BMW Press Release: BMW To End Factory Involvement In WSBK, Focus On Customer Bikes

BMW Motorrad today issued the following press release, announcing the end of factory involvement in World Superbikes, and a shift of focus to supplying customer teams. Analysis of the announcement will follow, once we have more idea of the full implications of this:

BMW Motorrad continues its strategic realignment in motorsport.

With effect from the end of the 2013 season, BMW Motorrad will terminate its commitment in the FIM Superbike World Championship in order to strengthen the customer sports programme.

Munich, 24th July 2013. BMW Motorrad is continuing its long-term strategic realignment of the brand. This strategy also affects BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s activities, which as a next step will also be restructured.

At the end of the 2013 season, BMW Motorrad Motorsport will terminate its factory involvement in the FIM Superbike World Championship. The main focus and some of the resources of BMW Motorrad’s commitment to sport will switch to other motorsport activities like the successful international customer sports programme from 2014 on.

“BMW Motorrad Motorsport will end its involvement in the World Superbike Championship after this season”, explained Stephan Schaller, General Director BMW Motorrad. “This is consistent with the strategic realignment of our brand. BMW Motorrad will now focus on the further expansion of the very successful product portfolio over 500 cc, the expansion of product segments under 500 cc, e-mobility and the development of market potential in emerging economies like Brazil and Asia. Only those who act consistently today are well prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. BMW Motorrad will remain involved in motorsport and in doing so we will focus on the international customer sport in all its facets. I want to thank everybody who has supported us on this long and successful journey.”

“The team is a very professional and motivated group of people and I am sure they will continue to do everything to end the season on a high note”, commented Andrea Buzzoni, General Manager BMW Motorrad WSBK. “Twenty thirteen is a good year, the atmosphere within the team is great and also our riders, Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies, are doing an excellent job. We are satisfied with the current results and, of course, we will keep working hard. Therefore I am convinced we can celebrate more successes with Marco and Chaz as the season goes on. I am sorry about the decision, but I understand the strategic decision making of the company. I want to thank all the people who are involved in this project.”

BMW Motorrad Motorsport has run a successful worldwide customer sport programme for several years. From the beginning, customer teams and riders have celebrated numerous victories and titles in international and national championships with the BMW S 1000 RR. From the start of this season, some of them have also fielded the brand new DDC equipped BMW HP4, and celebrated several race wins. Details of the increased future commitment in customer sport will be announced in due course.

BMW Motorrad Motorsport entered the FIM Superbike World Championship in 2009. After a learning phase, it has established itself of a winning team in this highly contested series. To date, the German manufacturer has celebrated 11 race wins and a total of 33 podium finishes with the race version of the BMW S 1000 RR. The most successful season so far was 2012, when BMW finished runner-up in the manufacturers’ classification and fought for both the manufacturers’ and the riders’ titles until the very last race.


Back to top


BMW to Moto GP. May I be the first to start the ball rolling on a totally unfounded "Casey Stoner to BMW" rumour.

"Only those who act consistently today are well prepared for the challenges of tomorrow."

Well, you can't fault their consistency. No matter the branch of motorsport, they get people's hopes up and then leave.

I can't quite see how that prepares them for the challenges of tomorrow, unless those challenges involve more quitting, but then I'm no marketing genius.

Gold! But humour aside, it's really a shame that BMW would go to the effort of building a serious contender and then pull the plug... I have to say, if they can't take a WSB title then they have no business going to MotoGP.

Hopefully Melandri lands on his feet somewhere so that the screenshots of Manuela, will continue.

might be seeing the (dumbing down) writing on the wall and opting out of WSBK and leaving the BMW name at the forefront of the Superstock class and 'privateer' operations.

This is a logical response to the new technical regulations in the WSBK series. I would expect other factories to join BMW in this different level of support for private teams. Dorna is going to have to spend to market the series as factory support diminishes. If they don't they will lose TV coverage and WSBK will become the equivalent of BSB, only not run as well!

BMW struggled several years to be competitive in WSB. They were genuinely pleased to win under difficult conditions. They want a real challenge. Dorna's visions of WSB's future is not theirs. They didn't sign up to save money. WSB not as technical or as popular as it once was not too long ago.

+1. A BMW exec once expressed exasperation to me that U.S. customers did not see ABS as a performance advantage. He pointed out that BMW raced and developed such a system in the German Superbike series, and the ability to pursue that technological development was one of the reasons they raced there.

