Munich, Germany - We all know the most dangerous time in any motorcycle Grand Prix is the opening lap, when all the bikes are bunched together, jostling for position. Which is why the safety car, carrying the course doctor and his emergency kit, always follows the pack round the circuit for the first lap.
Which presupposes that the safety car can keep up with the world’s fastest riders on the world’s fastest motorcycles - and that’s where BMW comes in, providing safety cars for the motorcycle Grand Prix series since 1999.
The new MotoGP safety car for 2018 is based on the new M5 performance sedan, which was first shown in public in August, and will debut at the final race meeting of 2017, at Valencia on the second weekend in November. With 441kW and 750Nm on tap from its 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8, eight-speed M Steptronic gearbox with Drivelogic and M-specific xDrive all-wheel drive (for the first time on an M5) it’s certainly quick enough, but is it agile enough to stay with the two-wheelers?
As issued, probably not. So the M boffins at Garching went to work on the car’s aerodynamics, cooling and, most importantly, all-up weight, using mostly parts out of the extensive M5 aftermarket catalogue, including carbon-fibre side sills, rear diffuser, rear spoiler, kidney grille, door mirror housings, and air breather slats.
And because, with two dozen or more screaming Grand Prix bikes just ahead, nobody is ever going to notice if the MotoGP M5 is a little bit raucous, they fitted a track-only titanium exhaust system with carbon-fibre tips.
Then they got serious, adding a one-off front splitter developed specifically for this car, bonnet latches straight from competition department and bucket seats from the M4 GTS, to hold driver and doctor gently but firmly in place at cornering speeds way above what the standard M5 furniture was designed for.
The light bar on the roof is all-LED to keep it flat and instantly responsive, and is controlled from a specially-developed cockpit panel, as are the flashing blue lights behind the grille and the flashing corona rings around the headlights.
The distinctive livery in red, white and two shades of blue was inspired by the design of the works M8 endurance racer, which is being prepared to compete in the entry-level GTE class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2018. But by then, the M5 MotoGP Safety Car will already be a familiar sight to MotoGP fans - circulating, we hope, boringly at the back of the field with no work to do.