BMW HP4 Race – Review.
It’s such a subtle addition to the name, you could almost be forgiven for not noticing. Just one small word, slipped onto the end of a Countdown Conundrum of words and letters. BMW S1000RR HP4. RACE. That last bit it is very, very important.
In performance terms, the standard S1000RR set an unprecedented bar a decade ago (yes, already). Crude now, but cutting edge at the time traction control made heroes of the intermediate man. I know because I was one of them. I also know because I spoke to a track day organiser who agreed that the RR had an instant impact on track day pace.
It wasn’t just the traction control, the RR has always been a very complete package. An awesome motor, perfectly balanced suspension and brakes, great build quality and a level of appeal that BMW hadn’t previously experienced in the sports bike sector. I remember slinging our fresh long-term test bike on the dyno in 2011 and was amazed to see it push 192 bhp at the wheel. I apologised to Dan the Dyno and said it must be a ‘fettled’ press bike. Dan shrugged, flicked his fag ash and simply said they all do that. It also had heated grips. Like I said, the RR was a game changer in every single sense. Over the years it’s gained riding modes, active suspension, launch control, lean angle indicators and a stack of other cool shit. Justifiably still worthy of your time and test ride if you’re in the market for a litre sports bike, the RR has aged incredibly well.
The HP4 Race has all of the best attributes of the standard RR and yet at the same time is absolutely nothing like the standard RR. You know that bit in X-Men when Hugh Jackman gets submerged in the big blue bath and Wolverine leaps out, all dangerous as fuck and angry at the whole world. That’s the HP4 Race, a carbon clawed, lightweight and ten times stronger version of something that was already pretty damn special.
Let’s start with the extensive use of carbon fibre. They’re not frame covers you’re looking at, oh no no. That’ll be a carbon fibre monocoque frame. Ditto wheels and all the bodywork. All BMW built, not bought. The panels, frame and wheels don’t just shave a bit of weight off, they absolutely slash ready to ride weight by 37 kilos compared to the standard RR. I’m not sure if you know, but 37 kilos is basically a full Dani Pedrosa, with his pockets full of pebbles. Obviously I’m joking, 37 kilos is actually the weight of a fully matured Polar bear. It might as well be, as the difference in feel between standard RR and HP4 Race is so big you’d think half the bike was missing, more on that later.
That frame is adjustable at the head and the tail, naturally the swing arm is a WSB spec Suter spun aluminium beauty. Nestled in the middle is an Ohlins TTX36 shock, obviously adjustable in every single way. The front end is a thing of beauty, Ohlins FGR300 forks, again built to WSB spec. GP4-PR Brembo radial calipers (with Titanium pistons), choke Brembo race discs. Every single thing on this bike is built to race spec, apart from the rider. SC2 Pirelli Diablo Superbike slicks do the gripping and you shift through six perfectly placed ratios once you’ve taken your pick from the box full of sprockets that comes with the bike. Clutchless up and down, through a gear lever that can be set to suit your boot in minutes. This bike spoils you with choices, but straight out of the box it feels like it was made just for you.
I’m putting off talking about how I got on because I was suffering with a bout of Man Flu that would drop a scooter rider in a heartbeat. My on track performance was pretty lame, but nothing was going to stop me getting a proper ride. Lets talk about the motor a bit before I have to lie about how fast I was…
Balanced, blueprinted and lightweight, the 999cc motor shares the same bore and stroke as the standard RR. The block is the only actual part that the two bikes share. Race cams pummel Titanium valves, Pankl con rods dance on a lightweight and balanced crank. An increased compression ratio plus all of the above equals more peak torque lower in the rev range (120Nm at 10,000rpm) and more peak power higher in the rev range (215BHP at 13,900rpm). Yes, 215 horsepower in a bike that weighs 171 kilos ready to ride. There’s little point trying to highlight what that equates to in power to weight ratio terms, an easier way to define things is by saying that post race, a world superbike must weigh at least 168kg. The HP4 Race weighs 177kilos with a full tank, so would be too light post race for world supers. This is a bike you can buy from your local dealer, sling in your van and take to your favourite track day. Special isn’t in it.
