Ride Onboard the 2017 BMW HP4 Race at COTA

Take some flying laps on BMW’s $78,000 superbike around Circuit of the Americas

The BMW HP4 Race is what dreams are made of—and not the grown-up kind of dreams, where your checkbook is balanced and your Christmas shopping is finished early. I’m talking about crazy, adolescent dreams. Building vehicles out of Legos and imagining impossible feats: “It flies and can go underwater and has 900 horsepower!” That’s kind of what it feels like to spool up the HP4 Race’s 215 hp.

2017 BMW HP4 Race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas
Pirelli slicks help the HP4 Race steady all of that horsepower and braking power. I would say they’re expensive tires, but let’s be honest, if you’re rolling around on an $80,000 bike, burning up rubber isn’t a concern.Jon Beck

BMW engineers started with the already potent S1000RR, a showroom thunderbolt that has all but ended the race for the most powerful superbike. The HP department in Bavaria breathed on the engine with a race-level tune, full exhaust, and squeezed even more juice out of the same 999cc. BMW claims 215 hp from the HP4 Race (16 more than the 199 claimed from the S1000RR). The chassis got even more exotic treatment—replacing the aluminum twin-spar frame with one made from carbon fiber. That saves 9 pounds alone, and combined with carbon wheels, bodywork, a special swingarm, plus the fact that there are no lights, blinkers, or street equipment, the HP4 Race shed around 80 pounds. BMW claims it weighs 378 pounds ready to ride (as opposed to the S1000RR’s 458 pounds).

2017 BMW HP4 Race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas
The HP4 Race has “audible traction control,” meaning you can hear in the exhaust note when it engages (noted in the video above). It’s odd at first, but an interesting way to tell the rider the system is working.Jon Beck

The costs of the bike are staggering too. It’s safe to say that $78,000 is a lot to pay for a motorcycle, but in speaking with the project leader for the HP4 Race I learned that BMW spends an awful lot on each bike. He explained that the fork from Öhlins is about $12,500, the shock is $3,500, the wheels are about $4,500 a set, the brake calipers from Brembo are $5,000, and the swingarm from Suter is $17,000. So more than $42,000 invested and that’s without a frame, engine, dash, or bodywork.

We know from measuring the S1000RR on our scales and dyno that the numbers are realistically around 472 pounds and between 180 and 185 hp. Still, if you apply the same error factor to the HP4 Race numbers it’s still a sub-400-pound machine with nearly 200 hp at the wheel. And that starts to explain why it almost wheelied over on the back straight at COTA—at the top of fifth gear. Even as silly as those Lego vehicles I made were, and how horrifying they would have been to use, riding the HP4 Race was definitely more a dream than anything.

Quick Specs
BASE PRICE $78,000
DISPLACEMENT 999cc
CLAIMED WEIGHT 378 lb. (171kg)
FUEL CAPACITY 4.6 gal. (17.5L)
SEAT HEIGHT 32.1/33.3 in. (816/846mm)
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 215 @ 13,900 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 88 lb.-ft. @ 10,000 rpm