Last blast in the East!
Bagger Party Race Series final event: 60 kilometers south of Berlin Bagger and Hooligan racers performed the final showdown of a great series!
The last crossing of the finish line again happened on foot: Andre Jaeger (Harley Davidson Germany), Thomas Voigt (BMW Germany) and Dirk Luetkemeier (Indian Germany) parked their bikes after a photo shoot round in front of the imaginary finish line and passed the chequered flag on August 12th, 2023, 5:34 pm at the Bagger Party Race at “Spreewaldring” Racetrack, thus setting the final point of the spectacular three-part series. Started in 2022 as a crazy idea of brand dealers of the three participating brands over a few rounds of Franconian beer, the year 2022 saw a successful “invitation only” event on the ADAC test facility track in Schluesselfeld/Franconia. On an “open to rent” race track south of Berlin, the last Bagger Party was held as an “event within the event”: a 2-day race training of the Moto Racing School for BMW motorcycle gave the framework for the last German Bagger showdown. The Bagger Race on Saturday again showed the exciting race action of the three performing companies in all three classes, but the weather did not always play along with the tight and precisely timed schedule.
At first glimpse, the softly flowing landscape south of Berlin is a haven of tranquility and quiet countryside life: Just 69 kilometers from the Brandenburg Gate, the world still seems to be in order, and the two short race tracks – 2.7 km Spreewaldring and a 0.8 Kart-Racecourse are two separate racing facilities situated about one kilometer from Waldow-Brand and 1.5 km from Rietzneuendorf – both covered by forests and noise barrier earth walls. However, it wasn’t always that quiet out here: as early as 1875, the Imperial Prussian Artillery Firing Range opened in nearby Kummersdorf, a now abandoned historic testsite which expanded into an German Army and Wehrmacht testing facility until 1945, testing “everything that explodes”. Including the first German rocket launches and basic nuclear research, whose bunkers and relicts have disappeared behind barbed wire and are fading away today.
During the “Cold War”, the noise did not stop, yet increased even more, as the existing “Luftwaffe” airfield ring was expanded by the Russian armed forces: Sperenberg Airfield was concreted just across the existing firing range and atomic bomb-proof bunkers on the “Tropical Island” Spa next to the Spreewaldring bear witness to the noisy past all around the otherwise quiet nature. The impressive former “Cargolifter” hangar is now home to an exclusive Hotel and Tropical Paradise Spa – and is also just a stone’s throw from the Autobahn A-13 “Staakow exit”. The former Dragracing facilities at Luckau-Alteno airfield are silenced as the concrete runway has been plastered with solar panels. Times are changing…
However, it’s mainly the (West-German born) “newcomers” from noisy Berlin who insist on their peace and quiet here: Accordingly, even racing on the track is limited to 95 dB only – and these are measured (…) at the fastest section of the track. Strictly. That would allow riding on Austria’s noise restricted public roads, just to mention it. The “Spreewald Training Center” STC was built in 2007 as an addition to the already existing kart track and can be booked for events and free riding. A very modern facility, almost completely automated, yet not certified by FIM. In this case, the “Moto Racing School”, attached to BMW Motorrad, was renting the site for one of its high-class and well-organized events – and the “Bagger Race Party” had booked time slots for the warm-up, race runs and final runs on Party-Saturday. But nevertheless as sub-guests with no time to spare. A rather tight schedule had to be followed, since the “Moto Racing School” participants also paid good money for their track time. No matter what the weather in the “valley” of the Dahme creek, passing to the north, would bring. It is not recorded who did the job, but already during the training runs the dB scale knocked on (if not over…) the limit, consequently all Dr. Jekill & Mr. Hyde systems had to be switched to “quiet” mode. More bad news had already started the day: Burnouts were strictly forbidden by the track owners, which is why the usual rubber vaporization after the victory laps and at the end of the event was unfortunately cancelled. Around noon, it was rumored that the ban might by lifted for a certain spot, yet – compared with the previous two parties – the Metzeler tires finished the day almost as new…
At “High Noon” the Hooligans were “on time” at the starting line and delivered, as well as the following “Stock” class truly convincing racing action. The area was again filled with spectators, traveled from Berlin, Brandenburg and clients of the Harley dealers represented at the series of HD-Leipzig and HD-Dresden, who had brought many of their customers along. Stefan Soehnlein on the “Speed Hog” of Harley-Davidson Würzburg Village, the shop of Christoph Repp being co-initiator of the series and strongly supporting the event logistics, showed what his “Super Moto” converted “Pan America” is worth. Interviews with riders, sponsors and BMW’s Stunt Ace Dirk Manderbach’s Wheelie Simulator provided entertainment in the paddock during the following BMW R1000RR Race Training sessions and the mandatory lunch break. There were also plenty of custombikes to be seen from the participating dealers of all three brands. In the BMW Parc Ferme, the first Kodlin-built R-18 Bagger conversion could be checked out, but only “static”. All the dealers present and the demo rides of the three brands were bustling with activity during the break and when the BMW Race Training sessions were held.
