BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Phillip Island, Australia, 02/03/2016, FIM Superbike World Championship
Thursday morning, 10:00 local time in the Paddock Show tent at the WSBK paddock on Phillip Island. Team principal Shaun Muir has been working towards this moment for a long time: together with riders Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham he unveiled the two BMW S 1000 RRs, with which his Milwaukee BMW team will this year contest its first season in the FIM Superbike World Championship.
For years, Shaun Muir’s team has been one of the dominant outfits in the British Superbike Championship (BSB), in which it won the title with Brookes last season. However, Muir had always fancied stepping up into the Superbike World Championship – and that dream became a reality at the weekend. With the support of BMW Motorrad Motorsport, he was able to put together the right package to compete in the pinnacle of production-based motorcycle racing.
“As a team, the support and enthusiasm shown by BMW Motorrad Motorsport was hugely confidence-building,” said Muir. “They know exactly what we need to be competitive and the level of backing has made our decision to join them much easier. I am incredibly impressed with the amount of technical support we can request and it bodes well for a great debut season in World Superbikes.”
The official starting signal for the WSBK project came at the team launch on Phillip Island. “It is a proud moment,” said Muir, as he introduced his team to the public on Phillip Island. “The build-up to this moment in time has been tremendous. My team and riders have faced every possible challenge in such a short period of time. Logistically and technically we have ticked every box. In 14 weeks we have gone from a domestic championship winning team to World Superbike contenders.”
The team did not have a great deal of time to prepare for its world championship debut. The riders both have a wealth of experience, but are both entering uncharted territory in several aspects. Australian Brookes had previously gained some WSBK experience when competing in races between 2006 and 2012, but is only contesting his full season in the series this year. Abraham has spent many years racing in MotoGP, but is a rookie in the WSBK. Furthermore, neither rider had raced on the BMW S 1000 RR before.
The riders and technicians had just six test days in which to familiarise themselves with the RR, which was new to everyone in the team – four days in Spain and then a further two days on Phillip Island at the start of the week. However, the weather conditions did not always play ball, restricting what was already a short test programme.
As such, Milwaukee BMW’s main focus for the race weekend on Phillip Island was on continuing to get to know the RR and, together with the experts from HP Race Support, adapting the bike to suit the individual needs of the riders.
The team made rapid progress: from Friday to Saturday, both riders improved by over a second per lap. After the Superpole, Brookes found himself 14th on the grid, ahead of Abraham in 16th. And the team continued to make progress in the races: Milwaukee BMW ended the weekend as the second best privateer team in the field, behind the Althea BMW Racing Team.
Brookes finished the opening race in the top ten. However, he then revealed that he had hoped for a little more at his home race: “Top ten is nice considering we started the week with a crash and struggled to improve the lap times, but it’s far from what I want to achieve. Points are good, but at the moment the gap to the top of the field is too big to be satisfied with.”
The team once again made modifications to the set-up ahead of the second race on Sunday, and Brookes looked even more comfortable on his RR. Race two saw him embroiled in a three-way battle with fellow RR riders at Althea BMW, Jordi Torres and Markus Reiterberger, with the Australian crossing the finish line in ninth place.
“I’m pleased that I could push for longer and more consistently. I managed to find ten seconds over the race distance from yesterday, which is a great job by the team. They recognised some of the areas I was struggling with,” said Brookes after Sunday’s race. “Real credit to the Milwaukee BMW team for giving me that bit more confidence to push. There are still some things I want to try with the throttle and the electronics, but we’ve got a good base to build on now to improve things. We’re in a good position to close the gap to the leaders.”
Team-mate Abraham was also happy with the race weekend. The Czech rider came home 13th on Saturday to score his first points in the Superbike World Championship. He faired even better on Sunday, finishing 11th.
“I’m really happy that we could bring home points in both races this weekend,” said Abraham. “The team did some great work on the bike, so I’m really proud of them. Because we had limited running in the winter we treated this weekend a bit like a test. Even so, I think it went really well. We made changes to the bike every session and I could try new things with my riding each time, so it does seem to be getting better and better. I know that I can push harder on the bike and get more from the RR. I’m really looking forward to racing again in Thailand.”
Milwaukee BMW passed its baptism of fire in the Superbike World Championship. As such, team principal Muir was in good spirits: “There’s a happy atmosphere in both sides of the garage. We’ve made a considerable number of changes over the weekend, and made giant steps forward as a result. Overall we got two solid finishes, with both riders in the points. The most important development was our race pace. We took a very big step forward here. We can leave here with our heads held high, and now focus on starting afresh in Thailand in two weeks’ time.”
Thailand hosts the Superbike World Championship at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram from 11th to 13th March.