It's no secret that we've got a soft spot for two-wheeled transport, and we know many of you share our passion. So when we were approached by sister publication, Sport Rider Magazine, to help with a track test, we jumped at the chance.
The reason for the collaboration was the arrival of the BMW S1000RR; a brand-new superbike that has turned the establishment on its head.
For years, the Japanese motorcycle makers have battled Ducati for dominance on the world's racetracks and dealer showrooms. Horsepower was high, weight low and excitement in abundance.
It looked as if nothing could break the status quo, and we even questioned the head of BMW's motorcycle division when he declared its new motorcycle would tackle the Japanese head on with an identical one-liter, 16v, four-cylinder layout. This seemed like commercial suicide since the big Four (Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki) had a stranglehold on the market.
BMW was very confident its S1000RR would succeed, staking it reputation and future on this machine. Their problem was that its existing two-wheeled offerings attracted an increasing older customer. They needed to inject some youth to survive, and a 193hp superbike was just the ticket.
Using the same concepts of balance, mass centralization and lightweight materials in the construction of its bikes and cars, BMW had another trick up its sleeve. Lessons learned on the road and the world's racetracks had taught them a great deal about traction control and ABS. And while traction control is widely used in motorcycle racing, both technologies are viewed with suspicion by the bike buying market. They were seen to add too much complexity, weight and ultimately weren't trusted under severe conditions. However, BMW felt it could overcome these obstacles.
With the S1000RR vanquishing everything in its path, the editors at Sport Rider wanted to see how, for the first time, technology developed for cars had crossed over into the bike world. So we grabbed a couple of M3s and headed to the Streets of Willow circuit (we used a red manual E92 for photos and a blue E90 DCT for timing).
The track is torturously tight. Hopefully robbing the bike of its superior acceleration and the car of its higher braking and cornering forces, creating a level playing field and forcing us to rely on the electronics. Perhaps the only problem was that I'd be driving the M3, where an experienced racer could extract more performance...
At this point, we must direct you to the August issue of Sport Rider (or sportrider.com) to check out their in-depth analysis. Using GPS-based equipment they recorded lap and sector times as well as cornering and braking forces plus track position.
We'd also recommend you check out our videos on the same site or at eurotuner.com and youtube.com/eurotuner - we edited them so you can see the bike and M3 side-by-side to compare where the S1000RR gains its 6sec advantage on each lap.
I don't think we're giving too much away if we tell you the bike gained most of its time on the two main straights, peaking at 127.5mph, where the M3 only managed 104.9mph. It also generated 0.8g acceleration, against 0.5g for the heavier car.
However, we did gain in braking and cornering forces, as expected, but not enough to overcome the deficiency.
What's more, our fastest times in the M3 were set with the traction control switched off, allowing the power to be applied sooner in the tight corners. It only made an improvement of fractions of a second, and was hard work to keep the car pointed in the right direction.
We also retarded the throttle activation and EDC dampers from their most extreme settings to make the car less "twitchy".
Considering the 433 lb bike makes almost 200hp per liter, we're pleased with the results for our 3520 lb M3 with 100hp/L. Being "only" 6.6sec a lap slower seemed like a small victory!