BMW newcomer “Magic Michael” van der Mark was brought in to fight alongside Tom Sykes in the new M-1000RR for victories and podiums, but the fast Dutchman is just as far away from that as his experienced team-mate (© BMW Motorrad WorldSBK).

BMW: Strong in endurance – in WorldSBK another fall through threatens

Why BMW threatens to fail in the WorldSBK with the new M-1000RR is a topic that does not leave many fans and observers indifferent. The bare registration figures alone show that there are many fans of the Munich brand around the world. But in terms of sporting success, there is still a huge problem in the third year after returning to the factory. We still remember the previous year when, after full-bodied announcements before the start of the season, there was total disenchantment. But after the presentation of the new M model, there was relief among the supporters of the German brand. In addition, with the signing of the man from Gouda instead of Eugene Laverty, there was another factor that fed her hope for an upward trend. The Northern Irishman found refuge in a private team with Jonas Folger, which means that since 2021 there have been four drivers for the blue-whites. Now the first three laps are over, but the results are absolutely sobering.

Tom Sykes photographed by us in the WorldSBK interview in Italy in 2019 – it was the first year of the fast original from Huddersfield and the first notable successes came soon. But one season later came the first setback, and both drivers clearly missed the top ten in the final World Championship.

Despite the enormous advantage the FIM has over Kawasaki – is the M-1000RR a “lame duck”?
After just 3 rounds, there were the first disappointed comments in various forums, in which the fans of BMW expressed their disappointment about the lack of success and their first anger. But what exactly happened? During the tests in Aragon, the German-English team had unexpected problems with a Dutchman as race director in Motorland. After the first two tests on the racetrack in Jerez de la Frontera and then in Barcelona had given courage, the blue-whites initially sounded very confident despite the latest test start of all works teams. After that, things didn’t go that bad at first, and a fourth place for Sykes as the best result in the first round of the World Cup raised justified hopes. But Estoril was already doing a little less well. Then came the first severe setback in Misano and complete disenchantment in the races.

The BMW trio with Eugene Laverty in front of the two works drivers Sykes and van der Mark in Estoril – after the season opener in Aragon, the Portugal weekend initially gave rise to hopes for the blue and white, but then came the total crash in Italy (© BMW Motorrad WorldSBK).

The Misano disaster – only BMW and HRC Honda footed the bill for not testing there before
It was feared that Ducati and Yamaha would play first fiddle on the track near the Adriatic coast. On the one hand, both teams come from Italy and also many of their drivers and, above all, they had tested there in advance in contrast to Kawasaki, BMW and Honda. Nevertheless, the Greens in particular showed a sensationally strong team performance at the Autodromo in Santamonica. Twice the two works drivers were in the top five and once Rea and Lowes were in the top six, plus private driver Mahias once sensationally before Tom Sykes at the finish. Instead of fighting for podium places and victories at the front as hoped and stated in advance as an objective, the BMW drivers experienced their blackest weekend of the season so far.

Markus Reiterberger on the BMW M-1000RR at the first EWC endurance event of the season in Le Mans at the 24-hour race – the Bavarian and his team showed his WSBK colleagues where to go and achieved a podium in France (© BMW Motorrad Motorsport).

The sobering BMW balance sheet in Italy
A seventh place in the first race was the Englishman’s best result for his team, while van der Mark was satisfied with 10th place twice and was eliminated in the Superpole Race due to a fall. Far too little for the Blue-Whites, and even Alvaro Bautista on the Honda was better than both BMW works drivers for the first time. Like in Estoril, Jonas Folger didn’t score a single point the whole weekend, which puts him in a significantly worse position than his compatriot Markus Reiterberger after 3 laps 2 years ago. He then even took two sixth places in Assen, having even started the first race from the front row. His compatriot follower is apparently a long way from that, despite the much more competitive model. Despite a heavy crash in Misano, Eugene Laverty currently seems to be the stronger of the two private drivers. However, it is difficult to gauge how much of Folger’s failure so far depends on the material and his team. Perhaps the skeptics are absolutely right, who wished him a Yamaha instead of a BMW for his first season.

Jonas Folger (BMW) at the test in Barcelona – exactly up to that point everything looked good, and the Bavarian praised the manufacturer and material in the run-up to that point in the highest tones. As a former MotoGP star and second at the Sachsenring in the 2017 race, he is now more and more in need of an explanation as to how his positive words were to be understood at the time.

Why is BMW stumbling in the third season despite the new model?

If you take a closer look at the 2020 season, BMW had already made mistakes in preparation. In the first Corona year, they were the only works team to dispense with tests in Aragon and thus the only place with a double race. Instead, they practiced with their drivers at the Lausitzring and immediately experienced a huge embarrassment in Motorland. In addition, the tour with Shaun Muir and Marc Bongers seems completely unfamiliar, especially when it comes to what they say before, but also after the races. In WorldSBK you won’t win a flower pot with inadequate preparation. Against teams like Ducati, Kawasaki, Yamaha and HRC Honda, that is clear even to laypeople. By renouncing the autumn tests in November 2020, they practically laid the foundation for future failures at BMW. With the best will in the world, one cannot hide this failure with fine words alone. Even the most polished words do not change that much. So far there has simply been a lack of professional preparation and attitude, and we don’t mean the BMW drivers.

Tom Sykes photographed by us before the start in BuriRam (Thailand) in 2019 – the fast Englishman has won all of his 34 races so far on a Kawasaki, and currently it does not look as if he will be able to build on his earlier successes for the blue-whites. The same goes for his new teammate.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK).