Soichiro Honda once said that “racing improves the breed,” and history is filled with inventions, components, and parts that were first proven on the racetrack before they were added to the assembly line and became original equipment on motor vehicles offered for sale to the general public.
Steve Scheibe understands as well as anyone that racing improves the breed. Scheibe is not only the team owner of Scheibe Racing, which competes in the MotoAmerica Superbike class, but he is also a consultant for Hayes Performance Systems, the Mequon, Milwaukee-based company that develops and manufactures brake systems and components for all sorts of vehicles, from mountain bikes, to snowmobiles, to construction equipment, to military applications and everything in-between.
We’ve already chronicled Scheibe’s exploits as the head of Harley-Davidson’s road racing department and its efforts in campaigning the VR1000 in mid-1990s AMA professional road racing.
Scheibe returned to road racing when the MotoAmerica era began, and he has been racing a BMW S 1000 RR in the series for the past several years. And, while winning races has been his primary mission, he’s also had an ulterior motive: to development Hayes brake components for road racing competition and, ultimately, for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) use.
While that mission continues unabated, Hayes and Scheibe collectively reached a milestone when BMW launched their 2019 GS1250 and S 1000 RR literbikes with Hayes-sourced front brakes as original equipment on both motorcycles.
To get the scoop on how it all happened, we had a conversation with Steve Scheibe, and we learned a lot:
Steve, let’s talk about your situation with Hayes Performance Systems. Specifically, your relationship with them, how that came to be, and how you are the team owner of Scheibe Racing but you also work for Hayes.
Well, a friend of mine was the vice president of engineering at Hayes Performance Systems. A good friend. We were snowmobile buddies and so forth. They had been trying to get into the motorcycle performance market, and they had some problems. He knew my Superbike background, gave me a call, and said, “Hey, do you want to take a look at this racing application that we’re working on and see what you think?” I said, “Sure.” I was familiar Hayes brakes, but I never got to know them personally. When I worked for Harley-Davidson, I knew some of their models were equipped with Hayes brakes, but I never knew Hayes personally. So I went there and looked at the brakes, and I could see that there were a couple of simple things that could be improved immediately. So we did that, and then, we began a long period of looking at their components and figuring out what the subtle differences were and how that compared with the competitors. I had used a lot of brakes in the past and done a lot with brakes but I’d never actually taken the calipers apart to get into the little stuff from an engineering point of view. At first glance, it doesn’t look very complicated because there are only about 11 individual parts in a brake caliper. But the key is to figure out how to get a caliper to work right under all conditions and then be able to be manufactured in quantity and with consistent results. So that process took quite a while. We did a lot of the development. We bought a 2012 S 1000 RR, and we did some track testing with the initial parts. Then winter came, and we ended up working on one of the factory Arctic Cat race teams and with their ten-time national champion Tucker Hibbert. They have an incredibly difficult brake application because it’s just one little rear brake disc on a 450-pound machine with 150 horsepower. They ride both the throttle and brake at the same time. So we learned a lot about heat cycling and heat management. That work complemented what we needed to learn for the Superbike.
I started Scheibe Racing just as a consulting kind of thing after I left Harley-Davidson in 2001. I did some work with KTM, and I also did some work with Yamaha when they introduced their R1 four-stroke snowmobile. So Scheibe Racing has been around for a long time. The Hayes thing started out really small, but it grew because, when you learn something, you realize that you have to continue learning more and more. So I was continuously learning more and going deeper and learning more about the competitors.
Then, when MotoAmerica started in 2015, that’s right when we were getting a brake caliper that we were confident in, on the SnoCross side of our work with Hayes. And we had the 2012 BMW S 1000 RR that we rode during track days at Road America, and also at Blackhawk Farms, to get the caliper performance where we wanted it. Then, we had really done enough from my point of view, and the final step was to see how the brakes would perform while racing in a national championship. I knew that the S 1000 RR was capable of winning the Superstock World Championship. So, that’s why I went to MotoAmerica. I put Hayes calipers on our BMW S 1000 RR, and we went racing in Superstock 1000 because that’s the class where MotoAmerica would allow us to change the brake calipers.
