The long road trip to a short drag strip
Many great ideas are formed when a group of motorcycle enthusiasts sit in
a bar and share a few drinks. But the idea to ride a BMW drag bike seven hundred
miles from Greenville, South Carolina, to West Palm Beach, Florida, was one
of the more crazy ones. Forget the fact that most drag bikes are highly modified
and precisely tuned for a single purpose – accelerating from a standing start
for a quarter mile (400 metres). Cornering performance is never a thought.
Drag bikes spend most of their time going straight or on a dyno. They arrive
at the drag strip in a trailer and are ridden at slow speeds through the pits
and then onto the track. Actually RIDE it to the track? Out of the question.
Out of the question most of the time…
This time the bike is the BMW Performance Center S 1000 RR drag racer. Although
the bike looks every bit a drag bike with its nine-inch extended swingarm,
this speed machine is completely street legal.
The bike is the brainchild of Justin Kingsland, BMW’s Southeast Region Area
Manager in the US. Justin was inspired by the handiwork of Brock Davidson,
the record-setting championship drag racer who now runs the Brock’s Performance
speed emporium in Dayton, Ohio. Brock noticed the new BMW S 1000 RR in World
Superbike racing and was taken back by the power-to-weight ratio on the spec
sheet. He had to have one. And he had to work his magic on it to see what
the bike could do in the quarter mile.
Brock developed bolt-on performance upgrade components for the BMW including
a full exhaust system and the aforementioned extended swingarm. The bike made
waves in the drag racing world running an 8.49 elapsed time (e.t) in the quarter
mile, which was the quickest lap ever with a non-modified motor at the time.
The performance caught the eye of Justin at BMW, who constructed a copy of
the bike – using Brock’s off-the-shelf components – to use as the centrepiece
of an interactive travelling road show.
Consequently Brock (the expert tuner and now official BMW Motorrad drag bike
builder) and his team were invited to demonstrate and showcase the BMW S 1000
RR at the recent Palm Beach International Raceway Citrus Nationals drag racing
event in Florida.
As well as making performance runs in this exhibition event, the idea was
for BMW Performance Center staff members to prove the machines’ true ‘streetability’
by riding the drag bike all the way to Florida, accompanied by an X6 M Series
chase car so that the journey and the weekend’s activities could be filmed
for the American S 1000 RR Facebook site, as well as Brock’s Performance Facebook
site and the BMW Motorrad USA E-newsletter which is sent to over 77,000 BMW
fans every month.
In Florida, the team from Brock’s Performance and a crew from the BMW of Miami
dealership manned the midway display and a BMW Performance Center exhibition
area so that drag racing fans could find out more about the new technology
BMW is unveiling with its latest sports products. In total, 14 staff were on
hand to showcase the RR’s speed and serious customizing potential, and with
tens of thousands of fans expected at Palm Beach Raceway, the opportunity to
put some BMWs on the strip and in front of potential owners was too good to
The racing team – consisting of ace drag racer Jeremy Teasley and Keith Dennis
– fielded three race bikes plus a stock RR. Unfortunately, Keith was falling
ill with the flu towards the end of the weekend, so it was up to Jeremy to
go fast on the RRs – and he delivered, setting new performance standards on
all three race-prepped machines.
Perhaps the most impressive of these was the BMW Performance Center RR’s 8.447
e.t. achieved after the 13-hour, 700 mile (1126 km) trek to the track, with
nothing more than a quick sprocket change, filling the tank with racing gas
and tightening the lowering strap on the front end. It was its quickest run
ever. To date, no stock bike with bolt-on components and without internal engine
modifications has come anywhere near the performance numbers recorded, as even
most stock-engine race bikes are simply unable to go this fast, even when using
Put in perspective, the Performance Center BMW is a 100% street bike which
is also used for displays, bike nights, dealer open houses and to occasionally
turn up at a local drag strip to show what a stock RR ‘dragster’ will do with
the proper bolt-on parts and a talented rider at the controls. This bike still
has the mirrors on (they are folded in at the track), and its original gearshift
assist, rather than a push button changer that is more common in this sport.
