Fastest lap EVER on the Isle of Man and heated grips, 2023 BMW M1000RR

Fastest lap EVER on the Isle of Man and heated grips!

2023 BMW M1000RR

Cycle World magazine First Ride

More aero means more speed and control.

By Adam Child, August 9, 2023

BMW’s M1000RRis a homologation special that takes the inline-four superbike to new heights.

Those over a certain age will forever associate BMWs with virtues such as practicality, steadfast reliability, and, erm, comprehensive weather protection. Wholesome, sensible things, but possibly boring. However, those under the age of, say, 30, will be on a different planet altogether. For these younger folks, the defining qualities of a BMW motorcycle are more likely to be brutal power outputs and outrageous performance: crazy, fun things.

Times have changed and BMWs have changed more than most.

Enter the Ms: The M1000R hyper-naked (and forthcoming M1000XR), and this, the M1000RR superbike—the pinnacles of BMW’s relentless push to be fastest and first on the racetrack and a sporting ultimate on the road.

Essentially a homologation special for superbike racing, the M1000RR has been in production since 2021 and comes to market this year with the same cutting-edge, 212bhp ShiftCam engine as last year’s machine but with a raft of clever aero developments.

Despite no change to its power output, the 2023 M1000RR and even racier M1000RR M Competition variant (the bike we have on test) are faster than the 2022 M, both through the corners and on the straightaway. Top speed has increased from 190 mph to 195 mph thanks to slippery new carbon bodywork, while huge new wings increase downforce by a sizable 40 percent, or nearly 50 pounds at 186mph.

BMW claims the wings add so much cornering grip that corner speeds and lean angles are noticeably higher, which should in theory cut lap times.

The drag reduction is thanks to a new fairing that creates a cleaner airflow around the rider with a taller screen reminiscent in size to those used at the Isle of Man TT races plus a bubble-shaped nose, a reshaped tail unit and side panels, and on the M Competition model, front brake cooling ducts integrated into a new front fender.

We were invited to test the M1000RR at the breathtaking Mugello MotoGP circuit in northern Italy. Not only did we have the Tuscany circuit’s sublime asphalt to help us test all this aero theory, but also two-time World Superbike champion Troy Corser to show us how to extract the best from the beast.

As a homologation special, the M lacks the DDC semi-active suspension found on a stock S1000RR, so we had first to spend a little time setting up both ends to match the track and Bridgestone slick tires. Once done, with help from Racing School Europe and Troy, there was the opportunity to push the limits in safety over the three days of intensive testing.

I’ve ridden Mugello many times before, but I don’t think I’ve ever lapped so quickly and with such ease. While the M looks angry enough to scare your pants off in the pit lane, out on track it carries lots of calm and composed corner speed, fueling its rider with the self-confidence of a race pro.

The combination of chassis, suspension, and new aero package gives you the minerals to seriously attack corners. Even after three days of fast testing the M was still a surprise as it ran ever faster into the apex. At what would be considered extreme lean angles it felt consistently planted and controlled, still nowhere near the limit despite elbow sliders skimming across the painted historic curbs of Mugello.

The M’s captivating race dash not only shows brake pressure and DTC, but also lean angle. This data is live while riding but it’s wiser and easier to check once back in the pits. The bike’s data revealed that it was regularly achieving 56 to 58 degrees of lean angle, while our tutor Troy was achieving a lean angle of more than 60 degrees on the same bike. For reference: veteran racer Alastair Seeley actually touched his M’s wings down at the Northwest 200 roadraces in Northern Ireland in May (2023)!

It’s hard to quantify how much the wings improve the riding experience or cut lap times for each rider, but the M’s feel, feedback, and stability at the front end are intoxicating, lifting normal track riders like me to a level never experienced beyond a video game.

Fact is, when the M hit the notorious crest at the end of the straight, it remained planted at 186 mph. So stable and predictable, in fact, that I could in theory have taken one hand off the bars to wave at our photographer had there not been some heavy braking to be done for turn 1.

For comparison, I jumped on the standard S1000RR—a bike that drips with racetrack competence and speed—for a few fast laps, and immediately understood not just how much quicker the M steered but also how much easier it was to ride.

The M is lighter: 423 pounds (422-pound Competition package was tested here) against 434. Its carbon wheels help significantly reduce unsprung weight and steering inertia. What was truly surprising, though, was the difference between the aero packages of the two bikes. The M’s larger screen and wider carbon bodywork are easier to get in behind and make 186 mph feel more like 125 mph. It also took more physical effort to hold on when riding the S1000RR, and I assume this difference would be felt more by larger riders.