To top off all the fancy parts there’s a 2D dash with full datalogging capability. This means there’s nowhere to hide when it comes to lap times, mores the pity.
As I said, I was suffering with the kind of aching joints and kidneys that would have you phoning in sick if this was a normal job. I got on the flight to Spain feeling as weak as a kitten and as sick as a dog. I could have been carrying my kidneys as carry on and I still would have went, I was desperate to ride the bike properly following a taste up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year.
I’ll say this though, even if I was feeling fresh and was absolutely bang on form on track, I still wouldn’t have been anywhere near the limit of the HP4. We had a gaggle of racers with us, Brogan, Laverty, Farmer, plural Mackenzie and Aussie TT badass Davo Johnson. All of whom were massively impressed with the HP4 Race. One of them immediately said that it was better than his race bike without any adjustments. I wont say which one, that wouldn’t be fair.
Jump straight from RR to HP4 Race and the first thing you’ll notice is the missing mass. Paddling out of the garage and down pit lane was race bike easy, there’s no resistance and nowhere near as much weight as you expect. It doesn’t even feel 600 light, it feels like a BMX. Snick up into first on the race shift gearbox and you’re ready for action.
Berocca and Beechams will only do so much. I made the best of things and am pleased that the stupid gold visor on my AGV hid the runny nose and streaming eyes. The bike was flawless, far easier to ride than the RR at any pace and displayed perfect manners. Adjusting line and throttle mid corner was easy (I did this a lot), HP4 Race felt settled the whole time despite me chopping away at each corner like a CBT rider in a car park. Thanks to the lack of weight and the excess of power, getting off corners on the gas was easy. I left the Dynamic Traction Control on level four of seven, and could hear it working rather than feel it. Much like the HP4 Race down the back straight, the days of lurching traction control are long gone on BMWs.
Through blurred vision and not knowing if I’d have the energy to stop the bike in time at the end of the huge straight at Almeria, I was comfortable enough to look down and see 170 something miles an hour on the trick looking dash. Coming down the gears and braking hard was as seamless and easy as the Melandri World Superbike BMW I rode at Imola a few years back. If anything, this bike was easier to ride thanks to the dimensions, performance was (from what I can remember of the Imola ride) nigh on identical. That sounds a little flippant until you remember that one costs over half a million Euros and the other costs £68k. Everything has been built and works to perfection, fuelling, gearing, braking and drive are all as good as each other and the whole package feels like it exists to make a hero of you every single time you throw a leg over it.
My sessions on both the RR and the HP4 Race eventually came to and end. Part of me was glad as I felt like shit, but part of me would have gladly kept on going out for more. I’ve ridden some special bikes over the years, H2R in the dark at Losail, Panigale R at COTA, an NSR500 at Donington, this ride goes straight onto the list of ridiculous two-wheeled experiences that all feel unbeatable until the next one comes along.
On a (rarely for me) serious note, BMW UK has already found homes for 20 of these things, which means there is a genuine market for them. If you’re in the fortunate position to be able to afford a track only bike that costs as much as this does, do yourself and the rest of the track day population a favour and ride the bloody thing. Of course they look drop dead gorgeous standing still but it’s only when you ride one that you can truly appreciate just how good they are. If you want one as an investment, do the honourable thing and buy two, both of them are a bargain
What price perfection? Turns out it’s £68k. Any less and you’ll find yourself wanting. Anymore would just be a waste of money. Also consider that if you bought the parts in component form and tried to build your way to this level of spec, you would spend more money than this costs. Plus, you’d never in a million years achieve the level of finish that this bike has. The HP4 Race is the most expensive cheap bike I’ve ever ridden.