Jeremy’s best pass of 8.447 at 161.71 mph (260.25 km/h) is a time ticket that
many full race dragbikes with racing slicks and wheelie bars would be proud
to own. Believe it or not, the weather conditions at West Palm actually held
the PC BMW back, as the best MPH to date of 163.61 mph (263.60 km/h) in the
quarter mile, recorded at the Manufacturer’s Cup Finals in Georgia in early
November is still secure and held by an 18-year-old young lady by the name
of Dystany Spurlock from Richmond, Virginia.
BMW of Miami brought a near-stock RR to the track to demonstrate the difference
in quarter mile times between an off-the-showroom-floor version and a stock
wheelbase double R set-up properly for drag strip use. Between the slipper-clutch,
high centre of gravity and extremely high power-to-weight ratio, even a stock-wheelbase
sportbike racing expert like multi-time national champion Keith Dennis struggled
with the OEM RR, posting a best time of 10.01 at 150.68 mph (242.49 km/h).
For comparison, Jeremy rode the Brock’s Performance SuperSport-prepared RR.
SuperSport rules allow for almost no modifications to the bike save for an
exhaust system, lowered suspension and ceramic wheel bearings. Jeremy blasted
a mind-boggling 8.752 at 163.12 mph (262.51 km/h) on the SS-prepped machine.
“Jeremy’s 8.75 e.t. on the stock wheelbase RR is so ridiculously fast that
even most people in our drag world can’t comprehend the time,” said Brock.
“You would have to spend many thousands of dollars to modify the engine of
a Hayabusa to get it to go that fast, and even then, the bike would be nearly
impossible to ride due to excessive wheelies, not to mention it being prone
to overheating and being miserable to ride around on the street.”
“Our bike has 100% stock engine components and can be ridden anywhere on pump
gas,” he continued. “Zack Millholland just broke 200 mph on it in October at
the Maxton Mile in an official land speed racing competition. There is nothing
that the RR can’t do – and it does everything very well.”
The third BMW S 1000 RR in action at PBIR is known as Christine, and is the
flagship of Brock’s Performance BMW racing efforts. Long and low, Christine
is a seriously fine-tuned machine in both the engine and chassis departments.
She has a button shifter to control the OEM gear shift assist, which means
that the rider is not burdened with the need to get his or her foot on the
peg to change gears (just push the horn button). There is also a heavy spacer
in her BST front wheel to help keep the front end on the ground for quicker
times. These two small changes can usually save as much as 10 to 15 hundredths
of a second over a quarter mile.
Jeremy set a record of 8.446 on Christine at Palm Beach International Raceway
– a seriously impressive time. A point of note was that this time was recorded
on Saturday when the atmospheric conditions were at their worst, with a heat
index over 106 degrees F (41 degrees C) and corrected Air Density reading close
to 2600 feet at a track that is located nearly at sea level. Jeremy personally
believes he can get Christine into the high 8.20 range with a great run in
perfect conditions, but since focus was placed on the other two machines on
Sunday, the team had to “settle” for only an 8.44 elapsed time.
What’s also interesting is that none of the BMW bikes use any form of power
booster other than VP MR12 race gas; there is no nitrous or turbo-charging,
just stock engine horsepower. “Any BMW we bring to the track could be returned
to its stock form by simply replacing the stock components that were removed
and no one would ever know the difference,” said Brock. “We didn’t drill anything
and we didn’t cut a single wire.”
In the pits the three RRs were swamped with drag race fanatics, all keen to
find out more about these seriously quick motorcycles. The BMW display also
saw record numbers of people sign up for test rides at their local dealers.
It wasn’t just BMW bikes that impressed the crowds at the Citrus Nationals
event, as there were plenty of tuned-up cars in action too. And even though
he was suffering with the flu, Keith Dennis didn’t want to miss out on the
four-wheeled action, and managed to get the X6 M Series chase vehicle out on
the strip, recording an impressive 12.83 e.t. at over 108 mph (174 km/h) in
the quarter mile. Not bad for an SUV that weighs over two tons…
When BMW built the new S 1000 RR they wanted to build the best sportbike they
could. Digging deeper beyond the aggressive styling and sophisticated electronics
the bike is just plain light and powerful. As is turns out, light and powerful
is the perfect combination for drag racing.
To see pictures from Palm Beach, check out Brock Davidson’s album at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000550137534#!/album.php?aid=45960&id=100000550137534 and
to see video footage from the event, please visit http://www.youtube.com/user/brocksperformance