2018 BMW HP4 Race Review | COTA Tested

During last year’s EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, the 2018 BMW HP4 Race debuted–a super exclusive, non-street legal, full-carbon framed/wheeled superbike based on the BMW S 1000 RR.

The 2018 BMW HP4 rivaled the street-legal Ducati 1299 Superleggera in exclusivity, horsepower, and lightness. Due to its limited-production numbers, and $78,000 (MSRP) price tag, rides aboard this Bavarian missile were going to be limited.

BMW HP4 Race Review
Photo by Etech Photo

Fast forward to nearly a year after its announcement, and I headed to Circuit of the Americas in Texas to to ride one of 750 HP4 Race motorcycles on the planet. The exclusive ride was held during the Double R Festival run by official BMW test rider and ambassador Nate Kern, the event that allowed us to ride the bike back-to-back with one of my all-time favorite track bikes, the S 1000 RR.

With that said, here are the essential Fast Facts you need to know about the 2018 BMW HP4 Race. During the event, I also interviewed Josef Mächler, BMW HP4 Product Manager, who is known as simply “Sepp”. Stay tuned for some video of our interview, along with some footage from the track.

1. The 2018 BMW HP4 Race gets slimmed to 377 pounds wet due to three chassis elements that are entirely constructed of carbon fiber–the frame (17.1 pounds), the self-supporting rear frame and the wheels. This is immediately noticed when you sit on the HP4 Race, and the lightness feels greater when you release the throttle. Awareness for the lightness slapped me quickly while tipping her into any one of 20 corners on the 3.4-mile Formula 1 circuit. This made the already super agile S 1000 RR feel, dare we say, doggish? Also, the carbon-fiber frame seemed to flex a bit more than the S 1000 RR, which provided more feeling while mid-corner, allowing you to read the tarmac easier and judge traction from the Pirelli Superbike SC2 slicks.

2. Though the HP4 Race’s light weight is apparent in handling, the carbon-fiber wheels, which are 30 percent lighter than light alloy forged wheels, have a tremendous affect on braking. There’s less rotating mass up front, which allows for much quicker braking. Fortunately, the feel at the lever end of the Brembo GP4 RR monoblock calipers squeezing 320mm calipers wasn’t harsh; initial pull is light, and you can easily moderate pressure for trail braking or slowing from triple-digit speeds into tight corners . There’s no speedometer, but the speeds reached at the back of COTA’s 3/4-mile straight, which were surely faster than the 180+ reached on the S 1000 RR, were quickly slowed for the slow turn 12.

BMW HP4 Race Review
Photo by Etech Photo

3. The HP4 Race arrives with a race-ready 1000cc inline four that is derived from BMW efforts in FIM Endurance World Championship and World SBK S 1000 RRs. The engine produces 215 horsepower @ 13,900 rpm, and 88.5 ft/lbs of torque @ 10,000 rpm, and only a true pro can capitalize on the upper end of this much power. When dumped WOT onto COTA’s front or rear straights, the HP4 Race never gave up on offering power. Also, when in any of the two “dry” modes, wheelie control is not active in gears four through six. This was apparent while flogging her in fifth and floating the front wheel along at well over 150 mph. That’s serious power–the most I’ve ever felt on a motorcycle.

4. But there’s one snag for that much power; the engine only has a life of 5,000 kilometers until it needs to be replaced for 17,000 EURO (about $20,000 USD). That racks up to about 3,000 track miles. But again, $20K for an engine on a $80K track bike should not be an issue for this type of buyer.

5. The suspension features online the best Öhlins suspension components–an FGR 300 fork and TTX 36 GP shock–which are identical to the components used in WorldSBK championship. I rode BMW’s Nate Kern’s personal HP4 Race with GP shift, so I didn’t mess with any settings. If I had had the opportunity, the suspension features color-coded adjustment knobs for compression and rebound; the fork also features a click setting function for the spring preload. These Öhlins provided optimal feeling at COTA, whether offloading the fork and compressing the shock on hard acceleration, or offloading the rear shock and compressing the fork during hard braking.

BMW HP4 Race test at COTA
Photo by Jon Beck

6. The 2018 BMW HP4 Race arrives with a Suter swingarm that was designed with input from former factory BMW S 1000 RR pilots Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies. BMW’s initial thought was to create something new, but due to the positive performance of the Suter piece, they decided, in Sepp’s words, “Why change it?” The light underslung swingarm is created with milled and sheet metal parts, and complemented the overall race feeling of chassis throughout my testing session aboard the HP4 Race.

7. BMW is known for its savvy electronics across its entire motorcycle lineup–from the R 1200 GS to the R nineT–and the HP4 Race brings electronics to a world-class racing level. The highlights are BMW’s slick traction control and engine braking control, which are both programmable for selected gears at 15 levels, and the much-needed wheelie control. Further electronics cater to the true track enthusiasts, including a pit lane limiter and launch control. There is absolutely no way a racer could effectively harness this much power without electronics, never mind a normal rider like me.

8. The BMW HP4 Race arrives with four riding modes–Intermediate, Dry 1, Dry 2 and Rain. The difference between Intermediate and Dry modes is impressive in regards to engine braking control and wheelie control. The Dry modes, which can be both customizable for rider preference, lack wheelie control in gears 4 through 6. This is what caused some serious wheelies over 150mph on bumpy sections of the back straight. I quickly learned to cover the rear brake while keeping her pinned.

BW HP4 Race gauges
Photo by Jon Beck

9. You name it, it’s likely adjustable, from the three-stage height adjustable frame to the offset of the fork. Again, I would need another few days with this to optimally set it up for my riding preference (up for it, BMW Motorrad USA?), but this brings another flair of WorldSBK machinery to us mere mortals.

10. The 2018 BMW HP4 Race arrives with a 2D dashboard and 2D data recording, and setup can be fully customized. The layout is a no-BS, allowing you to absorb the much-needed information quickly, such as rpm and lap times, plus electronic aids such as traction control and engine braking. Also, if you performed a faster lap than the previous, the data logging software throws out a green light every time you cross the circuit’s finish line.

11. With only 750 models produced, and just 10 percent of those coming stateside, the Bavarians have created one of the most exclusive superbikes ever offered for the public. For the serious collector, this creates an opportunity to own something that will surely rival some of the biggest collectors out there, such as the Honda RC213V-S and Ducati 1299 Superleggera.

BMW HP4 Race race bike
Photo by Etech Photo

12. There is no a comparison even worth making between the 2018 BMW HP4 Race and the S 1000 RR. The HP4 Race is a factory race machine built for the true track/racing enthusiasts. The HP4 Race provides the ultimate platform to truly squeeze every hundredths of a second out of a lap time. It comes equipped with absolutely everything needed for a customized riding experience, from numerous adjustments to the chassis, suspension and ergonomics. The 2018 BMW HP4 Race will always outperform its owner, which is never a bad trait for a motorcycle.

Photography by Etech Photo and Jon Beck

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Shoei RF-1200 Valkyrie TC-10
  • Riding Suit: Alpinestars GP Plus
  • Undersuit: Alpinestars Ride Tech Summer One-Piece
  • Gloves: Racer High Speed
  • Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R

For specs and a photo gallery, click to page 2