However, compounding the electronics development, it appeared that BMW was attempting to take what had been learned in car racing and apply it to the bikes. This is reflected in Melandri’s statements about developing the system. “For me it’s been good to bring some people that they know me exactly, so they can transfer my feeling to the bike, to improve the power delivery and exactly what I need and try to explain to BMW engineers that the motorcycle sport is different than car racing, so you need to follow a lot rider feeling. Because the rider has a big way that he can move on the bike, different riding style, on the cars maybe you rely so much more on data, not on driver feeling.”
Although BMW team reps wouldn’t...
Although BMW team reps wouldn’t tell us what the box is for, we’re guessing that it’s a controller/datalogger for the BMW superbike’s engine management system as the motorcycle is warmed up.
Leon Haslam is quick to defend BMW’s strategy. “What a lot of people misunderstand with electronics is that you get an empty box, an empty computer, even from Marelli, and it’s up to the team and the people that you have in your team to put strategies inside that empty box, and that’s what we’re doing at BMW.” Haslam goes on to point out how the logistics of using the Marelli system would have impeded BMW’s ability to make the kind of rapid progress they needed to become more competitive. “If you want to change something that the box doesn’t do, you have to send it back to Marelli and wait for them to send it back to you.”
Supporting this approach, Gobmeier offers, “We did some bench work between our system, the Bosch system, and the Magneti Marelli system. Basically what it came down to, which we know sort of ahead, is a black box is a black box. At the end it comes down to what functions, what software functions you are putting into those black boxes. Neither Bosch or Magneti Marelli can give us the holy secret formula.” Reinforcing the advantages to create a proprietary system, Gobmeier continues, “We know it inside and out, and the big, big advantage is the following: On our system we can change things like this (snaps fingers) without writing a request form and a purchase order, and then it goes into the pipeline of the supplier, and you wait for three months and maybe we (they) start with it. They need another two months in order to fix it and then you get something back and after five months you’re having maybe the result back what you requested. Internally, this whole thing (the process) costs me two weeks.” Haslam appears to be content with the direction. “I think the BMW system can pretty much do anything we want and now we’ve got the guys with a lot more bike experience programming it to what we’re feeling (the riders) rather than, you know, to what they think we need.”
Melandri’s victory in the...
Melandri’s victory in the first race at Donington Park (with Haslam coming in second) was a well-earned achievement for the whole team after three hard years.
Right after the Donington...
Right after the Donington maiden victory, Melandri took advantage of a mistake by Carlos Checa in race 2 at Miller Motorsports Park to grab BMW’s second win in World Superbike.
Melandri wasted no time getting going in the 2012 season. He put the BMW on the box in second place in the series’ opener in Phillip Island. It was evident there was a new chemistry that was gelling at the BMW camp. At the Imola round, Haslam scored a pair of third-place podium finishes. Gobmeier explains, “For Imola what we have done, we have put new internal parts in the engine, which help to reduce the friction. Also, we have first time reduced the inertia of our crankshaft, because with the new rules we were allowed to do that.” Gobmeier smiles, “It worked out pretty good.”
As the WSBK circus moved on to Donington, the smell of victory was lingering about the BMW camp. Everyone on the team felt it. And so it was, on May 13, Marco Melandri went out and won the first race. It will simply go down in the WSBK record books as a win; in the annals of BMW racing history, it will go down as the day this major project, perhaps some ten years in the making — and a great deal of R&D dollars — paid off. Melandri was followed to the line by teammate Haslam for an amazing BMW one-two on the box. Race 2 was a carbon copy of the first, with the two factory BMW’s out front, this time with Haslam leading and Melandri in second. It looked like another BMW one-two for the day…until the last corner; Melandri made a last-ditch effort to pass his teammate, the aftermath of which ended up putting both BMWs on the pavement.
Melandri debriefs with his...
Melandri debriefs with his crew chief Silvano Galbusera (with glasses) after a practice session. Galbusera was Melandri’s crew chief in the now-defunct Yamaha World Superbike team.
Former team manager Bertie...
Former team manager Bertie Hauser (left) and two-time World Superbike champion Troy Corser (right) were instrumental in the early development of the S 1000 RR superbike; Corser retired last year, and Hauser was replaced at the end of the 2010 season.
Melandri would follow up BMW’s first win with another victory at the U.S. round at Miller Motorsports Park in race 2. With the proverbial monkey off their back of that elusive first win, the momentum appears to be building, but of course the racing mindset is to never be content — once you get a win, you want another. But the fact is BMW is now one of the contenders in WSBK, the German manufacturer effectively reshaping its image and attracting an entirely new audience to the brand as a result.
When asked about the process that has gotten them here, Gobmeier responds, “Everything has to be in harmony, everything has to come together on the engine side, on the friction side of the engine combustion chamber, the electronics, riding dynamics, control functions, aerodynamics, ergonomics, weight distribution, kinematics, chassis, parts themselves, suspension parts, tires, (and) make it more in harmony with the tire life and with the rider.” The excitement of the wins is cherished but the team knows everyone needs to stay focused. “The development work never stops,” Gobmeier sighs, “because as soon as you stop, you know, the other guys also continue working. If you just think it’s good enough, then the other guys are taking over and run away.” When asked what’s next for the S 1000 RR, he smiles, “Let’s say all evolutionary stuff, nothing revolutionary.”
Leon Haslam (son of former...
Leon Haslam (son of former 500 Grand Prix rider Ron Haslam), joined the team in 2011, and scored numerous podium finishes. The year was a difficult one though, as the BMW squad struggled to get its in-house electronics dialed in.
When questioned about BMW’s biggest strength, Leon Haslam takes a moment before answering, “The biggest strength of BMW right now is the drive to win. I’ve never felt the same desire (in a manufacturer) to win as myself.”
Of that historical first win for the BMW team and the S 1000 RR, Marco Melandri gets philosophical. “At the beginning, for me, was just another win. I was very happy about that. But after some day by days I understand, I realize, was the first win of a huge manufacturer like BMW, so I have been part of the history of this. So I am proud, and I have been dreaming, in 100 years maybe, when some people would study the BMW history, my name will be the first to give them a win. I am very happy about that, but now I would like to keep going.”
Certainly BMW shares the sentiment.