I’VE been studying our chat boards with particular interest lately, reading MCN website users’ take on a BMW MotoGP bike, next year or otherwise.
As ever, forum users raise some very interesting points about the likelihood of us seeing a bike from the German company in MotoGP. Personally, I think at this stage it’s unlikely for 2007, but not for lack of commitment from the BMW personnel involved. I also think that we may yet see the bike at a race this year, in a purely demonstrative capacity.
So what makes me think it’s unlikely we’ll see them next year? Firstly, the bike being tested by Jeremy McWilliams is a 990cc bike, not an 800, so at this stage it’s a case of pure development to see if BMW can create something that would deliver from the first race under existing rules, out-dated as they may be next year. Only when that was the case – that the 990cc bike looked as if it would have been a winner, or thereabouts – would the go-ahead be given to make a 800cc bike. And given that the current bike is nowhere near fast enough to hack it in a 990cc race, we hear, it makes the scheduling of a full-on effort for next year pretty unlikely. As one forum poster pointed out, BMW would like to come to MotoGP and start winning, not plod round at the back, and at this stage the bike just isn’t fast enough.
However, it shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. The quality of effort that BMW is putting toward this project really is of the highest calibre. They have poached some supremely talented people, the componentry on the bike is absolutely top-spec and contemporary, right down to the Dorna TV broadcast unit, and the contract McWilliams is rumoured to be on makes him one of the best-paid riders in the world, despite not racing. The number touted is $1.5m, though gamely he flatly refuses to even acknowledge the existence of BMW in his life, let alone details of any contract with the company.
One of the first comments on a recent thread about the BMW race bike was a funny about where they will fit the panniers, and for me this is key to why this entire project exists. As most of us will remember, a few years back Volvo faced an appalling image problem in being perceived as the ‘boring’ marque – which they aggressively tried to remedy by radically reshaping their entire global marketing strategy, confronting head-on the perception that their cars were dull by targeting massive adverts in titles that said so all round the world, and doing things like entering their Turbo estates in the British Touring Car series. I’d have to say it worked.
I think BMW are wise enough to know that as great as their motorbikes are, they appeal to a very different group of people and in a very different way than their cars do, especially the ‘top’ sports models. If there is a group decision to eliminate this discrepancy in how BMW is perceived, then the money will be made available because frankly, it’s small beer to a giant like BMW, even if the bike wing would be unlikely to stomach it on its own. Conversely, if it against the overall BMW strategy at the time to go MotoGP racing, even if the bike was lightning fast we’d never see it.
Another comment made was that we were supplied with the pictures we used in the paper recently by BMW themselves, which I can say is categorically not the case. We got a tip that someone – probably BMW – would be testing a new bike there, and contracted a photographer to go and get some pictures, it was as straight forward as that. The same thing happened the previous week, when we got no pictures at all. It’s a case of some you win, some you don’t, and this time we got the pictures – much to BMW’s annoyance.
Anyway, one thing is clear: we’d all LIKE to see the bike. Whether we will is unknown.
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