World superbike legend Noriyuki Haga is going up the infamous Goodwood hill climb on an original 1998 Yamaha R1, celebrating 30 years of the iconic bike, modern day superbike star Alex Lowes is doing doughnuts on the grass as he waits impatiently to do a run on the three-wheeler Yamaha Niken, BSB rider Jason O’Halloran is on the £200,000 Honda RC213V-S, and Giacomo Agostini is chilling on the straw bales next to his iconic MV Agusta 750.
Only at Goodwood.
The Festival of Speed has quickly become one of the greatest and most renowned motorsport events in the world, with 150,000 people descending on The Duke of Richmond’s back garden to celebrate everything good in motor sport and motorcycling. It may principally be a car event, but the number of bikes at the Festival of Speed is growing, with two batches this year – one for road bikes and one for race bikes.
The bikes include everything from the first 2018 Arch Motorcycles KRGT-1 and its two-litre engine making its way up the 1.16-mile hill, to John McGuinness on his Norton SG7 TT race bike, Steve Parrish riding Kevin Schwantz’s RGV500, and TT star James Hillier doing stand-up wheelies out of the first corner on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR TT bike.
Insidebikes was lucky enough to get invited to ride up the hill on a £68,000 BMW HP4 Race, and Honda Racing’s CBR1000RR Fireblade that normally competes in the British Superbike Championship.
Getting an invite to ride up the hill is always an honour but to do it on such an expensive and exclusive selection of bikes is a real honour.
RIDING BMW’S HP4 RACE
First up for us was the HP4 Race – BMW’s exquisite £68,000, 215bhp monster version of the BMW S1000RR. It’s one of just 750 bikes built, features a full carbon-fibre frame, a factory Suter swingarm and is all a bit alarming when you haven’t seen Goodwood Hill for a couple of years. What’s more, there’s dust all over the track from the cars, which clip the grass on turn two, as there are no painted kerbs. This really is a man’s driveway.
With express instructions not to let it overheat – the HP4 Race is mine for the next thirty minutes. Even at slow speeds it feels light, it weighs 146kg dry, some 37kg lighter than the standard BMW S1000RR and its race bike sharp. It normally comes on slicks but it has road tyres to try and find some grip. There’s no cooling fan – this is a race motor – and in 30 degree heat at Goodwood I need to keep turning if off before it boils over.
On the line, the start line marshal is chatting to me while we wait for some Siemens self-driving Mustang to bounce off the straw bales. Then it’s on. Launch control. Full revs, drop the clutch. The HP4 is savage and it lights up the rear and spins its rear tyre while wheelieing off the line. Few bikes I’ve ever ridden rev this fast. Sadly, the Goodwood set-up means you can’t feel the full limit of this bike, you have to treat the hill with respect. It can bite.
In fact you can get nowhere near the HP4’s limits on the hill. But it is so light, lighter than any current British or world superbike, and reactive to minimal inputs. The power is savage and it’s quite unlike any road bike I’ve ever ridden. Its gearing means it will wheelie in almost any gear and across the line in third gear it does just that.
HONDA BRITISH SUPERBIKE FIREBLADE
When Honda asked if I would like to ride a British Superbike-spec Honda Fireblade in place of Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran, who would be riding the bike on the Saturday and Sunday, of course I said, ‘where do I sign!’.
The BSB Honda is the best prepared race bike I’ve ever ridden. The boys in Louth are famous for their world class prep, and this was no different. The bike is stunning in its matt red paint and Honda racing livery.
I sit in the holding area surrounded by legends and walk down with Yamaha’s young star Tarran Mackenzie, who’s riding Van der Mark’s world superbike. Ahead of me is Freddie Spencer on his 250 Honda, which he says is better now than it ever was back in the day, because it now has modern rubber on it.
Feeling like a pukka factory rider I’m given the bike, shift up (using race shift) in to second gear and roll off down the hill in a blaze of Spencer’s two-stroke smoke.
James Hillier is in front of me practicing those stand up wheelies as we line up with F1 cars and legends for my next run.
I rode a Honda BSB bike a couple of years ago, so am familiar with the controls. It’s fierce, but beautifully manageable off the line with a little wheelie. The first corner is always slippery so I take it really easy, but with the race wets on you can feel it actually digging in.
The gearing is so long that it takes a while for the bike to get on the pipe, but I manage to get a wheelie up past Goodwood House for the crowd, and lift the front wheel a few more times on the way up. I catch up with Tarran, who is riding up the hill for the first time, and I’m glad of the ultra-stopping power of the brakes at the top of the hill when I see him. Superbikes are next level. Even after tuned road bikes. I dream of the day I can get one on a track day again.
The truth is that on Goodwood Hill, you can hardly stretch the bike at all, but it gives you a good feel of what they might be like, and is a real honour.
Goodwood is the petrol head’s dream ticket, and I’m flattered to be asked to ride two really historic bikes.