Racing a BMW S1000RR at Silverstone

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After a successful outing at the Brands GP round of the MRO Stocksport championship, where I picked up a couple of third places, the Vari-Trac Park Lane BMW team have invited me back to race with them for the remainder of the season, which I’m over the moon about.

It’s a great team and the S1000RR in superstock trim is phenomenal.

The S1000RR  

There’s no doubt that with 192bhp at the rear wheel, this S1000RR is rapid. In a straight line it will keep up with the full-on MRO Powerbikes and ex-BSB bikes racing in the championship. Compared to the R1, GSX-R1000 and Fireblade it lacks a little bit of grunt off the turns, but once it’s revved up it’s a missile. Bearing in mind the bike only has a pipe fitted, the performance is impressive to say the least.

I’m starting to get my head around the handling and set-up now. With so much power on tap it winds the rear Bitubo shock up on the gas and really gets a squirm-on at full throttle, so it has to be set quite stiff. 

I’m learning more about the electronics on the bike too. It’s hard to do a race start with the traction/anti-wheelie control on as the electronics cut the engine as soon as the front wheel gets beyond 23° airborne. I have to turn the electronics off for race starts and then turn them on again when the race is underway.

The traction control doesn’t really help or hinder during the race at Silverstone, with its more stop/start corners, but at Brands with its flowing bends, the TC was holding the S1000RR  back.

We changed the riding mode from the full-on ‘Slick’ to ‘Sport’ when the conditions were damp for morning warm-up. With ABS activated for front and rear brakes and lots of traction control on offer, it made braking and accelerating in the greasy conditions far less stressful than it would normally be. The races were dry, so we never got to try the system in the wet, although I must admit to doing a rain dance…

Under high-speed braking I suffered lots of juddering under braking, which we need to investigate to see if it’s a disc or a pad problem.

The racing

We ended up with three second places and my team mate, Stefan Capella got a win and two seconds in the Stocksport Clubman class, so not a bad haul for the team over weekend.

My brother Ben is now racing my old R1 and is flying on it. I’m not sure how I feel about racing my younger brother, half of me wants to beat him, the other half wants to look after him. He’s lapping the same speed as me already, so all I know is that I see my old red R1 a lot more than I want to at the moment. Although he’s in the Clubman Powerbike class, we’re not actually racing each other, but of course we are. He finished in front of me in one race, I beat him in the other and the final race he slipped off unhurt after getting tangled in the first corner melee.

Silverstone

The highlight of the Silverstone is the fast Woodcote right-hander, leading onto the start/finish straight. On the BMW you go into it in sixth gear and must be doing at least 150-160mph at full lean, knee down. It’s electrifying. On the exit of the corner is a kerb you can run on to when you’ve got it spot on, but on the edge of that is a three-meter wide strip of grass, which I think is a crazy thing to have on the exit of such a fast corner. You may as well have a wall there because you can’t go on to it, it’s lethal. I saw someone run on to the grass in the Rookie race, he crashed and slid on his back, almost to the first corner. He must have been doing at least 140mph when he fell off and luckily he didn’t tumble, so was ok. I can’t believe MotoGP are going to accept that when they visit this weekend.

The tyres

I got to try the new Metzeler Racetec Interacts again this weekend, in K2 rear and K1 fron compounds. I’m staggered by their durability compared to the old Racetec. There’s slick-like grip for a good 5-10 laps, then they drop a bit and stay consistent for ages. We used an old set of Racetecs for the entire Friday practice day and they hung on admirably.

The club

As usual, the Bemsee organisation, marshals and technical staff were exemplary. The paddock atmosphere is friendly and there’s healthy respect between all the riders/ It’s easily the best club I’ve ever raced with.

The support

While I’m out enjoying the bike, the whole show wouldn’t run without the help of the team and friends.

So, thanks to the Vari-Trac BMW Park Lane Team: Paul Cooper, Adam Woodley, Stuart Gallafant, Mike Balls, Rick Capella, Stef Capella and Bruce Charman.

Also, my mates Rookie and Creature who’ve been helping me at racetracks since 1988 and my brother Ben for stalking me on his R1.

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Michael Neeves

By Michael Neeves

MCN Chief Road Tester, club racer, airmiles millionaire.