Marc Bongers he is not German, but Dutch and it is the complete opposite of what I expected to find when I was presented with the possibility of interviewing the BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director.
The qualification itself is intimidating, but luckily the person I found in front of me was not at all grumpy or austere. On the contrary, Marc is a friendly and frank man, with whom you can talk very freely. He accepts criticism and the harsh reality of the numbers, but he has very clear ideas and a clear vision of the future that awaits him and above all BMW in racing. He doesn’t look his 52 years old and his four children, who most likely require him more than his four superbike riders. He does not speak in “political jargon” and unlike other managers he states the facts and not just sterile turns of phrase.
Here’s what we said to each other.
Let’s take a leap into the past, in the years from 2009 to 2013, when BMW officially engaged in WorldSBK for the first time. In his opinion, why didn’t he manage to win the title?
In reality we came very close with Marco Melandri, but immediately afterwards the decision was made to leave the derivatives world championship. A decision that was communicated when we were second in the standings, a dramatic choice, because all the members of the team lost motivation and started looking around to find another job. If we had behaved differently I don’t know if we would have won or not, but we would certainly still have been fighting for the title.
Instead the decision was made to support and reward the riders and teams who used your bikes in the championships and various national trophies. From an economic point of view it was a success because you sold dozens and dozens of S1000RRs.
When it was presented, our bike was a step ahead of the competition and for this reason we grabbed a lot of titles in the Stock. It was a real shame that the Stock 1000 class was cancelled. Not only for us, but above all for many drivers who without this category were no longer able to compete at an international level. The Stock 1000 was the natural step from the youth categories to the Superbike. Even today, if we look at the starting grid of a WorldSBK race we find many riders who grew up in STK1000: Razgatlioglu, Rinaldi, Baz, Petrucci, Van der Mark and others. The disappearance of the Stock 1000 has also put the national championships in crisis, which now use different bikes and regulations in each country, but Dorna has decided to introduce the three classes in Superbike as in MotoGP and therefore we have to accept it.
Returning to current events, why did you decide to return?
In 2018 a new version of the S1000RR was presented but the decisive decision was to introduce the M brand also into the motorcycle sector. At that point it was natural to return to competitions to push the new productions with the M acronym, including the M1000 RR.
In five years you have achieved only one victory. You have changed bikes and riders, keeping the same team. What if the team itself was the weak point?
BMW has a big influence on the team. The engineers are ours and we make the strategic decisions. You’re right, the numbers speak clearly and we only achieved one victory and a few podiums. But when we returned we didn’t have a sufficiently competitive bike. Our first S1000RR was designed for the road and not for the track, and therefore we had to work a lot and propose new models that were increasingly closer to “racing”. Let’s also not forget that 2020 was the year of Covid and it was a lost year for us. But we don’t hide behind a finger: we have only achieved one victory. Precisely for this reason, at the end of last season we understood that our commitment in Superbike had not been enough to close the gap that separates us from the leaders. We have decided to invest more not only economically, but also technologically. Our engineering staff will also be strengthened because the racing know-how is then reflected in series production. In addition to the official team we will continue with Bonovo who from this year has bikes identical to the official ones. A team that will in turn be strengthened by our engineers. Already this year they are reaping good results with Garrett Gerloff who has saved our… honor more than once (laughs). We don’t want to have an official team and a private team, but four official riders divided into two teams. Any updates or new components will be made available to all four of our drivers.
Next year you can count on the great talent of Toprak Razgatlioglu. With him, however, you will no longer have alibis. Are you ready to help him win?
You are right. Toprak is a great rider, but so are Van der Mark, Redding or Gerloff himself. At the moment our results are very dependent on the tracks. On some, where the grip is good, our bikes manage to obtain good results, while on others we struggle. This is what we have to overcome. The other manufacturers, the more competitive ones, always go strong, on any track and in any conditions. In every round, Bautista, Toprak and Rea are always in front. We must work to ensure that it is the same thing next year too. For our part, there is the will, the ability and the means to put Turkish talent in the conditions to express themselves to the fullest. We don’t yet know what he will ask of us, but we are ready to work for him. Our bike certainly shouldn’t be thrown away. We will have to adapt it to his riding style and he will have to adapt to our bike. The goal is to be constantly fighting for victory, and possibly for the title.
What is true in the rumors that talk about your collaboration with Team Puccetti?
Over the course of the year we have received various collaboration proposals and this is something that pleases us, because it means that they appreciate us. We spoke at length with the Puccetti team but unfortunately we didn’t reach an agreement, even though there was a desire on both sides to do something together.
Sin. An Italian team with BMW wouldn’t have been bad
We know it well. In the past we won a lot with Team Feel Racing with Serafino Foti and Daniele Casolari. Unfortunately we didn’t find a way to work with Manuel and his team.
Will you have a test team?
Yes. We will officially announce it later. It will be a team that will have nothing to do with Superbike. Then maybe we can make some wild cards to give the driver satisfaction, but the task of this test team will be to work on updates and new features, without having anything to do with this paddock.