Racing in the right arena

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Its World Superbike campaign should help boost S1000RR sales

BMW had a lot of catching up to do when it returned to world-class motorcycle road-racing in 2009. Last time the factory won anything big was back in 1939 when Georg Meier ruled the Isle of Man Senior TT aboard a supercharged boxer twin. Meier wore a swastika on his leathers and raised a Nazi salute on the podium; three months later World War II broke out.

Seventy years later BMW has shown it can catch up pretty fast. The S1000RR has yet to win a World Superbike race, but the bike is achieving regular podium finishes, so a first victory should only be a matter of time. The bike is certainly fast – surpassing 200mph at the Monza WSB round in May.

BMW chose to contest the production-based World Superbike series instead of the prototype MotoGP championship because WSB delivers a direct kickback in sales; as the old racing/marketing adage goes: ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’.

“You cannot sell a hyper-sport machine unless you go racing,” says BMW Motorrad motor sport manager Berti Hauser. “By doing WSB, we expect constant development, the race and street bike improving side by side.”

WSB rules require the motorcycle’s core to remain as it would be in the showroom: cylinder heads and crankcases must be stock items, though most internals can be replaced or modified. The standard frame must also be used, although strengthening is allowed. Suspension, brakes and wheels can be replaced with race-spec items. Bodywork must conform to the showroom silhouette.

On track, the factory-entered RR – ridden by twice WSB champion Troy Corser (above) and crash-prone Spaniard Ruben Xaus – feels as civilised as it does on the road. The race-spec engine makes 210bhp, a modest 10 per cent increase on the production version, which, if nothing else, underlines the immense work done by BMW’s engine designers. Most other factories have to raise power output by 20 per cent to compete in WSB.

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