Sure, we can say so long to the factories and don't let the door hit you on the way out, and maybe we'll get better racing. But the reality is that the marketing support, the paddock presence, etc., also leaves with them. And that makes the series less attractive to advertisers, less attractive to television networks to which Dorna is marketing the sport as a way to attract viewers.

p.s. Ducati fans must be overjoyed. That's two more bikes that won't be finishing in front of the Panigale.

On an F800GS BMW following the Dakar in Peru in 2012 we went from 30+Celsius as we rode into the mountains to -3 degrees and sleet and then snow. Big slide on ice in the lee of a rock outcrop on an uphill right-hander saw me sliding Ivan Mauger style across the road on full lock, right foot down stepping down the gearbox to straighten her up. Dok dok dok feeling through the rear as ABS kicked in to stop rear wheel lockup and she straightened and I braked to a halt a couple of meters short of a 300-400m drop. If the Yanks can't work out that ABS is a good thing, there's something wrong with them................

Seems like Melandri can't catch a break. I would love to see him on an Aprilia though.

... making note of WSBK's soon-to-be Superstock rules package have it bang-on I think. There'll be little (if any) reason for factories to hang around once the rules are so simplified. A good rider & well-run privateer team will have the potential to win with such technical restrictions, therefore it might as well be a privateer championship with the factories only supporting in a small capacity. On one hand I'll miss the ultra-trick, true superbikes of years gone by... but on the other hand, the bikes leaving assembly lines are pretty amazing nowadays and will have to be more so still since they'll be raced in such a stock form (i.e. forks, wheels, engine tune).

I think it'll ultimately help motorcycle racing, since MotoGP will be more well distinguished. BMW is probably just the first to cease direct activity in SBK. One negative I can see however is that the "new" (read: dumbed down) SBK championship may be too far removed to be a stepping stone to Grand Prix racing, unlike Moto2 which seems to prepare riders rather well so far. Maybe not tho :P

The modern WSBK bikes are less sophisticated in some ways than the 750cc homologation specials. Notwithstanding the absurdity of claiming that WSBK will soon be Superstock, it seems absurd to lament WSBK's "soon-to-be-Superstock" rules, while praising Moto2, which features spec 600cc CBR engines, producing meager Superstock-ish horsepower ratings, and a spec ECU.

The debate is not really "smart" racing vs. "dumb" racing. The SBK Commission is trying to determine SBK's raison d'etre, the technological advancements it supports (if any), and the business model for factories, privateers, sponsors, TV, etc.

Well said. For a long time, WSBK has been kind of GP-light; a place for factories that weren't ready to commit to a GP program and teams that couldn't afford to or didn't want to play on the GP stage. It is an interesting question - why have WSBK?

Because there is no other series as popular as WSBK for production motorcycle racing. The racing has been consistently good,better than GP I daresay,over the last 3 years. Ezpelata needs to keeps his hands off WSBK rules or he will end up making the WSBK as tepid as MotoGP is.

... going on here, but you better believe the Moto2 series is getting riders aquainted to the ultra-stiff prototype chassis of the premiere class, unlike World Supersport and WSBK. And yes, WSBK is heading towards a Superstock-like rules package. Whether it will be that dumbed down, or slightly less restrictive I don't know. But don't be surprised if spec ECU's are introduced in the next couple years.

The point of WSBK (historically) is to make the bikes competitive, thus, WSBK usually features 3-4 winning manufacturers and a half dozen winning riders each season. Superstock is inherently unequal b/c it is based upon the technology the manufacturers can sell profitably. WSBK would have to use special rules to balance the performance of the bikes. Furthermore, Superstock bikes don't cost €250,000 per lease, nor do they require customer support from the factory. Also, AMA and BSB are both more sophisticated than Superstock. WSBK is not going Superstock.

Dorna want the factories to operate as umbrella organizations that provide support private racing teams (FIA GT), hence BMW's withdrawal. The end goal is probably for the manufacturers to create a product that can be sold to racers in national series. The factories will provide general data about electronic engine tuning, chassis tuning, setup, etc as well as factory racing components. The current regional tuning companies (e.g. Graves Yamaha, Yoshimura Suzuki, GSE, Paul Bird) will probably become regional distributors and manufacturers. The OEMs will send the parts to the regional tuners, and the tuners will be responsible for converting the stock bikes as well as providing maintenance and repair services for privateers in certain regions. Somewhat similar to the current arrangement, but with an emphasis on expanding the SBK racing industry.