While there’s no change to the M1000RR’s 999cc ShiftCam engine for 2023 you’re unlikely to feel shortchanged by the claimed 212 hp output that peaks at a wild 14,500 rpm (750 rpm higher than the standard S1000RR).

Comparing the torque curves of the S1000RR and our test M1000RR shows the S has more grunt below 5,500 rpm, but we only let the revs drop this low when riding down the Mugello pit lane! While both machines get ShiftCam variable valve timing and lift system, the M gets lighter con-rods, a shorter intake funnel (for higher revving output), and a lightweight entirely titanium exhaust system.

Yes, the M’s inline-four loves to rev, and revs on happily to 15,000 rpm, and I was told by Troy to make use of every last rpm. According to the experts, it’s preferable to take the final turn at Mugello in second gear, to go deep, then cut back, pick the bike up, and get on the power early. Then it’s a matter of holding the throttle wide open and snicking through the gears on the smooth and, for this test, reverse-pattern quickshifter.

At which point the M blows your mind. Over that crest at the end of the straight, the M’s digital speedo passed 186 mph every lap. So long as there was a good drive out of the final turn while staying tucked, it’s relatively easy to reach that speed. Try not to miss your braking marker…

Some laps the M hit over 189mph before I hit the stoppers. What’s more, this road-legal bike, remember, was still accelerating—all while the tach showed 14,000 rpm and still not reaching peak power, let alone the rev limiter at 15,100 rpm.

The S1000RR is a superbike capable of seriously quick lap times, but the M was noticeably quicker off the turns and revs freer too. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t coax the S1000RR to the magic 186 mph (300 kph) at the end of the Mugello straight. Ride the two machines back-to-back, and the way the M accelerates between Mugello’s chicanes is pure racebike. You can feel the electronic rider aids working overtime, balancing low, hovering wheelies with relentless traction—hundredths, tenths, even whole seconds falling away from your normal lap time.

The 2023 M1000RR’s brake setup remains the same as the previous M’s, but in theory has to do so from a higher top speed. Mugello is very hard on the brakes. Slowing from 186 mph in sixth gear to a second-gear hairpin is a big ask lap after lap, but the M-stoppers stayed free of fade and were consistent, allowing us to push the brake marker further down the track with confidence. This could be attributed to the new ducts which cut the temperature of the radially mounted M brake calipers and disc by 50 degrees Fahrenheit under track conditions.

Despite its ferocious power and speed, the M is focused on making life as easy and stress-free for the rider as possible. Lightness, protective bodywork, and superlative electronic rider aids make a difference on track. Even when pushing for lap times in 30-degree-plus heat there’s less rider fatigue—the same should be true for the road. The sizable bodywork and tall screen give your upper body a relatively easy time, cocooned from turbulence once tucked.

The list of rider aids is predictably long, but the standard S1000RR is a little more advanced in some respects given that the M does not come equipped with the steering sensor that measures how much you turn into a slide. The riding modes are Rain, Road, Dynamic, and Race plus three Race Pro settings. There is cornering traction control, wheelie control, adjustable throttle characteristics, three engine-brake settings, and that excellent up/down quickshifter. There is also launch control, a pit lane speed limiter, hill start assist, and because this is a BMW, heated grips and cruise control.

This M competition model gets a sprinkling of milled parts and an M carbon pack. The swingarm is now a half-pound lighter (it has no paint), aero front wheel covers, a DLC-coated M Endurance chain, and a pillion seat hump cover. If you intend to race your M, even race-tuned motors are available. The quality of the finish, meanwhile, is impeccable.

After all, it hit 186 mph every lap at Mugello yet remained as stable as a cruiser out for a Sunday run to the coast. From braking point to apex, it’s as agile as a 600cc supersport middleweight and carries more corner speed and lean angle than possibly any current road-legal machine.

Crucially, I can’t remember the last time a bike could be ridden so hard and fast without having to push beyond my personal limit. It was all so easy. Even at high speeds, when the wind blast should be tearing at your leathers, the bodywork allows you to get tucked away like the very best TT bike. It’s truly amazing what you can get away with, how late you can brake and how hard you can lean. It’s a huge leap above the already impressive S1000RR. This beast goes just as fast as it looks.

The motorbike offered

The 2023 BMW M1000RR on offer here was purchased new several months ago and after a short 130 mile Sunday morning ride by our seller, was parked and remained on static display. With a focus on more vintage machines, the spectacular M1000R was not a good fit to the collection, so is now offered for sale to the next budding Peter Hickman for the Isle of Man TT.

 

On the way to victory in the second RL360 Superstock Race of the 2023 Isle of Man TT Races, Peter Hickman obliterated the outright lap record onboard his Monster Energy by FHO Racing BMW M1000RR.