The Making of a SBK Team
The BMW Motorrad Motorsport Superbike World Championship team is based at Alpha Racing’s purpose-built headquarters in Rosenheim, about an hour’s drive from Munich. A new, hexagonal office building constructed mainly from glass maximizes natural light and affords splendid views of the mountains in the distance, while state-of-the-art workshops give the team technicians ample space to work on the factory S 1000 RR race machines. It’s a great place from which to develop a race motorcycle capable of winning the Superbike World Championship. Rainer Baeumel, the man in charge of this exciting new project speaks about his hopes and aspirations for the next few months.
What is your background in motorcycling?
I started life with BMW many years ago when I did a diploma in technical engineering and worked at the company as part of this. However, it was difficult to find a permanent job there at the time, so I went to work for Motorrad magazine (Germany’s biggest motorcycle magazine) doing road tests and technical stories for four years. I also used to race as a student – mainly grasstrack and speedway – but I never thought that one day I would become the Superbike World Championship project leader for BMW.
Starting this project from scratch, have you been able to organize things exactly as you wish?
Not in all respects, because the series development of the bike started nearly five years ago. The race team was only really put together at the end of 2007. When we got the first prototype of the series development machine, we put some racing parts on it and then went testing with Jeremy McWilliams and from that point on we ran parallel with the series production version.
How does the relationship work between Alpha Racing and BMW?
It’s a real partnership between Alpha Racing and BMW. We don’t distinguish between the two companies as we feel that we’re one team in this project together. There are around 40 people working together as a team and currently, about six or seven of them are from BMW and the rest are from Alpha Racing.
How does your role work alongside Berti Hauser’s?
Berti is the director of BMW Motorrad Motorsport, so he is responsible for WSBK, the Enduro World Championship team and any other area where BMW might be involved in the future, such as ‘stocksport’ or possible involvement in something like the British Superbike or AMA championships. I’m leader of the WSBK project and Marcus Theobald is responsible for the sport enduro project. Therefore, I’m only focused on the technical issues of WSBK and that keeps me busy enough!
You’ve already completed more than half a season in WSBK. Are you where you want to be at the moment in terms of the bike’s development?
Yes and no. Yes, because it’s our first season and our aim was to start the season with top 10 finishes and to end the season with a possible top five finish, so with our recent results at Brno (where Troy Corser finished in fifth place) we have already achieved this. On the other hand, I never thought that the championship would be as competitive as it has been this year with all the other teams. We’re developing all the time as a team, but the difference with the top teams is that they know exactly the direction they are going in – for us there could be three options and we have to test them all, so this makes life harder.
More testing could help in this area?Yes, definitely. We are planning things so that we have a proper testing schedule in place by the beginning of September. We’ve made a lot of progress at the recent tests in Italy, which helped us a lot at the recent WSBK round at Brno, and everyone’s working incredibly hard at the moment.
Have you noticed a lot of interest in this project from within BMW itself?
Yes, for sure everyone else is excited about this project and crossing their fingers for us at the races, and if we do not succeed, then they’re upset for us and frustrated but the pressure comes out of the team to be successful. After a race like Misano, where we had bad results, the team was really down, but then guys like BMW Motorrad boss Hendrik von Kuenheim come up and support us, saying things like "keep positive, it’s our first year and the results will come". This means a lot to us.
How can you keep riders motivated when they have been used to running at the front in WSBK?
They are professionals and know their jobs. From Ruben’s side it’s absolutely no problem because every race he arrives and says "this time, we’ll be on the podium!" Even at the recent round at Donington Park, after the races were over he said, "don’t worry, next time we’ll be on the podium!" That’s what you want – he’s always excited and motivated and sometimes we need to cool him down a bit and have to say "look Ruben, we don’t expect a great result today but we do need to test this part!"
On Troy’s side, he put himself under a lot of pressure – especially in Australia for the first race in Philip Island. Then he had the bad crash in Monza which set him back a lot. Now from a physical point of view, he’s ok again and my task has been to give him a bike that he could get confident on again and rediscover the fun in riding and the motivation. This happened at the last round in Brno, where he had his best weekend of the season to date, finishing a superb fifth in race one after leading the first couple of laps, and following that up with a tenth in race two, despite tyre problems.
The next round of the Superbike World Championship takes place from 4-7 September at the Nurburgring in Germany.