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24 September 2012


BMW HP4 – the beginning of a new generation
An interview with RR and HP4 Product Manager Josef Maechle

Accolade heaped upon accolade – just one way to describe the reaction of the world’s press when they first got to grips with the BMW S 1000 RR during the autumn of 2009. At the end of 2011, BMW Motorrad released an updated version of the RR to a waiting world.

During the period between Christmas 2011 and New Year of 2012, four of Europe’s leading motorcycle publications staged a premiere 1000cc superbike group test at Spain’s Almeria Circuit. The result of which, the latest RR romped to victory. Of course, this led to a new wave of accolades in the direction of BMW Motorrad.

It wasn’t just a simple, straightforward case of the new RR being the quickest machine at the tortuous circuit – by a considerable margin as it happened – but in a controlled series of tests, BMW’s genuine road-racing replica was proven to be the fastest, most powerful, best handling and, above all, the safest!

The tested machine was the RR Sport, complete with updated Race ABS, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), and adjustable power modes among other components exclusive to the Sport model. Simply put, not one of its competitors came close to upstaging the German sports bike.

Come June 2012 and BMW announces the imminent arrival of a new machine based on the RR: the HP4. As befitting the HP (High Performance) designation – first seen in 2005 with the Boxer-engine range of HP2 Enduro, followed by the HP2 Megamoto and HP2 Sport – the HP4 is nothing short of perfection in the performance-based world of race-replica superbikes.

The impressive specification sheets read like a wish list; 199kg weight including the fitment of Race ABS, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and a tank of fuel. Launch control, full length titanium exhaust, adjustable on-the-move traction control in race ‘Slick’ mode, technology that allows full power capability in ‘Rain’ mode through the use of clever electronics, Brembo race-spec front braking system with new nine-point fixing discs… and much more.

Typical of BMW motorcycles, the HP4 carries first time pioneering technology to be used on a production machine. A trip down memory lane will record BMW being the first in 1935 to deliver hydraulically-damped telescopic forks on models R 12 and R 17. Also, in 1988, BMW became the first manufacturer to develop and install motorcycle-specific ABS to a production motorcycle in the shape of the K 100. With the HP4, BMW Motorrad continues the trend of being first.

While the HP4 uses the same racing genes of the 193HP, 999cc RR, there has been extensive research and development by the BMW Motorrad design team to deliver a totally new high-performance experience. The biggest talking point of the HP4 is the fitment of Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), a unique suspension and, therefore, rider aid.

While the DDC system’s mechanics and technology to provide automated suspension adjustment according to differing surface conditions and riding styles are now well documented – anything new that is geared to performance and safety in motorcycling is big news – up to September 2012, not one person outside of the BMW Motorrad design team had practical experience with DDC, or indeed the extended performance the HP4 offers.

But this changed in early September when the HP4 was presented to world’s motorcycling press at Circuito de Jerez, one of Spain’s famous MotoGP racing circuits, and the chance to experience what the HP4 promised to deliver. Of course, this was under the watchful eye of the BMW Motorrad design team, among who was BMW Motorrad’s RR and HP4 Product Manager Josef Maechler.

“We invited 80 members of the motorcycling press from around the globe including the Americas,” he said. “They were formed into two groups of 40 riders. And while these guests were keen to sample the HP4 at a track environment, the riding sessions were conducted to ensure maximum riding time in complete safety.

“But even after the first riding session we could see on their faces that the HP4 experience was greater than they had expected. The resulting conversations went in the same excited direction.

“For all of the riders, they had never experienced what an effect DDC has on stability and chassis performance and were obviously delighted at how it performs. They were even more surprised to learn the reaction time of the ever changing dynamics of DDC is 10-milliseconds and the DDC system comes purely from the BMW Motorrad development team and technology first used in BMW cars.

“Of course, the riders were also highly impressed with the HP4 engine and chassis performance. The fact that a 1000cc motorcycle with199-kilos in running order is a major point, the riders also realised the weight saving aided the HP4’s steering dynamics. With 2.4kg reduction from the use of forged aluminium wheels, that’s a lot of mass to lose from unsprung weight and this makes a big difference especially on circuit. Add DDC to this and you have race-like handling with exceptional stability.

“Weight saving of 5.4kg also comes with the use of the Akrapovič purpose-built titanium exhaust and, yes, that still includes an emissions compliant catalyser. By using the sports focused exhaust and carefully matching it to the HP4 engine and engine ancillaries, the midrange torque performance is greatly enhanced between 6000rpm and 9750rpm. This is something that really raised the rider’s smiles...”

So, does the HP4 follow the same pattern as the RR in terms of superior performance, rider safety and the title of best 1000cc superbike?

The world’s leading weekly motorcycling newspaper, UK-based MotorCycle News (MCN) is one of the first titles to publish its HP4 riding test and verdict. Senior Road Tester for MCN Michael Neeves had this to say of his first experience with the HP4:

“BMW keep making their S 1000 RR better – it leaves its rivals trailing even further behind.” On the subject of the new BMW Motorrad DDC system, MCN reports “I’d have been as impressed with a standard S 1000 RR with its ‘normal’ suspension dialled-in to suit the track, but there’s the thing. Who would actually get to that level adjusting their suspension? It takes time, knowledge and inclination to get it right and by the time you’ve figured it out, it’s time to pack up and go home again. DDC saves all that hassle.

“The DDC should be even better for the road. We can’t wait to try it… What’s really exciting is this signals the start of the semi-active electronic suspension revolution”

And now the world knows what BMW Motorrad already knew about the HP4 – the best just got better.

For more information about the new BMW HP4 or to register your interest please click here>>>

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