. This is one of those bikes. I be­lieve it’s be­cause one man, the en­gag­ing project leader Chris­tian Gon­schor, was able to sin­gle-mind­edly go in a very quick, undi­luted di­rec­tion. In just a year and a half he and his clever team de­vel­oped and brought the car­bon HP4 to pro­duc­tion. Im­pos­si­ble un­der a large com­mit­tee, but do-able with a clever and dy­namic young team. Hats off to BMW – this is a su­perb bit of think­ing, and I reckon other man­u­fac­tur­ers could have missed a trick. Yes, this is track-only (clue’s in the name), they’re only making 750 and it costs £68,000, but road-go­ing sports­bike sales are dwin­dling and track­days are on the up. Why not build exclusive, un­re­stricted, track-only weapons for a for­tune, and use them to test fu­ture road bike tech­nol­ogy? The HP4 clearly demon­strates the next stage of mo­tor­bike de­vel­op­ment. Car­bon for the masses. In the mean­time, the HP4 Race is a mas­ter­piece.

‘The HP4 demon­strates the next stage of de­vel­op­ment – car­bon for the masses’

Nor­mally we don’t overly like black frames. This is an ex­cep­tion

The pre­cur­sor to car­bon­framed road bikes. For sure

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