"I've gotten to the esses faster, but I don't think I've ever gotten through them faster." That's what I told San Jose BMW owner Chris Hodgson after riding his shop's much-modified R1200S racebike at Southern California's Buttonwillow Raceway.
Though the Moto-ST Super Sport Twins (SST) endurance entry is limited by series rules to 118 rear-wheel horsepower and 400 pounds post-race, it works much better than those numbers suggest. That's not surprising considering Hodgson is arguably the most successful BMW tuner in the land, having built the infamous Junkyard Dog and Wrecking Ball hat have won AHRMA and BMW Airheads roadracing championships and set speed records at Bonneville. True to form, his latest R1200S-based racebike was in with a chance "I of winning the inaugural SunTrust Moto-ST title until the team's decision to sit out the Iowa Speedway round of the series on safety concerns cost them valuable points.
Custom-made "Frankenarm" simplifies ride-height adjustments to the Paralever rear end. It
Throughout the rest of the season, however, regular riders Brian Parriott and Nate Kern-helped by stand-ins Tom ontano and Richard"Mini" Cooper-led and won races while competing against stiff competition from the Aprilia- and Suzukimounted opposition. One wouldn't expect that from a humble BMW, but then this is no humble BMW.
The focus, Hodgson explains, was on handling, and there's no better laboratory for that than the team's local test track-twisty, undulating Infineon Raceway (nee Sears Point) north of San Francisco. hlins shocks were fitted both to the Telelever front and Paralever rear suspensions, and with the aid of the team's in-house shock dyno recalibrated for optimum performance. An R1200RT front A-arm shortened the wheelbase by 1 inch and shifted the weight bias forward, while the fork legs were slid down through the clamps to increase cornering clearance. Out back, the custom-made "Frankenarm" torque arm gave the bike ride-height adjustability. So while the outwardly jutting cylinder heads bear some scratch marks, those are from the riders occasionally tagging curbs and are not indicative of cornering-clearance issues.
Engine work was fairly straightforward. When originally built for the inaugural Daytona 8-hour in the fall of 2006, the high-cam flat-twin made less than 110 bhp at the rear wheel. So Hodgson ported the heads and opened up the intakes for more ram-air effect, which netted 118 bhp. That was too close to the limit for comfort, so he put strips of tape over the air filter to reduce power until he had a safety margin.
Other motor mods were aimed more at reliability and finetuning. Pistons were balanced, Carillo rods replaced the heavyyet- fragile stockers,a larger oil cooler from an R1200R kept temperature in check, and cam timing and fuel pressure were juggled. Cloaking the works was a custom-made lower fairing patterned after that of Ducati's MotoGP racer. Rear ends from five different BMW models give a choice of final-drive ratios for the shaft-driven machine.
Standard BMW gauge package is augmented by an AiM lap timer. Brembo radial master cylinder
I had a chance to sample the Beemer during a Track Club track day (www.thetrackclub.com) and was blown away by how much faster it was than the R1100S I rode in the inaugural Boxer Cup race at Daytona in 2003. Thanks to a low center of mass it changed directions extremely easily, with a solid, put-together feel that rivaled any purebred sportbike. And thanks to the Telelever front end isolating braking and suspension forces, and the excellent feel afforded by the Brembo radial master cylinder actuating the standard BMW/Brembo calipers, braking over Buttonwillow's many bumps was amazing-in fact, Parriott claims that's the bike's single greatest advantage. Legend holds that when Team Roberts asked a Formula 1 race-car engineer to design the ultimate motorcycle front suspension, he drew something astonishingly similar to BMW's Telelever.
Exhaust heat wrap keeps the hlins shock and spec Pirelli tires cool.
The boxer-twin engine felt typically flat down low and through the midrange, and then exploded beyond 7000 rpm. (Ironically, the more-modified R1200S- nicknamed The Bomb-that Parriott rides in AFM races has a more linear powerband and smoother delivery.) A Techtronics quick-shifter allows full-throttle clutchless upshifts, with the length of the ignition-coil cutout adjustable for each gear.
Thing is, the Beemer was so planted and easy to ride that I found myself lapping within a couple seconds of my best time on a much more powerful Suzuki GSX-R1000. It's no wonder the San Jose BMW team was so competitive. Who says BMWs aren't sporty?