“Yo Sean! What do you think about racing a BMW R nineT and making a video about it?” I hadn’t heard from my old friend Mike Ngo for a couple of years, but he was still as straight to point as ever. I countered, “What no dinner, drinks, and maybe a movie first? This doesn’t include me buying your R nineT does it Mike?”
Mike has an occasionally successful habit of trying to convince me I really need one of his vehicles in my garage (see my 2009 Piaggio MP3 400) every time his accountant calls to tell him he needs to roll back his vehicle habit.
“No man, I’m trying to put together an American road race spec series for 2020 like what they’re doing in Europe using the BMW R nineT as the platform. I want to create a three-racer team, and I need the world to know about what a blast it is to race a Boxer against your mates. That’s why I’m calling you instead of someone who is actually fast.” Mike sure knows how to flatter a guy. “The plan is to race three rounds of AHRMA culminating with the Barber Vintage Festival this October. You help develop the bike, race it, and DON’T CRASH IT. Then we’ll show the world how much fun it is to race a Boxer-engined BMW and what an awesome platform it is for a new American spec race series.”
Turns out Mike wasn’t wrong about the fun part. While not the fastest track weapon in the Bavarian brand’s arsenal (see Trizzle’s take on the 2020 BMW S1000RR launch at Barber Motorsports Park for that), the R nineT turns out to be a quirky and fun motorcycle to figure out how to ride around a racetrack at a respectable pace. The beating heart of that German quirk is, of course, the boxer twin engine with its signature opposing cylinders that let you know you’re in for something different by jiggling your hips around like a hula hoop instructor when you start one up.
My interest piqued with delusions of being a factory rider for a few months, Mike broke down his master plan further, “Oshmo Motorworks in Van Nuys is providing your R nineT Racer and support. San Diego BMW is onboard to provide and race a second bike.”
I queried, “The same San Diego BMW that used to run an AMA pro race team with Steve Rapp?”
“One and the same. Still trying to work out a third bike and rider.
We’ve got a few sponsors lined up, but what I need you to do is make a few cool videos showing us transform the R nineT Racer from a pretty street poser to a bonafide track weapon, cover the three AHRMA races: Buttonwillow Raceway (in the California Mojave desert in the middle of August!), Utah Motorsports Campus, and the Barber Vintage Festival at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Don’t embarrass us and DON’T CRASH! I need the bikes to make it to Barber – 80,000 people showed up at the Vintage Fest last year, we need those eyeballs.”
So, after meeting Mike’s assembled team, learning a little about the travails of trying to convince manufacturers and national race organizations of the wisdom in supporting a new spec race series, and taking a 2019 BMW R nineT Racer for a short spin up the Angeles Crest Highway, we set out for two days of testing in 105-plus degree temps at what would be our first race round – Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Buttonwillow, California. The video chronicles getting to know the BMW R nineT as a track bike, the people involved in putting the program together, and of course, what it takes to transform the Bavarian Boxer from a sexy cafe cruiser to a club racer. Working both sides of the camera while trying to give the team enough feedback to develop the bike for racing posed its own set of challenges, but I hope you enjoy Part 1 as much as I enjoyed making it.