2017 BMW HP4 RACER

More power, less weight, sharper han­dling, and very lim­ited. The Bavar­ian Mo­tor Works de­liv­ers an ul­tra ex­otic car­bon-fiber track-only su­per­bike.

Cycle World - - Contents - By Blake Con­ner

AS SU­PER­BIKE RAC­ING has evolved over the past four decades, al­most ev­ery man­u­fac­turer that has par­tic­i­pated in the sport has at one time or an­other built spe­cial ho­molo­ga­tion mod­els to get an ad­van­tage within the scope of the rules. But in re­cent years, a few of those same brands have de­cided to push the bound­aries be­yond the res­traints im­posed by rac­ing and built no-holds-barred track­bikes. Lighter, more pow­er­ful, more ex­otic, and more awe­some.

These tech­ni­cal mar­vels are as much about show­cas­ing en­gi­neer­ing knowl­edge as they are for de­vel­op­ing ideas for fu­ture mod­els. Du­cati’s Su­per­leg­gera and Des­mosedici as well as Honda’s RC213V-S are prime ex­am­ples of su­per spe­cials that for one rea­son or an­other are too rad­i­cal to com­pete in most rac­ing se­ries.

BMW’S brand-new HP4 Race is all of those things and more. At 377 pounds fully fu­eled and with 215 hp at the rear wheel, the power-to-weight ra­tio is stun­ning. But this bike’s real talk­ing points are the chas­sis com­po­nents and up­graded elec­tron­ics that put it into a realm that few rid­ers out­side of the World Su­per­bike or Mo­togp pad­docks have ever ex­pe­ri­enced.

The HP4 Race is so much more than a fancy paint job. First off, the one-piece, car­bon-fiber frame weighs just 17.2 pounds (8.8 less than its alu­minum coun­ter­part) and is built by an au­to­mated Resin Trans­fer Mould­ing process in which all piv­ots, in­serts, and head­set races are molded in with­out any fiber-dam­ag­ing drilling re­quired post pro­duc­tion. An ul­tra­stiff alu­minum Suter-de­vel­oped swingarm dif­fers dra­mat­i­cally from the S1000RR’S with un­der­slung brac­ing as op­posed to the stan­dard model’s ba­nana beams. The sub­frame is also CF, but it is a more tra­di­tional hand-layup piece and of­fers three seat-height set­tings rang­ing from 32.1 to 33.3 inches.

Be­cause ad­justa­bil­ity is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial on a track­bike, the HP4 Race comes with ad­justable-swingarm pivot in­serts that al­ter the po­si­tion in +/-4mm in­cre­ments, while the steer­ing head’s off­set and rake can be al­tered with in­serts (off­set: 26, 28, 30, or 32mm; rake: 24.5 de­grees, +/-0.5 or +/-1.0 de­gree). Ride height can also be ad­justed +/-5mm on the Öh­lins TTX 36 GP shock ab­sorber, while tasty rearsets can be set to pref­er­ence too. A quiv­er­ful of in­cluded front and rear fi­nal-drive sprock­ets will en­sure your gear­ing is ideal wher­ever you ride.

There is eye candy bolted all over the HP4 Race, but ev­ery bit of it is de­signed for func­tion first. Up front is a WSBK refugee Öh­lins FGR 300 in­verted fork with ti­ta­nium-ni­tride­coated in­ner tubes and 5.1 inches of travel. If that doesn’t grab your at­ten­tion, the nickel-plated Brembo GP4 PR Monoblock brake calipers (the same as Valentino Rossi uses) surely will. These have anti-fric­tion-coated ti­ta­nium pis­tons and clamp down on thicker (6.5mm) 320mm-di­am­e­ter steel rac­ing discs and are fed by a Brembo RSC 19x18 mas­ter cylin­der. Su­per trick, but easy to miss, is the tiny rear four-pis­ton Brembo caliper (with Ti pis­tons) that pinches a 220mm disc.

Al­though look­ing at the spec sheet is im­pres­sive, un­der­stand­ing how it works as a pack­age can only be fully grasped at speed on a race­track. For that, I headed to the Autó­dromo do Es­to­ril just out­side of Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal. Af­ter get­ting reac­quainted with the cir­cuit on stan­dard S1000RRS fit­ted with the same Pirelli Di­ablo SC2 slicks spec’d on the HP4 Race, it was time to get se­ri­ous.