To rebuild the global marketplace, the manufacturers need a product. The product is ultimately defined by the rules and homologation papers. Then they need a method for making the bikes competitive with one another. They need to decide whether the method should encourage useful technological development for R&D and marketing or if it should just be a rule to improve the entertainment value. They have to decide how sophisticated the performance controls should be. They need to decide whether the product should be leased or sold to private teams. They need electronics regulations, and they probably need to bring back multiple tire suppliers.

To describe these complex endeavors as Superstock seems a bit oversimplified.

Not to come off as flippant, but they already have what you describe in local and national level racing. The AMA & DMG felt the same way until Honda, Ducati & Kawasaki were told like it or leave it. So they all left. The AMA is still a shadow of itself a decade later.

The racing on TV just keeps getting less and less. Now I have to find WSBK a week later on Youtube, after I already know who won. No AMA on TV anymore, but that series is a shadow of its former self. DSB is generally pretty good, or was till Danny Eslick and Josh Herrin left the series. Not saying the talent is the same, but they seemed to like each other about as well as Rainey and Schwantz did at the peak of their rivalry. That makes for entertaining racing!

I just cannot help but think that part of their decision is based on their current season going OK some wins in there but not leading. And also Melandri blowing what looked like a lock on a championship through his own mental farts. Melandri is a damn good rider, but may not be destined to be a Champion. I will never forget what he did on a Kawasaki that was a year behind other bikes in development but that was years ago. Hope he gets a good ride, but I just have a nagging feeling he may have been the best hope for the Factory to stay involved.

I can imagine the direction WSBK is going in may have contributed to this decision. If the series is going to be more of a race of production bikes with bolt on parts rather than the semi-prototypes of recent years then this seems like a logical step. Why need direct factory presence in the pit box? As said above the production bikes are pretty potent these days as they are. A new bike & some kit parts and let's race! Bring back race on Sunday, sell on Monday.

Those teams didn't pull out of the series whlie Marco was riding for them.

Hayate was the contractual offspring of Kawasaki withdrawing and wouldn't have existed otherwise.

Now that WSBK racing should become cheaper, and more fair, I wish this exact rules package would be adopted by BSB, AMA (or some other American sanctioning body), and the Australian racing organizers. Imagine a level playing field of tech across the world, with the best riders wildcarding and perhaps even winning an odd round or two of WSBK races.

When you've proved you can race the Superbikes, you can attract the attention of the MotoGP teams and graduate to MotoGP. Am I dreaming?

Roadracing World did an article on the pros/cons of BSB vs AMA. suffice to say BSB is the stronger series. Need proof? Try to find an AMA race. Apologies for not posting the link - I can't find it or my magazine.
It was a great read.

... article in RRW, it did indeed show a healthy BSB series and the spec ECU (zero traction control) has no ill effect, including number of crashes!

Not quite accurate. There were a number of drawbacks to the spec ECU, and it did reflect an uptick in highsides.

I think the take-away from that article was that BSB was a product of a set of circumstances very unique to the British Isles. And you have parity this season in terms of wins between MotoGP and BSB.

I am geezer enough to remember the beginning of WSBK, and some of the stuff that happened in the first decade. It was a very second-rate series and show, compared to today. I'd hate to see us go back to that.

What is the point of the recent years' WSBK formula? They're like bizarro world GP bikes or like flipped versions of GP's CRTs. What's the difference between a CRT and a current WSBK machine? CRT chassis are bespoke and carrying components to work with GP's Bridgestones and carbon brakes. Still, WSBK machines have bespoke swingarms and massaged frames. On the other hand CRT's have engines in lower tune than their WSBK cousins. To me they're all a similar mish-mash. Not true prototype race bikes and not production street bikes. WSBK should not be dumbed down to superstock but should have more than a passing resemblance to the bikes we can buy from MSMA dealers. Make it a series of bolt on performance & engine massaging finesse. A WSBK machine should be something an individual or privateer could put together from factory kit and aftermarket go fast parts. If they go there then there is no need for factory employees in the race teams. If it settles on a formula that is technically and financially in reach for national series' teams then I could see those sanctioning bodies tailoring their own rules to be compatible with the international championship. Apart from local wild cards we could then maybe have transatlantic races again. Maybe a pacific rim series of races? Ok we won't be able to drool of the tech porn of top superbikes but then maybe the factories will start putting out more homologation specials. We like those!