In 2017, MotoAmerica separated Superstock 1000 and Superbike. So from my point of view, we were done with getting our feet on the ground, and I still had to know that the calipers could win and operate in the top five in the national championship. So I bought a set of Ohlins forks, and we went Superbike racing. We were just outside the top ten a lot in the beginning, and then eventually, we worked our way up.
Westby Racing ran Hayes brake calipers on their bike a couple of years ago, too, didn’t they?
Yes. The way that started was Sylvain Barrier was our rider at the beginning of 2017. He had mixed results at COTA, which was round one of the championship that year. We had just received racing kit electronics for the bike, and we actually brought them to COTA in a suitcase. They were brand-new to us, and they were totally different from the stock BMW electronics. So it took us a bit of time just to get up to speed, and we couldn’t read any of the data. Then, at Road Atlanta, Barrier unfortunately fell and was injured.
At that point, I knew that the calipers were working well. Westby had been unhappy with the brake calipers that they were using at the time. So, to fulfill my contract with Hayes and continue the mission, the caliper work had to continue, even if they weren’t on my bike.
I gave them to (Westby Racing team manager) Chuck (Giacchetto), and he put them on Mathew Scholtz’s bike. Well, Mat went out and won the Superstock race with Hayes calipers on his Yamaha. And that was his very first MotoAmerica race win. Mat was very appreciative of that and said the additional performance of the Hayes brakes enabled him to do that. So right there, we proved that Hayes brakes can help win a Superstock race.
Mat and Westby Racing continued to use those calipers throughout the rest of the season. They were right off my BMW. I had these nice BMW-blue Hayes calipers on my bike, and that’s all I had to give them. Westby Racing used them for the rest of the year. They had BMW-blue calipers on their Yamaha, and it became kind of a trademark. At the very last race of the year, Mat became the first Superstock 1000 rider to win a Superbike race. So, all told, those Hayes calipers helped win a Superstock 1000 race and a Superstock 1000 Championship, plus they also won a Superbike race. And, as for my contract with Hayes, it was “mission accomplished.”
It seems like there were a lot of things that just fell into place. Your work with Hayes coincided with the start of MotoAmerica. Then, there was the situation with Barrier. It was terrible, obviously, that he got hurt, but that facilitated an opportunity where you were able to provide Hayes brake calipers to Westby Racing and continue your mission. It’s kind of interesting how the whole thing progressed. Things came together at exactly the right time, didn’t they?
Yes, but I had a vision for it. I could see it happening. In the end, you kind of look around and see where there are opportunities, and then you go and make the most of them.
Right, but you obviously had no way of knowing, “If I give these Hayes calipers to Westby Racing, they’re going to end up winning a Superstock 1000 race, a Superbike race, and a Superstock 1000 Championship.” That was pretty fortuitous, wouldn’t you say?
Yeah, it was, but I also recognized at the time that the Yamaha electronics worked better than the dealer kit electronics that I had on my BMW. Barrier, from my point of view, may or may not have been at a competitive level at that particular time. I’m not sure, and he got hurt before we could find out. But, I knew our bike wasn’t where it needed to be. So, I knew that I could get further up the road with Hayes if I could put their calipers on the Yamaha with Mathew Scholtz riding it.
Let’s talk about Hayes as a company. How long have they existed and also, how long have they been involved in the powersports industry?
They’ve been in powersports since 1985 or 1986. They were original equipment on production Harley-Davidsons in 1985, I think. They’ve actually been a brake company since, I think, 1946…somewhere in there. I think they got their start in go-karts. They’re an old company. They were once part of a company called Kelsey-Hayes, which was the biggest American car parts manufacturer in the world until they almost went bankrupt. Hayes emerged from a reorganization of what was once Kelsey-Hayes.
\Prior to 1985 or 1986, Harley was using a different manufacturer for their OEM brakes, and they wanted to make an improvement to their production bikes’ braking performance. So they established a relationship with Hayes. Hayes brakes were OEM on all of the production Harley-Davidson models up through 2003. I should know all this better than I do, so it’s best to refer to the Hayes’ Website (https://hayesperformance.com) for the full story.
