The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is set to enjoy one of the biggest battles in recent years with plenty of dynamics right through the field. One of them is the new BMW M 1000 RR and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), teammate Michael van der Mark, team boss Shaun Muir and BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director Marc Bongers took questions from the media as they launched their team for the 2021 campaign. We put together the big talking points as they near their race debut.
Tom Sykes, BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: “Significant step in terms of engine performance!”
Speaking about the new bike and BMW’s hard work in the winter, Tom Sykes said: “My target is always to be at the front. That’s why I go racing, that’s why I get out of bed and that’s what motivates me. I think it’s obviously it’s clear to see that Shaun, Marc, all the guys in the team, all the guys in the factory, we all share that same target and that same ambition. That brings us to the new M 1000 RR. Massive credit is due to BMW because to bring a heavily revised or even a new model with the M 1000 RR so soon, one-and-a-half years after the release of the S 1000 RR shows the target, the ambition and also their commitment to the Championship.
“Obviously, we have been working hard this winter and we have certainly made progress. It was a good decision to test later because we’ve had quality testing without really interruption. For me, our last test at Aragon was very well structured, we got through a number of items. This is my third year with the project and yes, it’s quite clear to see that there’s been quite a significant step in terms of engine performance, which is a big relief. It’ll definitely help in the races but along with that, there’s been a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. There’s been small changes to quite a number of areas, which, when added up, makes quite a big change. The engine, electronics, the braking system from Nissin, small things with the chassis, developments with the swingarms, the list goes on!”
Michael van der Mark, BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: “Big change, lot of potential!”
Speaking about joining the BMW factory, new recruit Michael van der Mark said: “It was a big change, and, in the end, it was a good idea to delay our test programme. When we started testing, we could test every new part of the bike and also during the test, we have tried a lot of different things. Now it is time to go racing and for us, winter testing wasn’t that bad, but I think we need to gain more information by racing with the other guys and see where the bike has to develop a little bit more. I feel happy and I know there’s a lot of work to do, but I love it; I love to make progress.”
Moving on to talking about the BMW in comparison to the Yamaha, the Dutchman said: “It’s a completely different bike, especially the engine – or at least the sound of the engine. It is one of the main things I have to get used to because even when we are going slow, it still sounds fast! Both BMW and Yamaha have their strong and weak points and it is about trying to get the best bits together. There’s a lot of potential with the BMW, but I still have to get used to the bike quite a lot.”
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “Very new bike… considerable changes!”
Going through the new M 1000 RR and what it features, Marc Bongers stated: “The M 1000 RR is a very new bike. A lot of it is new under the bonnet. Then, of course, we have the winglets on the production bike which we have to use one to one on the World Superbike and we have already been testing these winglets a couple of years ago already with our Superbike riders as well so that’s a step ahead in terms of anti-wheelie and stability of the bike.
“From a geometry point of view, we have taken up what we’ve learnt from the S 1000 RR and put it in the M 1000 RR. Then, when we go to the back of the bike, the engine, we have considerable changes in the base engine which effect the clutch to start with as well as the titanium conrods and the pistons. It might not look that different from the outside in Superbike spec but there’s a lot of detail inside the bike which sets the base for this year’s World Superbike engagement.”
Shaun Muir, BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team Principal: “We’ve had our challenges…”
Helping the Independent teams and introducing new members of the team, team principal Shaun Muir commented on a hard winter and the challenges, whilst now readying for round one: “With the introduction of the two Independent riders, we build the bikes for Jonas’ and Eugene’s teams in Yorkshire, so that’s been a challenge. Equally, we’ve added to the team structure to not only accommodate the extra riders but also to bolster our team.
“We’ve had to lift our game in certain areas; I think this build that we’ve done in comparison to the build at the end of 2018 for the S 1000 RR has been far more challenging in terms of the type of build and quality needed. We had unacceptable reliability problems last year and we’re working towards starting and finishing every single race. To do that, you need an increase in staffing levels, quality and control and that is something that’s taken place. We have had our challenges, you mix a lot of individuals, ideas, attitudes and work ethics, but we see the benefit. Overall, we’re really happy with everything, we have a very balanced team now and we’ve taken two quality riders from two different manufacturers and we’ve got our own identity which is starting to evolve.”
Contention for Aragon?
Despite the challenges of new machinery, new personnel and an expansion in operations, BMW have taken a clear step forward. However, with Aragon now just days away, are they in contention from the start? Tom Sykes commented, saying: “If you look at the times on one track, you could say ‘yes, we’re close’ but until you put everything together, you don’t know 100%. I don’t think we’ve had a clear indication with any of the days testing, so you’ll never know until Friday morning!”
“We are extremely looking forward to the season and are aiming to come back to the podium and claim our first win,” said an energetic Marc Bongers, who has set the aims. Michael van der Mark also added, saying, “We will finally see where we are and I like testing and working hard, but racing is my favourite part and I think the whole team is ready to start.” Finally, team principal Muir rounded off, saying: “I think our time will come and with Tom and Michael, we have a strong pairing, as good as any other pairing in any other team and with the Independent teams now, they will also support these guys, so as a group now, we are in good shape.”