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SBK, A lot of investment, few results: Toprak will have to give wings to BMW

ANALYSIS - With the hiring of Toprak, BMW has given further confirmation of how much it believes in SBK. From 2019 to today the German manufacturer has brought out three bikes, but at the moment the results are disappointing and this season it is the only constructor without any podiums

SBK: A lot of investment, few results: Toprak will have to give wings to BMW

There will be a new challenge in 2024 for Toprak Razatlioglu and it responds to the name of BMW Motorrad. After four seasons in Yamaha, with whom he became World Champion in 2021, the Turkish rider has in fact decided to put aside the dream of a move to MotoGP, and the prospect of a contract renewal with the Iwata manufacturer, to throw himself back into the fray again in the production-based series with the Bavarian brand. But what will Toprak find when he joins the ROKiT BMW Motorrad team?

A lot of investment, few results

 

Without a shadow of a doubt, BMW is one manufacturer that is not afraid to invest. Unlike brands such as Yamaha, which juggles between MotoGP and Superbike, the production-based races are the main goal of the Munich-based manufacturer, which since its return to the championship in 2019, with the support of Shaun Muir's squad, has lined up on the grid with a clear target in mind: to plug the gap from the best and fight for the World Championship.

An intention that BMW has pursued by investing on two distinct but complementary fronts, such as the bike and the riders. In fact, in five years, three new bikes have been brought to the track by the German brand which, after two seasons with the S1000 RR, created a new model called the M1000RR in 2021. Then an almost entirely revised bike for the start of 2023, with the homologation of a new version equipped with a carbon fibre fairing, MotoGP-inspired aerodynamics and a redefined front, with the aim of increasing downforce and top speed of the bike.

It's also been a constant evolution on the line-up front, which in 2021 saw the arrival of two customer bikes to support the two factory bikes entrusted to the new entry Michael van der Mark and the veteran Tom Sykes, later replaced by Scott Redding starting from 2022. In the same year, Loris Baz also took up the cause of the Munich company, joining Eugene Laverty in the Bonovo Action team, which from this season is fielding 27-year-old Garrett Gerloff in place of the Northern Irishman, who has become the riders’ coach and co-team owner.

Some of the most interesting names in the rider market, divided into two decent teams, which however have so far been unable to score the results hoped for by BMW. The only manufacturer to have not yet been on the podium in these first races of 2023. Meagre pickings for the Bavarian team, which in the last five seasons has achieved a total of only 11 podiums, including 3 second places with Sykes (2 in 2019 and 1 in 2021), 7 third places (2 with Sykes in 2019, 1 with Sykes and 2 with van der Mark in 2021 and 2 with Redding in 2022) and one win. We're talking about van der Mark's success in 2021, in the wet Superpole Race at Portimao, which gave the German manufacturer its first success since 2013.

A fast motorcycle, but with too much downforce

 

Meagre pickings indeed and results on which van der Mark's last two troubled years have certainly had an impact, the Dutchman forced to miss almost the entire first part of the 2022 season due to two different injuries, and once again out of action due to the fracture of his femur he picked up in the Assen Round. But even more so is the performance of the M1000RR, which never as in this 2023 has fallen short of the expectations of its riders.

In a season in which they are struggling to make a mark, discontent has spread above all in the side of the #45 garage, where Redding has repeatedly questioned BMW's philosophy, in his opinion "more oriented towards selling motorcycles than winning races". Unlike the other manufacturers, the Munich manufacturer is the only one not to rely on Magneti Marelli electronics, mounting instead a Bosch control unit, which according to the British rider contributes to complicating the operation of the bike, taking away precious time for finding the right setting.

However, it is not only what is hidden under the fairing that conditions the performance of the new BMW. The restyling, which has given it a top speed of 314 km/h, against the 306 of before, has in fact turned it into a bike that struggles to turn and put the 212 horsepower available on its four-cylinder in line engine down on the ground. These are extremely difficult problems to get around for the riders of the German team, who find themselves following different lines from their rivals, ending up by covering more ground and further stressing the tyres already stressed by the high aerodynamic downforce provided by the new front of the M1000RR and by the prototype-derived winglets.

A foundation for the future

 

There are so many problems to solve, but the work at BMW shows no sign of stopping. Thanks also to the super concessions the team has and the return to the family of Sykes, called upon to replace the injured van der Mark in testing and races, it is continuing with the development of a very different bike from Razgatlioglu's R1.

Only the first tests will be able to provide the answers on the competitiveness and functioning of the combination that will form next season. Based on what we have seen so far, however, it is reasonable to think that Toprak will find waiting for him a weapon to fine-tune with the help of the Bavarian manufacturer and the common goal of getting back, together, to fight for the championship. In the shortest possible time.

 

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