Pressured by a fast changing weather situation, the order of the races was changed in order to make the transition from “Hooligan” to “Pro” Bagger easier for Indian and Harley racing Thilo Guenther, as well as for BMW Racer Bernd Hiemer, who was present again. Plus the hot “Pro” Baggers should compete on a track as dry as possible. In addition, a shortened track layout had been decided upon, which brought the field even closer together and made the races more exciting and more laps in the given time slot. The spectators could then follow the Bagger racing action up close from the pit lane and the roof of the pits, because the given natural grandstand on the southeastern edge of the track now was a bit too far away from racing action. So the audience went “closer to the action” as the shortened route benefitted the spectators: The riders added a popular “high five” pass after each run along the pit lane. Obviously nowhere else can you get closer to the racing action than at the Bagger Party Race.
Burnouts still were a “no go”, but no one had mentioned anything about pulling off wheelies: Thilo Günther on the Sportster-S, Bernd Hiemer on the BMW GS from Witzel BMW and Chris Lietsch on the R-nine-T from BMW Ebert gave a spontaneous “triple stunt show” on the straight, an easy exercise for Lietsch, as he had been member of Dirk Manderbach’s stunt team at the first two BRP events. All three heats – Stock – Hooligan and Pro – then started in spectacular Le Mans style – and brought plenty of action to the hot asphalt. Constantly changing positions and hair-raising overtaking maneuvers were seen in the afternoon runs of all three classes. Visitors were highly excited and satisfied and used the time between the races at the present dealers or in talks with the race participants.
With the sky breaking open again and sunshine back in a blue sky, it was decided to combine the planned third heats for another “final showdown” and to send all participants together onto the track once again. With a flying start, the field once again roared the short distance with enthusiasm and skills – substitute riders took the vacant race bikes of Hiemer and Guenther in the Hooligan class so that a full field with all machines could once again bring all facets of the race series to the track and close to the visitors. The final “photo shoot lap” with the above-mentioned race brand chief organisers, ended in many “farewell hugs”, but especially at “Indian”, as in the course of the year several changes in personnel responsible for the Bagger Party Race took place. However, all this was – literally – washed away at the award ceremony with lots of champagne showers and – as at previous Bagger Party events, the motto was: After the race is before the party!
How and whether the “Bagger Party Race” series in Germany will continue in 2024 will now be decided by the individual motorcycle manufacturers – in any case, the participating teams and organizers have gained a clear advantage in experience, even if it was not (yet) officially for any Race- and Championship points. On the “other side of the pond”, the American “King of the Baggers” series has also worked its way up from the moderate beginnings of the first event in 2020 at Laguna Seca/California, to a 3-race series in 2021 and now to a 14-race series in 2023, partly on the scheduled race dates of the MotoAmerica Superbike races, to become a definite crowd magnet. Fact is: Two days after the Spreewaldring Bagger Party Race event, it was announced that the promoters of the British Superbike series – Motor Sport Vision Racing – have signed contracts to bring the “King of the Bagger” series to Europe. Which racetracks and which events is – of course – still open. And official Bagger racing teams do not yet exist in Europe. Except in Germany: thanks to the Bagger Party Race Series and the dedicated enthusiast that sparked the idea!
Text & Fotos: Horst Roesler
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