In late July 2007, BMW dropped two bombshells. First, it was buying Husqvarna from its Italian owners and secondly, it revealed a plan to contest the Superbike World Championship in 2009. It then entered into a partnership with Alpha Racing to develop the S1000RR. Some believe that partnership was a huge mistake.

In April 2008 during a media briefing in Munich, BMW Motorrad General Director Hendrik von Kuenheim stated: “as part of the strategic reorientation of the BMW Group, we have announced that customer deliveries by BMW Motorrad are to increase by approximately 50 per cent by the year 2012 to 150,000 units.”

Von Kuenheim added that the Superbike World Championship was becoming increasingly popular and added, “since here, unlike the MotoGP, they are able to watch and admire their motorcycles in a direct comparison with competitors. For the first time we are demonstrating the innovative power of BMW Motorrad also in the segment of the most dynamic, top-performance on-road motorcycles.”

He then revealed the company's racing plan, concluding by saying the 2009 season would be a learning year and then in 2010 BMW hoped to be challenging for podium positions, with a the “medium-term objective, obviously, to win the World Championship!”

Well, here we are five years later and the sales figure for 2012 was just a little short of the 150,000 units (at 106,000 odd), the Superbike they built with Alpha Racing was a pig in 2009, got headed in the right direction under Davide Tardozzi as team manager but before 2010 was over he had been forced out, not even completing the first year of a three year contract, there was a re-shuffle inside BMW with Motorrad Motorsport Director Berthold Hauser replaced by Bernhard Gobmeier.

For 2011, the team developed a bike with a peakier power delivery and at the opening round of the 2011 season at Phillip Island, both Corser and Haslam were struggling in practice and at one point Corser asked his father to videotape him at certain parts of the track so he could show the team what the bike was actually doing. (Evidently, the Germans were not listening to the former champ).

By season's end, Leon Haslam, who had been a real force with the GSX-R1000 Suzuki in 2010 was only able to score a handful of podiums and at most tracks he was slower on the BMW than he had been on the Suzuki the year before.

In 2012 Corser was replaced by Marco Melandri who scored six wins and a much improved bike but Haslam was only able to produce four podiums.

Mid 2012 (June 1), Hendrik von Kuenheim was replaced by Stephan Schaller as Motorrad General Director. Schaller was previously vice chairman of the board of management for glassmaking company Schott AG, Mainz.

At the end of the year the BMW-Alpha Racing team was folded and BMW backed the Italian GoldBet squad for the Superbike World Championship in 2013. Haslam went to Honda and Melandri continued on with the factory-backed Italian team with Welshman Chaz Davies. To date the team's results have been erratic, but the two riders have scored five wins so far.

Back in Munich, Gobmeier was head-hunted by Audi to head up the Ducati MotoGP team and Husqvarna has been sold to Stefan Pierer, the man who controls the majority stake in KTM - and he is making noises about a Superbike racing venture.

But Pierer also has to turn Husqvarna around from the complete balls-up BMW made of it.

If he does that, his operation will continue to hose BMW as the Number One motorcycle manufacturer in Europe. Last year KTM outsold BMW by a few hundred units, but BMW counted 10,000 Huskies in its figures. So with another 10,000 or so added to the KTM sales, the Austrian company may pass 120,000 units this year.


Yet another "strategic realignment."

So WSBK is going to move towards a cost effective, streamlined rule package that will effectively end any manu from buying a championship (through spending), which will give more riders a chance at the front and wins and make the rule spec closer to the domestic series? I'd say that is a big step in the RIGHT direction and BMW don't let the door hit your arse on the way out. The manus have been spending both series into oblivion. Bike sales aren't what they were, many countries around the globe still going through recessions. This is a good move and the racing is going to get better. The bikes on the showroom floors will get better. You may not see this as a win but it is, all the way around. It will be much easier to get sponsors when the admission price isn't so high. And if the bikes cost less to put on the grid, then that should leave some room for the most important people involved, the riders, to get some kind of pay increase or finally get paid to begin with instead of financing their own ride. I welcome it.

What's good for the bike racing fan, and what's good for the manu, rarely do both coincide with each other. The manus need to take a back seat to the fans. After all they are the ones who buy your products in the first place. It's time you started serving them first instead of yourselves.

I hope to see Marco on another factory bike next season and to see Manuela on Marco too :D (pls don't ditch him!)