What led to your decision to race a BMW? Was it because of Hayes?
I’ve been driving nothing but BMW cars for a very long time. I like their engineering and their company philosophy. I’m very familiar with the BMW parts system in the cars and just the whole BMW way of doing things. I currently own four BMW cars right now, and they’re all older, so I need to work on them all the time, which has been good for me. I also knew that Hayes’ target OEM manufacturer was BMW. Plus, the only bike that I was really interested in riding or racing was the BMW because nobody has made it successful yet in road racing on a national championship level here in the U.S.
I’m not a customer-racing kind of guy where you just go and get a YEC race kit, put it on a Yamaha, and then go talk to all the other guys in the paddock, find the settings, and go racing. I needed the challenge of an unsolved mystery, and BMW had all the potential. I knew the engine was outstanding from a quality point of view. I saw no reason why it couldn’t be successful other than that there wasn’t enough development here in the U.S. for whatever reason. So my personal interest was to get familiar with the BMW, get closer to understanding the problems that needed to be solved and, ultimately, solve them. BMW makes an excellent motorcycle, but there was just a little something missing. That interested me.
Your last name is German, isn’t it?
Yes, soI guess it adds up in some ways, doesn’t it? The other thing is, in my working career, I traveled a lot to Europe. I’ve never been to Asia still to this day. I got to know Europe from my first job out of college. I was in Italy a lot working at Maserati for Chrysler. So I’ve been to Europe repeatedly for work for different reasons. I used to go to the EICMA trade show in Italy for Harley. Eventually, I worked for KTM in Austria. I’d go to Le Mans in France. I was in England a lot for Formula 1 stuff when I worked for Harley. I still stop in England and see friends on the way home in London when I leave there. So I just know Europe. BMW is an intriguing company to me because it has so much capability, so much history. They build excellent products.
So you did what you were supposed to do for Hayes, which was to turn their brakes into motorcycle road racing championship winners.
Yes, but on the Westby Racing bike, I couldn’t measure data. The only measurable outcome was that Mathew won the race and said, “I really like the brakes.” I still needed to collect data, like what the actual temperatures and duty cycles are of the calipers and components. With the BMW, when we’re on the track, we are constantly measuring the rotor temperatures, caliper temperatures, lever travel, and so forth so we can better understand the conditions in racing situations. You can imagine the difference in brake temperature between the guy at the top and the guy a second or three seconds off the pace. So the last part where you really pick up lap time is when you get into the corners deeper and get on the brakes hard right to the apex. You have to run up front to be able to really understand how components perform, so we’re aspiring to do that. All the riders have done a good job with that. (Former Scheibe Racing team rider) Steve (Rapp) did a good job. He’s a very skilled rider. (Former team rider) Jason (DiSalvo) was a very hard braker. (Former team rider) Cory (West) was also a very hard braker. The temperatures were very high. We got to experience different riders doing different things to kind of see what’s normal, what a normal range is for different people. But we still needed to be further up. (Former team rider) Danny (Eslick) certainly brought that for us last year, running closer to the front, and running good lap times.
We were getting the laps up to speed and were able to develop numbers that we were happy with for making our brakes perform at the highest levels. Those same measurements, philosophies, and most of the parts went into production for use on the 2019 BMW S 1000 RR and R 1250 GS. The only thing that’s really different is the housing itself. Literally, I can take the brake pads and all of the inside pieces and parts of our current Hayes caliper that Jake Gagne is racing and install them on a production 2019 BMW S 1000 RR and R 1250 GS. They’re essentially the same parts.
So, let’s be clear with this. The brand-new, high-spec, 2019 S 1000 RR, the BMW literbike that’s a marvel of engineering and is a big step up from the bike that you’re currently racing, is equipped with Hayes brakes that are installed right at the BMW factory?
That’s pretty amazing.
That’s what we’ve been working on since we started racing in MotoAmerica.
On the S 1000 R streetbike that you had in the paddock at COTA – your “test mule,” so to speak – can you explain what all that electronic stuff is that’s mounted on top of the fuel tank?
