2008 BMW HP2 Sport - First Ride

DOHC, Radial Valves And 133 Horsepower Make This The Sportiest Boxer Ever

By Alan Cathcart, Photography by Kel Edge, Courtesy of BMW

A True Race Replika From The Bayerische Motoren Werkes
First we got the Enduro, then the Megamoto and now the Sport, the latest-and for many, the most anticipated-member of BMW's exclusive HP2 range. And what a machine it is! A surprisingly faithful replica of the factory's world endurance racer, the HP2 (for High-Performance Twin) Sport promises performance heretofore unheard of from a road-going BMW. Think of it as a two-wheeled version of the company's seriously sporty M-series cars.

The HP2 Sport was first revealed to the public at the Paris Motor Show this past September, and we had an opportunity to put some laps on the all-new model just a few weeks later at the posh Ascari Race Resort in Spain. This ride came just a few months after I'd sampled the factory's world endurance racer at Magny-Cours in France (see page 80), and I was shocked by how similar the two bikes performed, lending credibility to the company's claim that the HP2 Sport is essentially a street-legal version of the racebike.

A quick look at the spec sheet confirms this, as the HP2 Sport boasts the same DOHC engine layout and similar performance (133 horsepower, compared to 140 bhp for the catalyst-free racebike). What's more, the streetbike is actually 7 pounds lighter than the racebike, owing to the latter's heavier quick-change wheel setup and oversized fuel tank. The bikes even look similar, thanks to sharp styling by young Swedish designer Ola Stenegard (one of David Robb's protgs), replete with carbon fiber and other high-end, race-derived components. Bravo, BMW.

The sense of dj vu continued after I settled into the saddle. The spacious, comfortable riding position is exactly the same, giving lots of room to move about the bike and especially to hang off it in turns to minimize the chance of dragging the carbon-fiber-clad cylinder heads. The adjustable clip-ons and eccentric mounts for the footrests and controls allow the riding position to be tailored to suit any stature, resulting in a balanced riding stance without excessive weight on your wrists. There's plenty of legroom because the cylinder heads touch down before the rider's toes do.

With fully adjustable hlins shocks front and rear, handling is reminiscent of the racer as well. The Telelever front end feels different from other sportbikes until you get mentally dialed in to it. The front shock's sophisticated damping delivers good feedback from the Metzeler Racetec tire, allowing you to trail-brake deep into a turn.

Indeed, braking stability is one of the chief advantages of Telelever. The front end dips only slightly after braking is initiated, and then stays level no matter how hard you squeeze the lever. That initial hint of dive is dialed in on purpose to give a clear indication that deceleration has begun, a sensation often absent from alternative front ends. This feedback encourages the rider to take full advantage of the magnificent Brembo Monobloc radial front brakes, which stop the HP2 hard and fast but with plenty of feel.

Once unleashed on Ascari's main straight, the HP2 Sport gained speed improbably fast for a boxer-twin, and with minimum vibration. The engine has lots of personality and sounds great, with a delicious, distinctive drone issuing from the underseat silencer. It's extremely torquey in nature, and the light-action, singleplate clutch delivers strong acceleration as soon as you crack open the equally light-action throttle. Precise, clean mapping of the Bosch ECU allows the flat-twin to pull cleanly away from as low as 2500 rpm in sixth gear without any transmission snatch. Response at cracked throttle is just as impressive, aided by a variably progressive butterfly linkage, in spite of just a single injector per cylinder.

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