The Bimota factory at Rimini lies in the heart of Italy’s Adriatic Riviera, where each summer literally millions of German tourists come to drape their towels over beach chairs, filling the wave-lapped beaches. And just as the various resorts depend on this Teutonic influx for their livelihood, so too does the revival under new ownership of Italy’s leading boutique bike-builder. For Bimota, which last year celebrated its 40th anniversary of roller-coaster survival, is irredeemably linked to its newly forged alliance with BMW, with the array of BB3 Superbikes now leaving the factory powered by the German manufacturer’s S1000RR four-cylinder engines.
And this isn’t the first time that BMW and Bimota have teamed up together. The BB1 Supermono single used BMW F650’s Rotax-built four-valve motor; and the two collaborated on designing the K1200RS that made its debut in 1997 and featured an aluminum-backbone chassis for the first time on any BMW model – and derived from a prototype built by Bimota.
Since then, the German company has moved into the sportbike sector that is Bimota’s home turf, developing the short-stroke four-cylinder 999cc S1000RR that it raced with reasonable success for five years in World Superbike, winning races but never the title before bowing out at the end of last season. So, instead, this year has seen Bimota take up the mantle of competing in world-level competition with a BMW-powered Superbike, forging a collaboration with Francis Batta’s Team Alstare to run the BB3 as part of the model’s development program.
And so far so good. Although it’s not eligible to score points until sufficient customer bikes have been built to meet homologation rules, the BB3 has consistently taken Ayrton Badovini and Christian Iddon to the front of the Evo class field, and often into the top 10 finishers overall. In fact, if Badovini had been eligible to score points, he’d be second in the Evo standings as the series hit its summer break. Not bad for a bike that first turned a wheel under its own power as recently as March of this year.
The first chance for us to ride the BB3 came at the BMW track day at the brand-new Circuito Tazio Nuvolari near Pavia, on the banks of the River Po. But apart from providing a nice chance to view the array of different Bimota models down the years, this was pretty much a write-off in terms of genuinely evaluating the BB3, for two reasons. First, three corners on the 1.73-mile track had been resurfaced only two days before the event (after breaking up through over-use of the new track by cars) and were lethally slippery, making it necessary to literally ride round the outside of the turns on the white line, to avoid crashing (as some sadly did).
But even on the small section of track that could be used safely, including the third-gear right-hand sweeper at the end of the fourth-gear main straight, the new Bimota displayed a worrying tendency to push the front end, accompanied by increasingly massive front-end chatter if I tried to maintain corner speed. The culprit was found with a trip to the pits – the Continental front tire fitted to the bike was graining badly on the right side, denoting the chatter that we then tried to fix by adjusting the suspension.
To read more of our Bimota BB3 first ride in this week’s issue of Cycle News, click here