Racing series don't just pick their safety cars at random, or use just whatever car is lying around. These days the car that sets the pace at the front of the pack is typically provided through consideration by a sponsor. In the MotoGP series, that's BMW and its M division, which have served up the Official Car of MotoGP since 1999. What you're looking at is the latest, and it packs some innovative technology on board.
Aside from the matte black wrap with BMW's iconic striped livery, upgraded aero kit, retrofitted interior and emergency equipment, this BMW M4 coupe packs a new injection system under the hood. Only instead of injecting fuel, it injects water into the combustion chamber – something that wouldn't usually be recommended, but BMW insists actually aids in the combustion process.
The idea is that the temperature of the air being mixed with the fuel inside the engine is usually hotter than ideal, so the system injects a fine mist of water into the collector in order to reduce the air's temperature... sort of like one of those hydrating misters at an amusement park or outdoor mall, but in an even hotter environment. The system brings the temperature of the air down to a more optimal temperature, helping it combust better.
The process is said to yield a number of positive effects. For one, it reduces knocking. For another, it can make more out of lower-octane fuel where higher octane isn't available. It also can control the adverse effects of higher ambient temperature on the combustion process. But most of all, it increases output and reduce fuel consumption by around eight percent.
Whether that eight percent is worth the added weight of the system – particularly with water pump and a 1.3-gallon tank in the trunk – is up for debate. But we'd imagine that the Bavarian engineers have weighed very carefully. Of course there's also the matter of refilling the water tank, which BMW says would be carried out whenever the safety car is refueled, but in real-world conditions would only necessitate attention once every five top-ups at the gas station.
By now you might have guessed that BMW probably didn't develop this system just for the MotoGP safety car, and isn't planning on keeping it confined to the racetrack. Instead it's being tested and demonstrated on the safety car before being rolled out on production models in the future. Since the manufacturer says it can optimize the system for performance or for economy, we wouldn't expect it to be implemented only on performance models, either.
Read the press release here; http://www.autoblog.com/2015/02/13/bmw-reveals-m4-safety-car-with-innovating-water-injection-system/