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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bmw's Breakthrough in Motorsport

BMW is set to enter the World Superbikes Championship in 2009.

While the BMW 325is parts maker has long been involved in "car" motorsport, and has also competed on "biking" events like the Paris Dakar rally, its recent entry in the Le Mans 24 hour race was the first time in 5 decades BMW ran its own works road racing team.

For many years, BMW has run the Boxer Cup championship for R1100S machines and the PowerCup for the K1200R. It has also provided significant sponsorship to the MotoGP championship.

The boosted motorsport activities have been echoed in its production model range. The K1200S, K1200R and the new R1200S all show a new, sportier face to a vehicle maker whose products were once considered the two wheeled equivalent to a comfortable pair of slippers.

BMW isn’t just on road racing. In fact, its 450cc enduro prototype marked at a greater involvement in off-road competition. Furthermore, BMW signed just last week a deal to completely acquire the Husqvarna brand from previous owner Claudio Castiglioni. Results are a ready-made (and to race) range of off-road machines and the bikes with retained Husqvarna branding instead of BMW badges.

Reports say the decision to enter WSB might come after a behind the scenes brainstorming with the concept of a MotoGP bike “but the production-based championship is arguably a more fitting slot” for BMW’s image. Racing in WSB will give a marketing spur to its more road-based bikes.

Back in 1992, BMW developed a boxer twin superbike to take on the all-conquering Ducatis in WSB. Called the R1, the BMW prototype utilized an all-new 1000cc, DOHC, water-cooled boxer twin, with around 160bhp. It doesn’t anymore fit today’s standards, but back then, it was enough to compete.

In the bike’s later development, BWM decided the design wouldn’t be competitive enough to assure the success required to make the investment worthwhile, and backed out from the idea of racing.

Now the firm is back. Its latest project, utilizing a four-cylinder engine, guarantees to be truly competitive. Inside the factory is the new Codenamed 190/190, which targets 190bhp at the crankshaft and a 190kg wet weight in road-going trim. If it bangs that, race versions should have no problem in meeting the 210bhp needed to be competitive in WSB, and trimming down to the 162kg minimum weight limit for the series.

BMW isn’t officially commenting on the project, but an insider told the reporters that there would be an announcement about its race plans before the year ends. The insider also hinted that there would be a huge surprise at one of this year’s major bike shows, insinuating a prototype of the new machine could loom.
BMW will be racing in 2009. Nevertheless, showing a prototype will allow it the luxury of testing relatively publicly for a year, on the tracks used by the WSB series, without having to try to hide the bike. Moreover, production versions of the 190/190 could go on sale before its race debut.

World Superbikes winner MSMW2012