I had raced a Yamaha R6 (600cc’s, 120hp, 160 mph top speed) for a number of years, so moving to the BMW S1000rr (1000cc’s, 200+ horsepower, 180mph top speed) with Tom Wood Powersports I knew was going to be a steep learning curve. The electronics are so different, the new riding position of the new bike and the suspension we have is entirely different, not even mentioning the power of the 1000cc motorcycle compared to the 600cc R6. Due to the arrival time of parts we were unable to do any testing, so I knew it would be an even steeper learning curve, as other teams were able to spend the winter time testing on the bike, getting used to the machine, and understanding the nuances. But despite all of that, it’s still just a motorcycle and I am super excited with how things have progressed and everything we have been able to learn and for us to keep chugging along!
First Weekend – Virginia
The first weekend at Virginia was straight with our feet in the fire. The major takeaways that we had from that weekend were 1. Bike Overheating, 2. Riding Style, 3. Closing Speeds, and 4. Electronics.
1. Bike Overheating – We learned that on hot weekends with the S1000rr we have to cut holes in the bodywork. We are on the BMW S1000rr not the BMW M1000rr. The dealer group that we are working with -Tom Wood Powersports- tried to get us the special “racing” version of the BMW which is the BMW M1000rr instead of the “standard” BMW S1000rr. The S1000rr is amazing! The thing for us is the M1000rr is the model that is being used for Pro Racing across the world. BMW said there were none of the M1000 available for us so we had to go racing with the S1000. With the S1000 we had crazy overheating with the motorcycle at VIR. The bike temperature was over 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit) in the afternoon session on Friday. When the bike got that hot, it caused our quick shifter to quit working (upshift and downshift) along with general engine health. We learned that we had to cut out huge holes in the S1000rr bodywork to allow for proper ventilation. There are 3 other BMW teams in the MotoAmerica series this year who all have the BMW M1000rr model instead of the S1000rr model that we have, and their bodywork comes with added cooling fins and other ductwork to help the bike run cooler. Since we couldn’t get the BMW M1000, we just had to cut added holes in our bodywork in our S1000 to allow for that proper cooling.
2. Riding Style – I knew riding a 1000cc machine the big thing for me to adapt to is optimizing the power. On a 600cc bike, you need to maximize your corner speed because you don’t have a ton of power compared to a 1000cc bike. Throughout the weekend I was continuing to adapt to the 1000 and learned more and more places that I needed to “square off” my line through certain corners to allow me to stand the bike up sooner and get on the power better. Turn 3, Turn 4, and Turn 7 at VIR are all examples that stick out in my head of where I needed to square the corner off more to get the bike off the edge of the tire and get the throttle open quicker instead of trying to maximize corner speed.
3. Closing Speeds – Everything happens so much quicker on the 1000, places that I could hit buttons on the straightaways seemed so much shorter and didn’t have nearly the same time as I did before haha. The back straight away at VIR, going into turn 7, was crazy for my first time on the 1000 as it felt like I had no time. As the weekend progressed, I didn’t have any issues at the end and I adapted my style but it was crazy the first few times out on the bike.
4. Electronics – The wheelie control on the BMW S1000rr seemed so intuitive, on the Yamaha R6 with the YEC system, you had to hold the throttle at 100% or the bike would continue to wheelie (My Article Talking About R6 Wheelie Control). On the S1000 with the map that my crew chief Freddy Carswell had made, it felt so intuitive. We also were having to dial in the different electronic systems on the bike and it felt better and better. Launch Control for the race starts felt amazing.
Second Weekend – Wisconsin
After the first weekend we had worked out a bunch of kinks on the bike but it still required a lot of dialing in. There were two major take aways for me at Wisconsin, 1. Wheelie Control and 2. My Riding Style.
1. Wheelie Control – The first day in Wisconsin we had crazy wind (20mph wind, 38mph gusts) so whenever the bike would start to wheelie and then I’d get hit with a wind gust, it threw the bike all around and made it very difficult to ride. However, after the first day and the wind died down, I learned more about how the wheelie control worked with the electronics. The previous race weekend we had a really good wheelie control setting, the issue for this weekend was just with the severe wind and long straightaways we had in Wisconsin made us need to tweak the setting and for me to change how I rode slightly. The wind was causing tank slappers and other issues. But once we finished practice and qualifying and got to the races, the wind died down and the wheelie control felt really good. As I had more time on the bike, I was able to understand more how the lift control worked on the S1000rr. In places like exiting Turn 1 or going up the wheelie hill on the front straightaway, stuck out to me. I learned that the front wheel would start lifting itself off the ground but I could feel the bike hit a certain point and then drop itself back down. If I didn’t let the wheelie get to that “point” with the front wheel off the ground, it would mess everything up. I had to trust the electronics to work instead of trying to do it all manually. The map that my crew chief Freddy had made for the wheelie control, was great and had the bike working great.
