The much anticipated bike versus car showdown show on Top Gear on BBC2 last night left one important question unanswered… just how fast around the track was the BMW S1000RR?
MCN was there on the day of the filming back in October and we can confirm the BMW superbike was less than a second slower than the mental Ariel Atom V8; a time that makes the BMW the second fastest vehicle around the track ever.
Our inside view allowed us to see just what unfolded that day with rider Steve Brogan using a completely stock BMW against the Ariel which was driven for the fast sequences by ex-Top Gear presenter Tiff Needell, pretending to be James May.
That means a £13,310 bike in completely standard trim is just under a second slower than a 475bhp Ariel and faster than everything else ever put around the track by the famous Top Gear driver The Stig.
Cars beaten by the BMW, ridden by reigning British Superbike EVO class champion Steve Brogan include the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, the world’s fastest production car which costs a staggering £1.7million.
There are lots of rumours about what happened on the day of filming with people suggesting the Top Gear crew made sure the car won. This isn’t true. Brogan was prevented from using his race bike because the rules state all times must be set by road legal vehicles.
In fact the times set by the car and the bike were less than a second apart with the bumpy nature of the track, the tight, twisty layout and Brogan’s lack of track knowledge all counting for the tiny difference.
This was the first time a full-on race has taken place on Top Gear and was filmed back in October on a dry and warm day and MCN was there to get photos and the lowdown on the filming.
The BMW S1000RR was completely standard which meant a 190bhp, 999cc inline four-cylinder superbike with ABS, traction control and anti-wheelie were all available.
Brogan opted to switch it all off. He told MCN: “The BMW electronics are great for most of the time but I want to be able to get some wheelspin to help me. I got a couple of laps from the front seat of a car to have a look at the track and then got on the bike to see what it was all about.
“The biggest issue around this track were the bumps. Not just on the brakes where the standard bike forks are bottoming out everywhere but also on the throttle where the back wheel is spinning up and bouncing around a lot.”
The car he raced was a 475bhp, 550kg Ariel Atom with a 3.0litre V8 built by American firm Hartley using two Suzuki Hayabusa heads and a bespoke bottom end which can rev to 10,500rpm.
The performance of the car is more than a match for the Bugatti Veyron, with 0-60mph in 2.3s and 0-100mph in 5.4s – one of the world’s fastest-accelerating cars. It costs £146,000 and the British firm is only making 25 – all but five of which have already been sold. Top speed is more than 170mph.
Motorcycles have only made a few, rare appearances on Top Gear in the past. A Honda FireBlade was put around a track but this was heavily criticised by bikers as it wasn’t a professional rider.
The only others have been a Vincent Black Shadow ridden by bike nut Richard Hammond and the Christmas Special where all three of the Top Gear presenters rode bikes across Vietnam.
Top Gear director Andy Wilman said: “We wanted this showdown to be as real and as close as possible so using a professional racer to ride the bike made perfect sense. People have criticised Top Gear in the past for the way we have included bikes but we hope this answers those concerns.”
Claimed power/torque: 190.4bhp/82.7ft-lb
Kerb weight: ABS version 206.5kg
Power to weight ratio: 922bhp per ton
ENGINE: Water-cooled 16v DOHC 4-stroke in-line four-cylinder. 999cc
ARIEL ATOM 500 V8
Claimed power/torque: 475bhp/267ftlb
Kerb weight: 550kg
Power to weight ratio: 863bhp per ton
ENGINE: Water-cooled, 32v DOHC 75-degree V8. 3000cc