7 August 2017
A Glimpse into the Manufactory of the BMW HP4 RACE.
Can a motorcycle manufacturer launch a race bike within 14 months?
Absolutely. But combining the worlds of performance and production is no easy task. A race against the clock begins in the manufactory of the BMW Motorrad plant: 750 units of the HP4 RACE – built in Berlin.
One mechanic, one motorcycle, one day. That’s the production formula for the HP4 RACE. Three of these bikes are manufactured each day at the BMW Motorrad plant in Berlin. Three men are in charge of this task: Reiko Petter, Süleyman Aktepe, and Alexander Fulmek. They were selected from the roughly 500 production employees who work in vehicle assembly here at the parent plant. To watch them work, you have to walk down the RR production line to the other end of the facility and then go through a roll-up door which is a door to another world. Here in the racing bike workshop, there’s only one product to focus on for the time being: the HP4 RACE.
Oversized banners with the exclusive race bike cover the walls. Blue signs with big white lettering hang from the ceiling, identifying the different production steps for the small-scale production run. Reiko Petter is busy with “wedding preparations”. He carefully lifts the 215 horsepower engine out of the pallet cage. The engine was hand-built, bench-tested and sealed by his colleagues in the engine workshop. Reiko installs hoses, exhaust manifolds and other components before “marrying” the engine and frame, what is called the wedding.
He tightens the titanium bolts, continually glancing at the monitor to make sure the tightening torque is right. “Everything has to fit perfectly. I’m very meticulous”, Reiko says. “We treat every motorcycle as if it was our own: it has to be well built, look good and run perfectly.” He proudly looks at the core of the bike he’s building today, HP4 RACE number 032. One by one, he installs more parts on the frame: airbox with fuel-injection system, Öhlins FGR 300 upside-down fork, Öhlins TTX 36 GP spring strut from the Superbike World Championship. Next, the motorcycle goes to the test stand.
Süleyman Aktepe has already prepared the roller for the test. He runs the HP4 RACE for about five kilometres in the small room with the large display window while monitoring all functions – not just on the computer, but also subjectively. Before the HP4 RACE project picked up speed, Süleyman worked as a “start-up” instructor for new vehicle projects and therefore is a specialist when it comes to putting a new model on the production line. Now he’s investing all his expertise in perfecting the most exclusive BMW motorcycle ever made. “Jackpot!”, he says. “It’s so much fun working on this motorcycle. I’m putting a lot of energy into it. I simply want to make it the best it can be, and only the best will suffice.”
Süleyman’s colleague Alexander Fulmek has the same attitude. “Every motorcycle will be immaculate when it leaves the factory. Otherwise, I’d be heartbroken.” Alexander (everyone calls him Sascha) has his motorcycle up on jacks for final inspection. The fairing is now assembled, the number of the limited-edition bike is proudly displayed on a carbon-fibre tag on the yokes. “We inspect each motorcycle as a team three times: before the roller, after the roller and after finishing”, says Sascha. “That’s teamwork, and there is no other way to work. But at the same time, I’m proud to say that I built every third machine.”
The mechanics devote eight hours to each bike. That’s enough time to give the top-of-the-line components the attention they deserve. On the other hand, the project was launched at a speed that could keep up with the HP4 RACE on the track. “Getting a bike of this calibre ready for production in just 14 months – that’s racing”, says assembly planner Michael Weinkauf. “We’re combining performance and motorsport with planning capability and reproducibility.” Twenty-seven new suppliers were added for series production of the HP4 RACE. Many of them are racing specialists. Suddenly, manufacturing a limited run of highly specialised machines contrasts with the production processes of a big corporation like BMW Motorrad.
But that’s the exciting challenge: to build an extremely small batch of motorcycles tailored to the needs of ambitious racers and to make “out-of-the-box racing” possible. Project leader Christian Gonschor, product manager Josef Mächler and plant project manager Reno Reppin jumped at the chance to produce the HP4 RACE at the BMW Motorrad parent plant in Berlin. “Anything else would have been a lost opportunity”, they all agree. “After all, we’re building the most exclusive and best BMW motorcycle of all time.” For Reiko, Süleyman and Sascha, it’s also their personal opportunity of a lifetime. Reiko puts on white gloves and attaches the carbon-fibre tag with the number 032/750 to the yokes. “It’s definitely an incredible feeling at the end of the day when you attach the number, look at the HP4 RACE and say to yourself: well done!”