This will be BMW’s year in World Superbike. Stephan Schaller, CEO of BMW Motorrad, was adamant about this at the official presentation of the GoldBet-sponsored BMW Motorrad Team in Munich, Germany.
Indeed, chances are high that the 2013 SBK title will go to BMW. The S1000RR has reached a superb level of competitiveness, nothing like the days when Troy Corser had to put on chewing-gum-compound tires for a no-holds-barred qualifying lap only to disappear in the crowd when the race grew past its second go-around.
The transition from an all-BMW-Germany-managed team to a BMW Italy-managed team working tightly
with the factory marked a pivotal moment, and since then, the team has steadily improved. Last year, only
bad luck prevented Marco Melandri from nailing the title. Everyone in the team agrees that Melandri was
a key factor in the evolution of the S1000RR. He is a top rider and was able to accurately report to his
mechanics and technicians so they could steadily iron out the problems with the bike.
When I asked Melandri what had to be modified to make the bike perform to its real potential, he said,
“First, I am not an engineer. I report to engineers my experience and feelings, then they take appropriate
action. It worked very effectively.
“I perfectly interface with Andrea Dosoli, the technical manager of the team. I must say that I never felt so nicely at home as I do here with BMW Motorrad, and that helps. We had to work both on the setting of the chassis and tuning of the engine.
“Sure, we did not suffer from chattering as bad as other teams did, but the bike was unrideable; the suspension was set too hard. Compounding that was the engine. It was tuned like an F-1 engine—too rough, too ‘irascible.’ They had to completely retune the electronic-management system and probably develop new cams. Progressively, we achieved a much more satisfactory and manageable tuning condition, and it showed.”
In the first test at Jerez, Spain, Melandri was second-quickest to Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes. “I am not 100
percent yet from a physical point of view,” said Melandri. “My right shoulder had to undergo surgery for
the third time, and the recovery will be slow, mostly due to an inflammation that caused the muscles and
tendons to not ‘tighten up’ as expected. The doctors say the problem does not exist, but I still feel some
pain, and strength is not fully recovered.”
About the latest edition of the BMW S1000RR, Melandri said, “The bike has further improved. It has
grown stronger and more tractable at the same time. A big improvement came with the new Pirelli tires.
This 17-inch rubber marks an impressive improvement over the previous 16.5s. They are far better in all
departments: better profile, better wear, better synergy with the chassis settings.”
Melandri is teamed with Chaz Davies, a British rider who, in 2007, raced a private Ducati Desmosedici in
MotoGP and then went to the U.S. and won the 2008 Daytona 200. Last year, the 2011 World Supersport
champion proved his potential aboard an Aprilia RSV4. At Jerez, he trailed Melandri, but at this stage, it
would be unfair to draw any conclusions.
Schaller confirmed that BMW Motorrad will sell S1000RR engines to small specialists, like Bimota, but
it will not support them if they enter the SBK arena. Schaller also confirmed that, at this stage, BMW
Motorrad does not intend to have a team in AMA Pro SuperBike.