2. My Riding Style – Throughout the weekend we dropped tons of time. We closed our race finishing time by 15 seconds from Virginia to Road America and on Saturday we had dropped 3 seconds from our individual lap time on Friday. One of the things I learned was at Turn 7 at Road America, I wasn’t creating enough load on the suspension of the motorcycle so I ended up having a very easy front-end tuck, just simply because I was doing that same thing as what I did on my 600 instead of what I learned I needed to do for the 1000. It was a great learning experience for me and my HJC and Alpinestars safety gear worked great and was a great lesson for me to learn about needing to create more load with either the front brake or throttle at all times.
Third Weekend – Washington State
Racing in Washington was a bit strange. The bike set up we flipped up and down. The thing that I found to be really strange after the other two tracks we raced at was the wheelie control. Every other track we had the wheelie control dialed into a really good setting, but in Washington, the front wheel was coming up and looking at the sky pretty much everywhere. We couldn’t get the front wheel back down on the ground. We had the wheelie control setting at the max and the torque limited severely in the different gears. I ended up needing to change my riding style and using much more rear brake to keep the front wheel down as we couldn’t accelerate with the front wheel pointing at the sky. We also tried different engine brake settings and my mechanic Manny Macias had me dialed in with the clutch setting. In our first race on Saturday, the bike was overheating again on the start line and the engine was 107 degrees Celsius so I spent the first laps of the race trying to get clean, cool air to bring the temperature back down, then we had pretty good late-race pace after that, but the beginning of the race had set us so far back with me trying to cool the engine down. We see different things we can do there, along with different things I have realized to do with my riding.
Traction Control Failure – For our second and final race on Saturday we had the traction control fail on the bike which caused us a major crash and I ended up getting run over (Again a huge thank you to HJC and my Alpinestars safety gear). On my BMW electronics, whenever an alert pops up on the dash I hit a white “acknowledge” button on my left handlebar (Temperature Alerts, Oil Pressure alert, etc.). For our second race on Saturday, the bike temperature on the grid went above 105 degrees Celsius and an alert popped up on the dash saying “Temperature Alert” so I hit the acknowledge button. The race started and we did the race start going into the first turn and I carried a wheelie the whole way. We came out of the second turn and I saw an alert on the dash saying “DTC Error” (DTC is Dynamic Traction Control) and I saw the TC level was now set to 8. I hit the acknowledge button on the dash like I would for any other alert and the message on the dash went away. Since the dash said “DTC Error” instead of “DTC Failure” or “DTC Off” it made it very confusing and it didn’t make it clear that the Traction Control was turned off. Normally the max TC setting is 7 so I thought with it saying level 8, that somehow meant max TC, since 7 is usually the max adjustment we have. Exiting Turn 8 at The Ridge that first lap, I got on the gas but the bike spun up the rear tire with no TC, and that high-sided me off the bike, and I got run over by two other riders. Once I was sitting down after being shot off the bike I felt confused. I didn’t understand why the TC would have an error like that, but I felt comfortable in myself since I knew I didn’t do something wrong. The bike had an error that I had never seen before nor were we told what it meant, which then caused the high-side. It was not that I had a warning but kept pushing anyway. No, no, no. This is something completely different. Afterward, my crew chief Freddy talked with one of the data engineers of our electronics system. The engineer from Germany said it is a known issue if you do a long wheelie and the front wheel stops moving for even a second for the bike to go into a DTC error and if that happens I needed to have hit the white “acknowledge” button to fix it. Also, that DTC Error means DTC Off. We then looked back at the data, and in fact, I did hit that acknowledge button and the system registered it. So we don’t quite understand why the bike would still be in DTC Error after that? The engineer said there is a firmware update we need but so far that is only made available for the BMW M1000rr model and it isn’t available for the S1000rr model which we are on. Right now we are waiting on a firmware update to fix the problem. If we run into the same issue again with “DTC error”, we added extra lights to the dash to tell me if the DTC is still in an error mode even if the warning on the dash goes away and I will just have to come into the pits to fix the issue, which might ruin our race but at least we can try to keep the bike on two wheels.
Those are my thoughts halfway through the race season on my Tom Wood Powersports BMW S1000rr. I know there will be things to change throughout the year, but I am super excited with the progress we have made and the platform we have to continue to build with the BMW! Overall, I am excited to continue to grow as a rider and racer. I have to give a huge thank you to my whole Tom Wood Powersports team, Freddy Carswell my crew chief, and Manny Macias my mechanic. We don’t have a huge team, so we have to be smart with what we do and those guys work incredibly hard and I cannot thank them enough. With Tom Wood Powersports they carry many different manufacturers of motorcycles, we ended up choosing the BMW platform to build our bike on as Tom Wood Powersports carries most of the major manufacturers along with other smaller manufacturers. Everyone at Tom Wood Powersports has been great and if you’re looking for a new motorcycle or parts, I highly recommend all of their different dealerships!! Huge thank you to everyone, and I hope to see you at the track.