WORLD FIRST TEST Carbon frame BMW HP4 Race gives you the full World Superbike experience… and then some
MCN gets to test awesome new, carbon-fibre BMW
BMW’S new £68,000, 215bhp, limited-edition HP4 Race is achingly close in feel and speed to a factory superbike. BMW have taken their S1000RR, scooped out the bulk, and injected it with steroids. The resulting HP4 Race is a raw track-only bike that’s an assault on the senses.
Pinched and squeezed by traction control, anti-wheelie, quickshifters, auto-blippers and engine braking control, it makes an ear-spitting, gurgling racket every inch of the way.
And it’s so light. Tipping the scales at 171.5kg, with its brushed aluminium 17.5-litre fuel tank brimmed with super unleaded, it’s actually lighter than a WSB machine. The bike is 36.5kg lighter than a road-going S1000RR.
Strip the HP4 Race of a fluids and it’s a barely-believable 149kg dry, making it 10kg lighter than the Ducati 1299 Superleggera and 4kg lighter than a KTM 390 Duke!
Carbon-fibre is the HP4 Race’s dark secret and its high-strength, one-piece, mass-produced carbon frame is 4kg lighter than the RR’S cast aluminium version. Carbon wheels are 30% lighter than forged aluminium racing items and the fairing, self-supporting threeway adjustable seat unit, mudguard and hugger all help shed weight.
Power delivery is as smooth as a bigcammed, blueprinted 215bhp motor can ever be and picking up the power from a closed throttle at full lean is perfection. The HP4 Race pings through its close-ratio box to 14,500rpm revlimited heaven, the 2D dash rev display strobing from left to right like a hyper-speed Pacman. It accelerates through the upper gears with the same unbridled anger as the 196bhp S1000RR does in first, second and third.
Traction, wheelie and fire-spitting engine braking control are adjustable corner-by-corner. They’re more refined than the already superb, but silent RR’S system, but the big change is now you can hear them working.
When the HP4 Race’s rear tyre slips or front rises the ignition cuts rather than retards, as before. It pops and gurgles, letting you know the electronics are doing their thing. This loads you with confidence, so you lean more on their capabilities and the chances of you flinging your £68,000 carbon masterpiece into the scenery diminish.
Anti-wheelie is a big step forward from the RR. All the new-generation superbikes (except the Blade) have superb wheelie control, but the HP4 Race is firmly in WSB territory. With the electronics taking control the HP4 Race takes off with such energy, all you have to do is figure out how to hang on.
Braking force is brutal. It has genuine WSB/BSB Brembo calipers, brake discs, pads and master cylinder. Initial braking feel is gentle, but as you squeeze the lever harder the front drills into the tarmac.
Light on its feet
You’d imagine a superbike with a 7.8kg carbon frame to be overly stiff, but the HP4 Race is more compliant than the cast aluminium-framed road bike.
It has all the stability of the RR, but there’s feel pouring out of it at full lean. The Wsb-inspired ali swingarm might not be carbon-fibre, but it’s been created using the lessons learned from racing.
Add in the highest-level racing Öhlins suspension you’ll find on any production bike and the unwavering grip of the Pirelli slicks and you’ve got a machine that has limits way in excess of all but the very talented few.
Work of art
Every inch of this machine is milled aluminium, high-gloss lacquered perfection. To get a superbike to weigh this little with a metal frame has always needed a healthy race budget, but BMW have managed it with the clever use of mass-produced carbon, which means in the future we could see this technology on more affordable machines.
Low weight is good for everyone. Light bikes are fun. They accelerate more vividly, stop and turn better and give you more feel and involvement. They’re more fuel efficient, too.
BMW’S jaw-dropping HP4 Race might give the lucky 750 a WSB thrill when it hits dealers in September, but it offers a glimpse into the future of biking and that’s as exciting as exiting Estoril’s final third gear corner in a raging, blood-spitting power drift on to the front straight. Well, nearly…
‘It takes off with such energy, all you have to do is figure out how to hang on’
Project leader Christian Gonschor talks Neeves through the HP4 Race
Aluminium The BMW’S deeply braced, girder-stiff swingarm is fabricated from aluminium, with a design inspired by the World Superbike machine. Carbon frame The design has varying levels of stiffness and flex. Steering offset, head angle, swingarm pivot and ride height are all adjustable.