American racer Nate Kern is one of the best known ambassadors for BMW Motorrad, having spent many years riding an assortment of BMW boxer machines at racetracks across the USA and even tasting international action when deputizing for the BMW Motorrad Motorsport factory team.
Having raced the R1100S in the BoxerCup Championship, the K1200R in the Power Cup series, and the R1200S and HP2 Sport in numerous regional and national championships across the country, Nate has finally had a competitive taste of the new BMW S1000RR at the recent season opening races at the Daytona International Speedway. With little budget but a whole lot of desire, Nate enlisted the help of a group of BMW motorcycle dealerships who combined resources to show their passion and belief for the S1000RR.
Prior to its release to the general public, Nate was lucky enough to have been involved in the Superbike’s development, thanks to his role as S1000RR ambassador for BMW Motorrad USA. As such, he has completed more than 3,000 racetrack miles (4,800 kilometres) on various RRs, and has witnessed the various stages of evolution of this class-leading Superbike. With two S1000RR series production machines at his disposal, the professional motorcycle racer was keen to get the bikes working for him.
Because the bike is so new, spare parts aren’t readily available, so in order to make his RR track legal, Nate was able to call on the relationships that have been built up from so many years of BoxerCup, Power Cup, World Endurance Championship and USA-based BMW racing. Some of the ‘essentials’ included race bodywork, case covers and frame sliders supplied by Woodcraft’s Armor Bodies, Akrapovic exhaust, Ohlins 30mm cartridges for the forks, TTX rear Ohlins shock and Brembo 19-inch cast master cylinder. Final preparation was done by the service department of the BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta dealership just before departure to Daytona.
Unfortunately for Nate, a crucial component was missing – the gearing – as a shipment made to the track all the way from Germany, never arrived. Without the race gearing, it would hard to achieve the top speed needed at the famed Daytona International Speedway. However, with Ohlins suspension fitted, he set out on the circuit on a windy and rainy Saturday to try to set the S1000RR up for its first race in the US outside the World Superbike Championship.
The following day saw dry and sunny conditions, and Nate was able to relax on the bike. As such, he found his lap times dropping, even with the stock gearing. By working on spring rates and fork oil level first, as then ride height, Nate was managing to post top-five times, which is remarkable given the fact he was also switching between the S1000RR and the HP2 Sport for various practice sessions.
With his time divided between preparing the RR and HP2 Sport machines, and answering a multitude of questions from the fans of BMW’s newest sports bike, Nate was surprised by the call to the grid for the Unlimited Grand Prix race. Before he knew it he was rolling onto the starting grid and lining up alongside some seriously quick racers.
Some of the fastest AMA factory riders had ‘joined the party’ to get some track time in advance of their own season opener at the same circuit the following weekend, so Nate had to contend with the likes of former WSBK race winner Ben Bostrom and MotoGP star John Hopkins, as well as riders like Larry Pegram and Chris Ulrich. Unperturbed, Nate described the action from the seat of his S1000RR:
“The flag waved and I got a great start and when the S1000RR finally settled down, I was almost first into Turn One. Then John Hopkins stuffed me so hard up the inside we even made contact, but there was no harm done – I am used to hard riding from my Boxer Cup days! Hopkins ran a tight line into the Horseshoe (Turn 3) and I ran a wider line and we exited side by side. I had no time to be star struck – I wanted him to read the back of my leathers and think ‘who is Kern?’ Anyway, the stock-geared, customer-based RR never lost an inch from Turn 3 to Turn 5 on that opening lap against the Monster Energy M4 Suzuki Superbike.
“I wasn’t bothered about the top riders chasing me from behind either – I just felt great on the bike and was concentrating on staying close to former MotoGP star Hopkins. By lap 3, I remained in second place and still held this position when I crossed the line to enter Turn 1 of lap four of the six-lap sprint, but suddenly my RR shut off. I frantically tried to get it restarted but discovered to my disbelief that I was out of fuel. I guess that’s what happens when you try and be the manager, crew chief, and rider all at once! From that point on though, our pit area was just three rows deep with spectators, eager to get a look at the RR that had still been boxed in its crate 72 hours earlier, but had been running up at the front at Daytona.”
Despite his obvious disappointment of running out of fuel, Nate still secured a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in other races on the HP2 Sport and the R 1200 S. Without the right gearing for Daytona, he doubts that he could have finished on the podium but was delighted that due to the efforts of a group of volunteers who helped him with the preparations and pit duties, he was able to run in front of some of the best riders in the sport. For this, he’d like to thank BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta, BMW Motorcycles of SE Michigan, Mortons BMW Motorcycles, BMW Motorcycles of Milwaukee, Iron Horse BMW Motorcycles, Cape Girardeau BMW Motorcycles, Gina’s BMW Motorcycles, BMW Motorcycles of Miami, BMW Motorcycles of Manhattan, Engle Motors in Kansas City, and all the BMW motorcycle clubs that helped and supported his efforts. It was truly a great team effort.