In the first part of this Troy Corser BMW World Superbike Interview, the two-time World Superbike champ and BMW Brand Ambassador revealed how the S1000RR superbike transformed from a mid-pack machine to one capable of race wins. He also commented on the success of Marco Melandri and the struggles of Leon Haslam. In this segment he talks about the future of BMW’s superbike program and fills us in on his thoughts on the state of road racing.
After starting off slow, BMW has quite literally found traction in World Superbike developing a bike capable of winning races. But with the fast pace of development and other manufacturers soon to release updated equipment, will BMW’s current package continue to succeed in the future?
“I’d like to think so,” says Corser. “For sure the bike and the material they have it’s capable because of what they have done in four years to be competitive, winning and leading the championship (Ed. Note: this interview was conducted when Marco Melandri was leading the championship). Effectively they should win the championship both the manufacturer and the rider. To do this in the time that they have done—it can be good and bad. It can be good because that is what they strive for; and it could be bad because effectively it maybe came a bit too easy for them. And this isn’t good because when it comes easy sometimes they slow down a bit and become complacent. This change with the factory and the Italian team is a little bit of a sign of this. It’s probably better that it is out of the factory—because it takes a little bit of pressure off the factory.”
“Next year the BMW team will be the factory team with the Italia team,” continues Corser. “There’s no official team. So I don’t know if it is good or bad. I can see why they’re doing it, because of the cost. I just hope the results keep coming and they keep going forward. Obviously having four bikes on track they will learn a lot. Having just two bikes on track that they can actually get information from is going to be a different story.”
World Superbike continues to close in on MotoGP in terms of popularity due to full grids with many different brands of machinery. The elbow-to-elbow racing doesn’t hurt either.
Few will argue with the current state of World Superbike racing. From the number of brands on the grid, to the skill and ultra-high level of competition, it’s clear that the series is closing in on the popularity of MotoGP.
“For sure the regulations need to be looked at,” muses Corser when questioned on how he’d improve the MotoGP series. “What they can do with the bike because that is what effectively costs money: changing parts and building one-off pieces and non-production based bikes. So for cost effectiveness they really need to get back to more production-based racing with kits and parts that you can buy to make them a different level.”
“The GP format that they run right now—they know it is massive money and for what?” Corser continues. “Nobody is getting a show. No one is learning anything. The development really doesn’t move onto the superbikes because it’s just so different. So if they want to reduce costs and still have all classes of racing; which I think is important—you need to have it. It would be a shame if they said OK, we are going to combine the two but there is only half the amount of rides anyway. There are going to be a lot of riders that are good enough to be racing in the world championship who are either going to be left with no ride, not getting paid to ride, or having to pay to ride. This isn’t the whole idea of racing. So I hope they keep it separate and get rid of the MotoGP format but keep the championship going using World Superbike specification.”
With the introduction of the CRT rules this season, it’s obvious that the MotoGP leaders understand that’s the direction racing is going. However Corser isn’t convinced it’s the right answer:
Corser thinks that more production-based racing is the solution in terms of both cost and to increase the racing show.
“Well, even that is still expensive. You’ve still got to build frames and swingarms and stuff. Obviously the development cost goes up and the guy who’s got more money can have five chassis throughout the year and the other guy can’t. So I think keep it at more of a World Superbike level—a little bit like it used to be in the past. You can have two bikes and they got to have four riders on the team and so on. I think the racing would be really good and for sure the spectacle would be great.”
So if MotoGP becomes World Superbike what does World Superbike become? The answer according to Corser is a lot simpler than you might think:
“For World Superbike they could effectively come up with a new format like a supersport—a bit like 600 stock versus 600 supersport—those differences. So basically have a 1000cc supersport and in the national classes pretty much just production bikes just with very minimal changes. Just exhaust and a little bit of performance so the bikes are faster than standard. And that’s it.”
And this is the exact reason Corser’s 20-plus years of racing experience pay off. Since he only recently retired this season it’s easy to forget that he was banging bars in Australia and the U.S. during the early-‘90s aboard more production-based equipment. This gives him a unique perspective that people including the suits that are supposed to be guiding our sport just don’t have.
“That’s how I started—250 production racing in Australia,” remembers Corser. “Then moved onto 600 production and then onto a superbike. But our superbike was basically a production bike—it really was. We had a little bit of factory support but the bike was more or less a standard bike you’d buy at a dealership. It was great racing. And you can learn a lot. You can actually see the real riders. The riders come to the top, not the equipment.”
Even though Corser had much success racing superbikes with him netting a total of four championships (Australian champ in ’93, AMA Superbike champ in ’94 and two-time World Superbike champ in ’96 and 2005) he still recalls his two years in the GP paddock fondly.
“I rode GP back when they were 500cc two-strokes in 1997 after I won the championship in superbike,” recollects Corser. “It was quite a big shock actually [laughs] because the bike was totally, totally different. I was with the Factory Yamaha team and was teammates with Luca Cadalora. Fortunately I raced a 250 GP bike back in Australia for Yamaha so I had a little bit of two-stroke experience. But the jump straight off the Ducati 916 onto a screaming 500… and it was a screamer it wasn’t a big bang. It took me a little while to re-adjust my style and get used to the bike and team. The testing went quite well. I was always only about a half a second slower than Luca, which for me I was quite happy with that. I actually worked quite well with Luca. He actually taught me a lot that year. How to ride the bike, gearbox selection and all this stuff I never had to worry about.”
“The power was a light switch, it was on or off,” when asked what it was like to ride a 500. “I think back then it was 160 horsepower the 500’s were. The peak power wasn’t that high, but it just got there really fast, basically from 20
horsepower to 160 horsepower so you really had to ride the bike quite differently, a lot of sliding, a lot of spinning which is why guys like [Mick] Doohan and [Wayne] Gardner, [Valentino] Rossi, and all those guys achieved so much in their life because they just knew how to ride those bikes. No electronics, just a throttle and pre-mix fuel and that was it. But that again is where you see the real talent of a rider and that’s how they always got to the top.”
Although close racing in MotoGP week in and week out has become more or less a thing of the past. Back in the day you’d have a handful of guys vying for race wins every weekend. It was that kind of competition that thrilled fans and made guys like Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz god’s in the world of motorcycling.
“The racing was close because the bikes were quite basic,” describes Corser. “It was just the snazzy suspension and a two-stroke engine and you go racing. That’s when racing was at its best. So I think if they look back and use that as a bit of an example it would lower the costs and also make for a better show.”