As the 2010 AMA Superbike Championship (USA) draws to a close, one of the smaller teams is entitled to feel proud of its debut performance. Iron Horse BMW/Speedcell/ESP competed in four of the AMA rounds at Fontana, Infineon, Laguna Seca and New Jersey. Rider Chris Peris aboard a BMW S1000RR set track time records on three outings and enjoyed three top-ten finishes among the established factory teams.
The bike evolved from a stock bike to Superbike contender thanks to the co-operation of Evan Steel Performance (ESP) and dealer Iron Horse BMW based in Tucson, Arizona. Before the start of the 2010 season, ESP was forced to suspend its racing efforts due to a lack of budget. The BMW dealer was looking to race one of its BMW S1000RR motorcycles to promote it to a new audience. Owners John and Jennifer Cartwright said, “We were looking for a way to introduce the S1000RR to the sportbike crowd, who may never have set foot inside a BMW dealer before.”
ESP invited rider Chris Peris to ride the S1000RR (complete with headlights, but without mirrors and passenger footpegs) at a track event at the Inde Motorsports Park in Wilcox, Arizona. Peris had previously set the motorcycle lap record there with a time of 1:55.60 on his AMA Superstock spec race bike.
The only performance-enhancing equipment fitted to the BMW bike was a set of racing slicks. Incredibly, Peris was able to beat his lap record by over a second on the S1000RR. “I’d never ridden one of these new BMWs before,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I went faster on a stock bike with headlights, than I did on my own personal race bike.”
This February test was the start of Team Iron Horse BMW/ESP, which worked together to develop the bike for its first outing at the AMA Superbike race in Fontana in March. The bike received an overwhelming response from fans at the Californian circuit and achieved a top ten finish. Its promising debut was followed by an impressive performance at the WERA competition at the Las Vegas Speedway in April.
Peris achieved three victories, finishing 56 seconds ahead of the closest competitor in the sole endurance race, beating Jeremy Toye in the Formula One sprint race and winning the A Superbike sprint five seconds ahead from the rider in second position. “Every time I rode the BMW it just got better and better,” said Chris. “A few adjustments to the suspension really helped out the grip and that let me take advantage of the S1000RR’s handling. I was able to get through the field pretty quickly and adjust my lines mid corner when it was necessary to make a pass.”
Riding high, the team went on to compete at the Infineon round of the AMA Superbike at Sonoma, where they achieved another top ten finish. Evan Steel said: “All in all, we had a good weekend. We were still behind the development curve of where we wanted to be, but we kept chipping away at it and made forward strides.
Before the next AMA round at Laguna Seca, the team’s success continued in June at the Lucas Oil Challenge race in Utah, where Peris stormed to second position and was the first BMW to finish. He also achieved the fastest lap of the race, 1:51.59. “It’s not bad for what spec our bike is at currently and how little time we had on track this weekend,” said Evan.
The ongoing fine-tuning and development of the bike throughout the season resulted in its highest AMA Superbike position at Laguna Seca in July. Peris also got the fastest trap speed of the second qualifying session and rode within a second of the fastest lap of the race. He fended off AMA Superbike regulars Eric Bostrum and Brett McCormick for seventh place for most of the race, which led to an exciting battle and a fantastic ninth place finish.
With stock wheels, brakes, electronics and one of the smallest budgets in the AMA Championship, the Iron Horse BMW/Speedcell/ESP Superbike has proved its competitive credentials against more developed full-time Superbike teams and riders. Participating in the AMA Superbike has helped the team to develop chassis, suspension, motor parts and accessories that will be made available to S1000RR owners, helping them to enjoy their BMW motorcycle for years to come.