GRR

The Goodwood Test: BMW HP4 Race

13th July 2017
Roland Brown

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.

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Heritage

Each member of BMW’s elite High Performance family has been special, but none has been remotely as exotic or focused as the HP4 Race. This track-only derivative of the four-cylinder S1000RR produces 212bhp, is outrageously light thanks partly to its carbon-fibre frame and wheels, and will be produced in a run of just 750 units, for sale at £68,000 each.

The HP4 Race is the fastest, lightest and most sophisticated model yet from an HP line that stretches back to 2005 and the HP2 Enduro, a tuned and lightened off-road version of the dual-purpose R1200GS. That led in 2007 to the HP2 Megamoto, with roadgoing wheels and tyres; and a year later to the more aggressive HP2 Sport. Five years ago BMW expanded the HP family to four cylinders with the HP4, a track-ready but street-legal S1000RR variant that pioneered the semi-active suspension now used by many other models.

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Design

The Race takes HP4 ethos to a new level, starting with its hand-built, 212bhp competition engine; a blend of the powerplants produced for Superbike and endurance teams. A high-level electronics package gives four engine modes, plus engine braking, traction and wheelie control that can be fine-tuned for each gear in the six-speed box. The Öhlins FGR300 forks and TTX36 GP shock are as supplied to World championship level race teams, as are the Brembo GP4-PR front brake calipers with their titanium pistons.

But it’s the frame and wheels that are the stars of the show, and not just because they weigh roughly 40 per cent less than the RR’s aluminium equivalents. Like the passenger cells of BMW’s i3 electric and i8 hybrid cars, the HP4 Race’s carbon parts are not laboriously hand-made but mechanically formed in just two hours by a process called Resin Transfer Moulding. This raises the prospect of carbon one day taking over from aluminium for mass-produced bikes’ frames, just as aluminium did with machines including Suzuki’s GSX-R750 in the mid-Eighties.

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Performance

The S1000RR is blindingly fast yet the HP4 Race takes its level of circuit speed and control to a whole new level. The 16-valve motor is brutally powerful, hurling the bike forward towards a top speed of around 200mph with a relentless surge of acceleration, aided by the close-ratio gearbox and two-way quick-shifter. Yet the flawless throttle response and über-refined electronics make the bike improbably easy to ride, limiting wheelies and maximising the grip of the sticky Pirelli rear slick.

Chassis performance is even more remarkable, not least in the way that the lightweight carbon parts and supremely refined suspension combine to give jaw-dropping agility with outstanding stability and control. Braking power is ferocious, even by current super-sport standards. The BMW even manages to be quite roomy and rider-friendly, helped by its adjustable seat and footrests.

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Passion

Few bikes approach the HP4 Race’s ability to make its rider feel like a factory star. Apart from its almost ridiculous lightness, an abundance of carbon and the quality of its cycle parts, the cockpit view is pure racer. The digital instrument panel has the option of “mechanic’s” views for temperatures and other info and instantly switches to rider mode as the bike pulls away. The clip-on bars have Smartie-like coloured buttons for tweaking engine mode, traction control, anti-wheelie and other settings on the move.

There’s no race-replica pretence here: this is the real thing, a factory competition engine in an outrageously advanced and lavishly equipped chassis. You couldn’t enter a Superbike race because the BMW is not homologated. But for track days, many endurance races or the Senior TT it would be close to perfect. Talking of the TT, Peter Hickman christened the HP4 Race with a spectacular video lap of the Mountain Circuit, but the bike’s UK mainland debut will be at Goodwood when French ace Kenny Foray attacks the Festival of Speed hill. He may not have time to wave.

Price tag of our bike: £68,000

Photography by Markus Jahn and Daniel Kraus

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