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When the HP2 came to America

Sunday, December 15, 2019   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Will Guyan #56198

The first double overhead cam boxer engine was awaited most anxiously by US race teams, like BMWs of San Jose and Atlanta. Brit Richard Cooper was hired by BMW Germany and Brian Parriott rode for SJ and Nate Kern for Atlanta. 

BMW Motorrad brought two champions from Deutschland: Tomas Hinterreiter and Rico Penzkoffer. Brian and Nate, along with European champion Stephane Mertens, had ridden in the Oct. 2006 endurance race titled MotoST (for Sport Twins, campaigning against the more powerful Aprilia Tuono, Ducati air cooled twin, Buell, and the Suzuki TL1000. When the BMW team won the prestigious Eight Hours of Daytona endurance race on the venerable (and sadly now defunct) R1200S, the big boxer was under powered, and had to win via immaculate pit stops, and the amazing skill of the riders.

The BMW world was soon abuzz a new HP boxer to be built by hand in low numbers, hence would be priced as one of the more expensive models, about ten grand more than the usual 1200cc street bikes. Few were made, and few are seen these days. Features like the Swiss slipper clutch softened the downshifting when that big dry clutch was let out with enough torque to make the bike go sideways. 127 rear wheel horsepower is serious power, and back then no one expected to see 200 hp from a street bike, like when the S1000RR was brought out in 2010. Let’s take a look at that Daytona scene when Germany took over Daytona for an epic weekend racing against the fastest bikes the AMA Pro series could muster.

The HP2 Sport during set up, minus pipes and bodywork. Check out the carbon fiber valve covers and sliders and the rear set foot controls.

Motorrad Race Director Berti Hauser muses over the machine he and the team have been secretely developing in Germany. The machine is of heartbreakingly beautiful design, with titanium pipes and cannister tucked beneath the structural, one piece carbon fiber tail section. No metal sub frame here. The bike dripped with exclusive, lightened, race-ready components as delivered.

The HP2 Sport followed the HP Enduro, which was not cam-in-head like the double overhead cam (dohc) Sport. Nor was the exciting HP Megamoto, but they were also hand built and quite exclusive. The dohc engine was a work of art, and the cams were a joy to behold when the precious carbon fiber valve covers with integral sliders were removed. The cams were ‘skew-ground’ for clearance in the tight space beneath the valve covers. The body work was all hand-laid lustrous and thick carbon fiber as well. The bike remains a BMW icon.

The dealers awaited delivery with some angst, especially those who raced. They needed that extra power desperately. The first machines in the USA were delivered by Motorrad Motorsport at Daytona, to be raced. That was one special ‘road test.’ The fixed final drives of the shaft-propelled bikes were handicapped because the gearing couldn’t be changed per individual track requirements. The chain drive competition had only to change sprockets and chain to accommodate the different tracks encountered during racing season. The BMW final drives were each locked into a specific gear ratio.

It was decreed that the bikes would first be brought to Daytona and campaigned in the rough and tough, now defunct, AMA Formula Extreme series. Our two US Moto ST race teams began to make serious plans. In a stoke of luck, I was invited to attend as I was part of the winning San Jose BMW Moto ST team in 2006. The Germans were led by now retired Racing Manager and legend Berti Hauser. The Germans all wore stylishly matching team uniforms and they had an incredible amount of tools and all the materials needed to go fast on hybrid machines.

They brought plenty of spares, too, such as a dozen final drives, and spotless blue German Stahlwille tool boxes with foam-lined compartments form fitted for each metric implement.

They brought complex, hand crafted, tig welded, form fit aluminum gas tanks with quick-fill nozzle connections that allow fuel dumps to happen in seconds while front and rear wheels are changed with new slick race rubber during pit stops.

Other specialty items such as the Swiss Staubli quick disconnects for the brake lines when the wheels were changed during pit stops were utilized, precluding any messy brake fluid loss during caliper removal for wheel/tire swaps. They say races are won and lost during pit stops, and that was certainly the case right there at Daytona just a year and a half prior, when the leading team blew a pit stop that took six minutes to fix, while the other guys got away, including our winning BMW of Kern, Parriott and Mertens.

