2009 BMW S1000RR Preview

Stunning New Literbike Challenger


BMW Motorrad’s new president stunned the world when he officially announced a new ultra-sport literbike built to take on the established Japanese competitors both on the sales floor and the World Superbike Championship.

The new bike is dubbed the S1000RR, and it marks a bold new direction for the formerly staid German brand.

“We are confident that we will be able to start the Superbike World Championship next year with a convincing all-round package, and that our series motorcycle will be just as convincing,” said Hendrik von Kuenheim, a 20-year veteran of BMW and now the General Director of BMW’s motorcycle division. “In both terms of both its technology and price, our Supersports will be absolutely competitive.”

BMW has a long history of racing, though it’s been mostly in the realm of automobiles. They have the high-technology know-how, but it will be interesting to see how BMW can create a bike to be competitive on price and performance with the Japanese.

BMW’s new literbike contender. The S1000RR’s frame and suspension layout is conventional, but the bike will have several high-tech features, including traction control.
The S1000RR appears quite narrow and compact. A centrally located ram-air duct crams high-pressure air into the inline-Four engine.
Test rider Jeremy McWilliams, a former MotoGP pilot, puts the S1000RR development bike through its paces.

“BMW Motorrad is looking at a long-term involvement in this segment,” said BMW Motorrad’s head honcho. “Clearly, that means we must speak the language of the segment and follow the usual market standards. And, indeed, we are confident that we will set new benchmarks in this scene, winning over an appropriate market share.”

Although details of the S1000RR are still a little vague, we can tell you that it adopts the successful formula of an inline-Four engine with a target of 190 crankshaft horsepower.

“In the early project phase we checked out various engine concepts,” explained von Kuenheim. “The straight-Four (offers) the best qualities to meet the power, performance, weight, and package requirements to be fulfilled.”

The frame is a conventional perimeter layout made from aluminum. To ensure a light and compact layout, the S1000RR eschews any of BMW’s unique suspension designs, instead using an inverted fork up front and a chain-drive rear end with a banana-style swingarm working a single shock out back. BMW intends the finished bike’s wet weight to be 419 pounds.

“For package reasons we have decided against the BMW Duo-Lever on the suspension,” said von Kuenheim. “Taking up more space, this kind of front-wheel geometry would have presented disadvantages with the very compact structure of BMW’s new Superbike.”

The S1000RR will offer at least one feature the Japanese don’t: traction control. We expect all sorts of other techno-wizardry in this bike, including throttle-by-wire actuation and variable-length intake snorkels. Von Kuenheim also promises some innovative technology in the engine’s cylinder head.

“From the start we wish to be on par with our well-established competitors also in the Supersports segment,” von Kuenheim stated boldly. “It is our objective to offer the customer a high-performance motorcycle with absolutely outstanding qualities and features on both the road and race track in terms of rideability, performance, and ergonomics.”

BMW intends to enter World Superbike competition in 2009 with its S1000RR. It will build 1000 of the new literbikes by the end of 2009 to meet homologation requirements for this production-based class. BMW has already been developing the bike in conjunction with Alpha-Racing, a German tuning shop with plenty of motorsport experience. The team is currently looking to find riders for the bike. In the near future, BMW will begin production of the racebike in order to develop it for the 2009 race season.

BMW describes its progress with the development as “very promising.” The expected goals are to garner top-10 results in ’09, then to log podium positions in 2010.

But why would BMW want to venture into such a competitive category?

“The very fascination of this motorcycle with its racing DNA expands and upgrades the brand image of BMW Motorrad by offering an additional sporting and emotional element winning over new customers for the brand,” said von Kuenheim, noting that the class accounts for more than 100,000 units worldwide. “We are actively looking for new options, for profitable growth and for the planned increase in volume. Precisely that is why we have decided, among other things, to take on the competition in the Supersports segment on both the road and the race track.”

The S1000RR development bike includes radial-mount brakes and a high-tech gas-charged fork.

Together with BMW’s recent acquisition of Husqvarna, the German company has ambitions sales goals for the near future.

“This year we again plan to deliver more motorcycles to our customers than in the previous year,” said von Kuenheim. Considering that motorcycle markets show a rather irregular and inconsistent development, this is and remains a very demanding target.

As part of the strategic reorientation of the BMW Group, we have announced that customer deliveries by BMW Motorrad are to increase by approximately 50% by the year 2012 to 150,000 units. To meet this objective, we are making BMW Motorrad even more sporting and dynamic. This means that we are specifically entering market segments where BMW Motorrad was not represented so far.”

This design sketch from 2006 shows the fertile minds at BMW.

The challenge for BMW, and all European manufacturers, is the continued decline in value of the American dollar against the euro. Von Kuenheim notes that the dollar and Japanese yen have lost about 80% of their value versus the euro.

Intriguingly, BMW notes that the “S” in S1000RR stands for Supersports, what it describes as “a new class of motorcycles from BMW.” Note the plural. Rumors of a 675cc Triple might make that a reality.

Discuss more at BMW S1000RR Forum.

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