2012 Macau Grand Prix
Thirty-one riders from 13 different nations and territories will contest the 46th running of the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix from November 15-18. Among them will be Rico Penzkofer, 37, of Germany, taking on the best road racers in the world for the first time on a standard BMW HP4.
The Macau Grand Prix takes place in November every year on the 6.2km Guia street circuit and attracts a fascinating combination of exciting new talent and seasoned road racing and endurance professionals.
Among them are legendary riders such as Michael Rutter - who cemented his place in the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix history books by taking an historic seventh victory in 2011 and beating the record he had shared with Ron Haslam (father of Leon) - as well as former Macau winner John McGuinness, himself a 19-times TT winner and the reigning outright lap record holder on the Isle of Man TT course.
For Rico, whose Penz13.com Kraftwerk Herpigny Racing team won a first world title for the BMW RR earlier this year when they lifted the FIM World Endurance Superstock Cup Championship, the chance to debut the HP4 at this traditional ‘end of season' Grand Prix was too good to resist.
Rico Penzkofer says: "It's a very special race and every year the best racers turn up to do battle. I've raced a long time in the World Endurance, the German Supersport Championship, the TT, and even the BMW International BoxerCup and PowerCup series. What I really like though is street racing on circuits like Macau or the Isle of Man. The riding is very different to short circuits, the atmosphere is really friendly in the paddock and the fans are passionate about the sport."
Rico entered last year's Macau GP on the BMW RR and qualified ninth on the grid, but decided to pull out of the main race after the warm-up lap due to safety reasons (multiple crashes in the weekend's previous car races of the Macau GT Cup and the World Touring Car Championship had left a lot of oil on the circuit). Because it is a street circuit lined with Armco-barriers, riders need a very high degree of ability and similar levels of precision and control as the TT, as there are no run-off areas at Macau. With varying levels of grip and changes of surface, a series production motorcycle like the HP4 could well be more forgiving than a typical prototype racing machine.
Based on the award-winning BMW S 1000 RR, with 193hp and increased midrange torque, the BMW HP4 that Rico will use features a number of innovative safety and performance-enhancing options as standard, including DDC Dynamic Damping Control electronic suspension; Race ABS developed in conjunction with the IDM (German superbike championship) racing team; DTC Dynamic Traction Control with fine adjustment in ‘Slick' mode; HP Gear Shift Assist; and Launch Control with new wheelie detection.
Because the HP4 isn't ready available yet (it will arrive at BMW Motorrad dealers in December) Rico hasn't had much time to test the bike he will race, although he was able to squeeze a quick test in at the Most circuit in the Czech Republic before his BMW race bike was packed off to the airport en route to the Asian city, located just across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong.
Rico Penzkofer says: "The first test was very good. For sure it will take a little time to turn the HP4 into a pure race bike, but at the Czech track we were still able to get close to our best lap time on our well-developed RR stock race bike. We spent a lot of time working on the Electronic Suspension Adjustment, the traction control and the launch control. It's amazing what you can do with this machine when you hook it up to a laptop, so hopefully we'll be able to benefit from the services of a new BMW HP Race Calibration Kit II, datalogger and the HP Race Support technician at Macau!
"The HP4 we'll be racing will be completely standard, in original colours with the stock ‘bars, brakes and Race ABS system. There's not a lot of practice time at Macau - 30 minutes of free practice, one 45-minute session and a second 30-minute timed qualifying session, and then you're into the race, which lasts for 15 laps."
As well as Rico competing on the HP4, there will be other RRs in the mix at Macau. His team-mates for this race will be Japanese rider Yoshinari Matsuhita, who will be completing on Rico's superstock-spec RR from this year's Endurance World Championship. Also, local rider Joao Fernandes will race on Rico's RR that was used in the 2012 Isle of Man TT.
Other BMW RR pilots to look out for include British riders Stephen Thompson, James Storrar and Simon Andrews, German racer Didier Grams, Dutchman Branko Srdanov, Irishman Brian McCormack and Brazilian racer Rafael Paschoalin.
Six manufacturers are represented in this year's Grand Prix entry, and for the first time a three-in-a-row grid format, as used in MotoGP, will be adopted in place of the previously used four. The intention of the new format is to stretch the grid as the riders head into the fast left-hander at Reservoir, and to allow safer passage through the fast right Mandarin Oriental Bend before heading down to the famous Lisboa Bend.
The new BMW HP4 is a continuation of BMW Motorrad's HP model series, which was founded in 2005. After the HP2 Enduro, HP2 Megamoto and HP2 Sport boxer models, the HP4 is the first 4-cylinder motorcycle in the HP family.
The 46th Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix will start at 15:30 local time on Saturday, Nov. 17.