That’s the 2D measurement equipment. We use that equipment to measure the temperatures of lots of different Hayes brake components on that bike. We’re testing rotors. We’re testing master cylinders. That’s our test bike, and it’s not just for testing calipers. We’re actually doing a lot of work right now on rotors. It’s got Hayes rear brakes on it, too. Even the rear brakes that are on Jake’s Superbike are on that test bike. That’s how we test them. We ride it and make sure it works right and also measure temperatures. Everything gets tested in a lab and then on that bike before it goes on the Superbike.
Did you have the test bike at COTA so you could showcase the work you’re doing for Hayes and, ultimately, BMW?
No, not at all. It’s still winter back home (in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), and there’s still a lot of snow. It’s cold. So it’s hard for us to test before the season. We put the test bike in the trailer and brought it down here to ride. We’re also going to ride it at VIR to do some disc brake evaluation. We’re getting new rotor parts almost continuously, so we put them on the bike and we go out and ride it to measure temperatures and send the data back to the lab. It’s all part of the development process.
But that is so different than any other team. Even the two factory racing teams competing in MotoAmerica don’t get involved in component testing, especially at the level you’re doing it. Among the MotoAmerica teams, you’re the only team that’s doing that level of testing, not only in racing conditions, but also on a test bike.
Yes, but the main goal is that we want to win a championship, so what does that take? What does a Superbike rider need to win a race? Let’s go find out. What do our competitors have and what do they do? What’s our plan? So then, you measure things and that’s the tricky part. It takes time to figure out what actually are the key parts of brake performance. It’s different in different areas. The European tracks are faster and you have harder braking zones, so temperature is more of a problem for them. We’re maybe on the side of our tires more. Maybe we’re trail-braking more so you need better feel from the brakes. You’ve got to factor in some of those differences. At the end of the day you’re after a good feel and a stable lever position throughout the race, with enough power. That’s what you need and it’s hard to get to that point. What does it take? You learn after a while that brake rotors cup, so you’ve got to prevent the rotors from cupping. What makes them cup? You’ve got to learn about that. You have to learn about brake pads. They bend. Different pad formulations perform differently, and so forth. Or heat transfer, how much heat is transferring to different piston materials? There’s a lot to it.
There’s no other crew chief and no other team in the MotoAmerica paddock that’s doing that.
I used to do that with the entire bike when I was working on the Harley VR1000 project.
That’s why I like racing the BMW because I still have to try to figure out how to make it go fast since there isn’t a formula of “do this and it goes fast.” I’m learning about the electronics of it. With the BMW, you’re on your own. You’re the first man in, and I like that. It’s like working with the whole bike again at a higher level like I did on the Harley VR1000.
There is one very important distinction that I really want to be clear on, though. We are never testing on a MotoAmerica racetrack in a national championship something that we haven’t already thoroughly tested in a lab, and on a test bike in closed and carefully monitored conditions. Everything we put on the Superbike has been exhaustively tested. It’s been designed. It’s been through an internal Hayes system. It’s been durability tested. Some of these calipers have been tested for a million cycles and pressure applications, very high pressure applications, to make sure that they don’t crack, break, leak, or anything like that. We have our own internal criteria that these components must go through first. That and we test them on a closed track, on the test bike. We’ll go ride the Road America go-kart track, for example, and get the brakes really hot, ride around in a safe environment to make sure that everything we thought would happen does happen. Then, we do track testing, which is what we’re doing at VIR. Then, we already know they’re going to work. On the Superbike, we’re collecting data to make sure that they’re operating exactly as we expected. That’s really what we’re doing.
We get that. We get the fact that you’re not putting these crazy contraptions on a Superbike and going out and saying, “I don’t know if it’s going to work, but let’s send Jake into a corner and find out.” Obviously it’s well-proven before it gets to that point, but what you’re doing compared with other teams, it’s still quite a distinction, Steve.
I guess that’s true, but I’m an engineer first so, what we’re doing at Scheibe Racing is second nature to me even though it may be different from what the other teams are doing.