The 2009 World Superbike Championship promises to be more exciting than ever, with BMW Motorrad Motorsport making its debut in the ultra-competi-tive series and taking on no less than six other manufacturers, four Japanese and two European.
Although this is BMW's first attempt in World Superbikes, their racing heritage goes back 86 years, starting with their R 32 motorcycle in 1923. Since then BMWs have raced successfully on the Isle of Man and at other world-famous racetracks and have enjoyed many successes.
The last success of the official BMW factory team was Walter Zeller's runner-up place in the 1956 World Championship. BMW officially returned to roadracing in 2007 with the HP2 Sports Boxer taking part in the Endurance Championship 24-hour classics in 2007 and 2008.
BMW's first ever 'Superbike' success took place at Daytona in 1976, when American Steve McLaughlin won the AMA Championship Superbike race in a thrilling photo-finish with team-mate Reg Pridmore. Both were riding R 90 S BMWs prepared by Butler & Smith, BMW's American importers.
Back then the `Superbike' class was a support race to the main event, but nine years later the first ideas for a Superbike World Championship (a world championship for production-based motorcycles) began to grow. The series was born in 1988 and since then has become the hallmark for close-fought, competitive racing, without sacrificing any of its friendly paddock atmosphere.
It may be all-out combat on the track, but off it, it has an atmosphere unmatched by any other world championship.
BMW Motorrad has a long history, but they are the `new boys' in the World Superbike Championship. The company has decided to enter the series at, without a doubt, the hardest and most competitive time in its 21-year history. Any new manufacturer joining the series is going to face a tough time and BMW are under no illusions about the challenges ahead. BMW is entering World Superbike because it is a championship where fans and customers identify with the brand and the bikes. And fans will not have long to wait for the S 1000 RR roadbike, from which the racebike is derived: it will make its public debut in early summer 2009.
The BMW team has employed two experienced riders for its 2009 campaign, including ex-World Champion Troy Corser. "The BMW S 1000 RR racebike has a good base and we are all working hard to be competitive as soon as we can. This is BMW's first time in World Superbikes and none of us underestimate the challenge. But the challenge is part of the excitement and we are determined to do the very best we can. As the season progresses I'm sure we'll improve a lot, but we are at a bit of a disadvantage because every time we go to a track we will be starting from scratch, whereas the others will have info and data from previous years. Even so, as the year goes on, I'm sure we'll get better and better and maybe even surprise a few people along the way."
The second rider is Ruben Xaus. "This is a great challenge and I am so happy to be riding for a factory team and working with a great bunch of guys. I think I always knew that I would probably have to modify my riding style (after years of riding a twin-cylinder machine) but I am very pleased with the progress we made in this direction at the recent tests. For sure, it is not easy for any new manufacturer to enter this incredibly competitive series, but I believe that BMW can make a big impact on the championship and I am very happy to be part of this big adventure."
Berti Hauser - Director BMW Motorrad Motorsport. "This great adventure began not so long ago, but now we are about to take part in our very first World Superbike Championship race and it is an exciting moment for us all. I firmly believe we have two great riders - Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus - and a very committed and enthusiastic team. Troy is the most experienced rider in WSBK and brings a lot of knowledge and information to the team. Although Ruben is not as experienced as Troy, he has so much enthusiasm for this project and I feel that he and Troy are a perfect combination. I am very pleased with the amount of progress we have all made in the past few months and now, like the whole team, I am really looking forward to this great challenge."
Superbike World Championship2009 Race calendar
March 1 Phillip Island, Australia
March 14 Doha, Qatar
April 5 Valencia, Spain
April 26 Assen, Netherlands
May 10 Monza, Italy
May 17 Kyalami, Republic of South Africa
May 31 Salt Lake City, USA
June 21 Misano, Republic of San Marino
June 28 Donington, Great Britain
July 26 Brno, Czech Republic
September 6 Nrburgring, Germany
September 27 Imola, Italy
October 4 Magny-Cours, France
October 25 Portimao, Portugal