Like the cock­pits of var­i­ous fac­tory su­per­bikes that I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to ride over the years, the HP4 Race’s is all busi­ness. The 2D dash is all about com­mu­ni­cat­ing data to the rider in a sim­ple in­ter­face, while the Mo­togp/ Su­per­bike-style mode-con­trol pods are de­signed for mak­ing quick changes on the fly at speed. BMW brand am­bas­sador Nate Kern ex­plained how dif­fer­ent the set­tings on the Race are com­pared to the RR, mean­ing trac­tion-con­trol, en­gine­brak­ing, and wheelie-con­trol set­tings are com­pletely unique to the HP4 Race (read: ag­gres­sive).

Once the en­gine was started, I was en­cour­aged to get mov­ing quickly be­fore it over­heated (hot and hu­mid am­bi­ent temps and no ra­di­a­tor fan re­quires move­ment). Kern sug­gested I start in the In­ter­me­di­ate power mode with a fairly tra­di­tional-feel­ing en­gine-brak­ing setup, con­ser­va­tive DTC, and then I could change them on the fly. I would only have two ses­sions on the bike and a lot to try. Within a lap, it was quite clear that I was on some­thing very spe­cial.

It wasn’t the en­gine and/or elec­tron­ics that ini­tially

snagged my at­ten­tion; it was the amaz­ing han­dling af­forded by the bike’s light weight but en­hanced sub­stan­tially by the flick­a­bil­ity the car­bon-fiber wheels al­low. Weigh­ing 30 per­cent less than forged alu­minum wheels, these com­pos­ite hoops are made by a ma­chine that braids the fiber into the shape in one piece. The ef­fect of the ro­tat­ing mass is claimed to be 40 per­cent re­duced at speed. Flick­ing through Es­to­ril’s tight chi­cane was much eas­ier on the HP4 Race than the RR.

And while the han­dling couldn’t be called any­thing less than dreamy, those big Brembo brakes are truly im­pres­sive, try­ing to suck your eye­balls out of their sock­ets at the end of the sixth-gear front straight. Oh, yeah, that’s with one fin­ger on the lever; the feel is lin­ear and pow­er­ful with­out any grab­bi­ness. Brak­ing is clearly de­signed for rid­ers much more tal­ented than my­self. The same can be said of the Öh­lins dampers at ei­ther end. I didn’t have a sin­gle com­plaint to file with them.

That leaves us with the en­gine. Af­ter switch­ing from In­ter­me­di­ate to Dry 2 and Dry 1, I got the real meaty fla­vor of this ma­chine. These hand­built, blueprinted en­gines are hy­brids of World Su­per­bike and World En­durance spec­i­fi­ca­tions. A 200-gram-lighter crankshaft, forged-steel Pankl con­nect­ing rods, race camshafts, op­ti­mized air in­takes, rev limit in­creased to 14,500 (from 14,200), an all-ti­ta­nium Akrapovic race ex­haust, and updated elec­tron­ics un­leash the beast.

And while the power is damn im­pres­sive, I was shocked by the ride­abil­ity the elec­tron­ics gen­er­ate. In the past, I wouldn’t have rated the stan­dard S1000RR’S elec­tron­ics pack­age as class lead­ing, but the suite of rider aids on the HP4 Race is on a to­tally dif­fer­ent level. Change DTC or EBR on the fly and you bet­ter take baby steps, as each step is mean­ing­ful. Per­for­mance lap to lap was ab­so­lutely con­sis­tent. All of this ser­e­naded by the au­di­ble crack­ling of the ig­ni­tion/fuel cuts dur­ing in­ter­ven­tion. Clutch­less up- and down­shifts from the HP Shift As­sis­tant Pro, com­bined with the close-ra­tio gear­box with updated ra­tios (all ex­cept third) and slip­per clutch, let you fo­cus on lines, brak­ing points, and go­ing fast.

And while go­ing fast is kind of the point, with only five ma­chines avail­able for about 25 jour­nal­ists, we were told “not to crash” in a way only the Ger­mans can make sound so se­ri­ous. Point taken. At­tempts to tame less in­tru­sive DTC set­tings will have to wait un­til my lotto num­bers hit. But if you hap­pen to be one of 125 US buy­ers lucky enough to ac­quire this amaz­ing $78,000 ma­chine, do us all a fa­vor and don’t lock it up in a closet away from cu­ri­ous eyes— get out there and let the awe­some­ness be free!

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