There was much cursing in the trackside garages that evening in Daytona, when these horizontally opposed beasts took 5th and 6th place. Note the trick custom built front end stand with its ball end that captures the convex machined fork bottom. The BMW Motorrad team was the best turned out group on the grid. The Japanese and Italian teams would wander by and marvel at the Roundel’s set up. Could these air cooled twins indeed compete with the hyper fours? We shall see.

Richard “Mini” Cooper and Nate Kern just before the Daytona race began. Cooper's left shoulder shows evidence of his hard crash in the previous week's MotoST endurance race - the race that badly injured Thomas Hinterreiter who was flown back to Germany. See Nate's radio in his back “hump"? Both these fine racers went down during a race this event; in fact ALL the riders went down, including Rico Penzkoffer and Brian Parriott, but only Hinterreiter was injured. Only Cooper and Parriott finished. Ironic that a Brit and an American were left to represent Germany on that fateful weekend.

Cooper and Kern are minutes away from the grid at this point. Tire warmers come off last because race rubber has to be hot to provide proper grip. If there's too much time wasted lining up at the race's start, cooler tires can mean no grip into the first corner. Kern and Parriott were about to find that out. Also Kern was nursing a broken wrist, a very painful annoyance for any racer. The wrist was numbed by BMW's team surgeon and Nate was told to "Come in if it doesn't feel right." And so he did.

Nate Kern ready to take to the track. Behind him stands San Jose Racing’s Chris Hodgson. Nobody has more BMW racing experience in the USA than Hodgson, who holds several world records, including at Bonneville where he got a 1970s café racer R75 to go well over 130 mph.

The BMW techs practiced pit stops, over and over, removing any possibility of a mistake during the race. Their presence was historic, as this was the first time the Germans have been here racing in 30-odd years.

They were soon to return with the S1000RR, but at this time no one had an inkling of that machine except for the corporate brain trustees hidden in Munich. Chris Hodgson times the practice while Berti Hauser oversees. Cooper sits on his bike while front and rear wheels are removed, re-installed, and the fuel ‘Quick Filler’ fuel dump is deployed.

Brian Parriott’s race setup. The foam in the race suit hump was cut out to accept the radio, and neat holes were installed for the wiring. I've never seen Parriott upset, disheveled, nor sweating; he's Mr. Cool. He was also made famous during the Boxer Cup series when his R 1100 S valve cover met with an Italian rider’s valve cover loud enough to ring like a bell, plainly audible in the video recording.

During the race the pit stops are flawless. Here's Cooper dismounting his machine and about to take a very impressive 5th place. Cooper appears boy-like in size as he gets off the bike, pre-fueling. The new soft slick is lying in wait at the rear. That fuel dump is one heavy tool!

Parriott is hammer down, heading for 6th place, considered an excellent result, especially since they were running against more powerful Japanese and Italian machinery. Penzkoffer low sided and Nate pulled in with nagging wrist pain. Two down, and two left running in the top six!

Berti is so pleased with the team's performance that he embraces Chris Hodgson, making Chris wish he was back in Santa Cruz. San Jose BMW are still racing, now with S1000RR and the precious HP Race, under son Will Hodgson’s management.

Here is the entire Motorrad team, standing before the great banked oval at Daytona International Raceway.

The HP2 Sport had quite a successful debut in the states, then all disappeared in a container bound for Bavaria. Only the initial machines destined for San Jose and Atlanta remained and were raced by the US teams. The HP2 Sport was an amazing machine as sold for the street. With very trick, serious components and body work all in carbon fiber.

A total of 2,260 were built. Pricey, but not to some. The machine has become a collector's bike. Just don't crash it at a track day. If you do, remove the precious carbon fiber and buy track-ready plastic body parts. An interesting footnote note is that the service schedule mandates the connecting rods be replaced at 30,000 miles! Caveat emptor.


Robert Mitchell says...
Posted Monday, December 16, 2019
Wow Will! Great article! Certainly makes me proud to own one of these special machines. You mentioned that 2,260 were built. That number must include the HP2 Enduro and HP2 Mega Moto. The figures I have show only 435 HP2 Sports being built worldwide with 195 of those being sold in the U.S.
Andre Corpuz says...
Posted Sunday, December 15, 2019
Love the HP2 ... Been riding the HP2 Enduro for a decade... Shame they years are catching up with me, and breaks my heart I will have to part with it, but I'd hate to see collect dust in my garage... These bikes need to be ridden..

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