2018 BMW Carbon Fiber HP4 Race Track Test
By Chris Ulrich
I was skeptical of BMW’s carbon-fiber frame project when the HP4 Race concept was announced in the fall of 2016. Others manufacturers had tried to build motorcyles with carbon-fiber frames, and ultimately failed to create a machine that was user-friendly. The history of motorcycles with carbon-fiber frames goes back to the late 1980s when Cagiva Mito built a two-stroke 500cc Grand Prix racebike with a carbon-fiber frame. A more recent example of a carbon-frame motorcycle experiment would be the famous abandonment of the composite material by the Factory Ducati MotoGP team during Valentino Rossi’s tenure on the Desmosedici. But while it didn’t consistently work for Ducati in MotoGP, the brand has stuck with carbon-fiber for the super-high-end, limited-production Superleggera, which seems to be doing pretty well. And obviously, the struggles other brands have had in the past with composite frames have not deterred BMW from building a sportbike based on the S1000RR, with a carbon-fiber main frame.
It can be argued that there isn’t a company better equipped to tackle a carbon-fiber main-frame project for a production motorcycle and do it right. BMW was the first to industrialize the use of structural carbon-fiber componentry in mass-produced cars such as the M3, i8, and electric i3, so company engineers have experience with the material.
BMW introduced the high-performance HP4 production model in 2013, then incorporated the HP4’s upgrade into the S1000RR model update in 2015. BMW product planner and managers knew they needed to do something spectacular to create the next generation HP4, and they decided to go big, with a carbon-fiber main frame, and a race-spec engine. Elmar Jager, who works in the pre-development department at BMW Motorcycles, brought up the concept of a carbon fiber framed S1000RR. From there it was left up to Josef Maechler, who is in charge of Product Sales Strategy for BMW Motorcycles, and Rudolph “Double RR Rudi” Schneider, Head of 4 and 6-cylinder Product Projects, to figure out if it was possible. They did and they named it the 2018 HP4 Race.