After three year tenure as a World Superbike racer with the BMW Motorrad team, Troy Corser has retired from competitive racing and is now BMW’s Brand Ambassador.
Troy Corser has been a fixture in the Superbike racing scene for over 20 years. Through all the rule and equipment changes he’s been able to evolve with the sport and cement his standing inside the paddock in part to his ferocious, hard charging riding on track and his gregarious persona off. Although the two-time world champ retired last season he transitioned his three seasons of competition with the BMW Motorrad Superbike team into a Brand Ambassador position to help others understand the true power of the S1000RR sportbike.
Considering the Australian’s lengthy race resume, Corser was a logical choice for BMW when it made its decision to jump in head first to the ultra-competitive World Superbike series with an all-new motorcycle in 2009. As expected, the first couple years the team struggled. Part of the problem was its choice to engineer its own proprietary electronic systems as opposed to outsourcing it like many other teams.
“In the beginning we were building the whole system: from the electronics, traction control and wheelie control—basically everything,” remembers Corser. “Honestly it’s too big of a job. We had enough work just building the engine and chassis.”
“To try and build the electronics as well was very time consuming,” he continues. “Over a period of time we actually developed the system quite quickly because we were doing a lot of testing on track. And when we got it working well there, we transferred it straight to the street bike.”
Troy Corser was instrumental in the development of BMW’s S1000RR sportbike. The motorcycle has gone from a back of the pack machine to one capable of race wins in just three seasons..
Sure, having a presence in the global racing scene and trying to spray champagne every race weekend is important, but the real value of superbike racing is to improve the breed and engineer a superior production bike for everyday motorcyclists. And that’s just what Corser and the team felt they accomplished after it had gotten into the swing of things.
“Obviously the level of the traction when it [traction control] starts to cut is a bit sooner because of the grip (street tires) but the actual activation itself has pretty much come from the race bike,” explains Corser.
In just three short years, how far has the overall S1000RR package evolved? Pretty well according to Troy: “I’ve ridden a lot of different manufacturers and when we first got the S1000 it had a few handling issues. But each year we’ve got it better and better. To be honest right now, this year’s bike is actually really good for a stock street bike, how smooth it is, how well the chassis works. The throttle connection is really excellent too, and it’s definitely the best bike that they have produced so far.”
“They strive for precision and they want to have the best,” elaborates Corser in reference to what it’s like working for an all-German team. “But sometimes it takes a bit of time to get to a decision… whether that’s a German thing or just a BMW company policy, I don’t know. I think this is probably more of how it’s always worked but in general they are really, really good because they have a lot of experience in engineering. Obviously the sportbike market is quite new to them so this is why I try to help as much as possible. To give them a direction; and now we are seeing changes happen more quickly which is really important at the races. If we find something one weekend, ideally we’d like to have it fixed by the next race. Sometimes that’s not possible but other times it is and they seem to be acting quite quickly now so the bike’s development is coming along much faster.”
The S1000RR’s evolution has reached such a high level that it’s now possible for riders to win races as proven by Marco Melandri, the former MotoGP racer able to reach the top steps of the podium six times this year in his first season with the team.
“Marco has come in there and jumped on the bike, which to be honest, was pretty well set-up from what myself and what Leon [Haslam] have done in the past years,” reveals Corser. “There were some new parts that we developed last year which drastically improved the bike, which they fitted this year. So Marco has benefited from that. But at the end of the day someone had to get on the bike, twist the throttle and really make it happen—and that’s exactly what Marco has done.”
“The main thing was the swingarm and the adjustment of the electronics,” shares Corser in regard to the discoveries his team made last season. “With the new swingarm, the bike is a lot more stable and there is a lot more mechanical grip so the electronics don’t have to work quite as hard. Those were the two areas that were holding us back just those three-tenths of a lap. That’s all it really was—very small stuff.”
“That change improved the bike’s handling as well as the
(Top) Corser believes that former teammate Leon Haslam doesn’t have complete faith in his motorcycle—and that’s why he’s struggled the last two seasons. (Center) Marco Melandri has proved the competitiveness of the S1000RR recording six race wins this season. (Below) Troy Corser has ridden for a variety of different brands. Here he is talking to Chris Walker in 2004 while riding for the Carl Fogarty-led Petronas team.
feel of the bike,” says Corser. “So for Marco to come in and effectively bring his whole Yamaha team that he worked with the year before, plus two guys from my side that stayed with the team; but Marco pretty much brought the whole Yamaha team and kept a couple of the German engineers involved and just went to work getting the bike to work. He didn’t have to learn the team or mechanics. For sure this is why the success for him has come a lot quicker than say myself or Leon.”
With Haslam’s final race with the BMW squad occurring this Sunday in France, Corser shares some of the struggles the Englishman had with the S1000RR: “With Leon, I’m not really sure… well I know he is struggling with the engine braking, which unfortunately he had to ride the bike for a long time with the system not working correctly. So he is riding the bike now and still not trusting it and has to change his style. Until he fully trusts the system he is always going to struggle a bit. Because the bike is working how it should now. But he’s not letting the bike work as it wants to with the back shifting. Basically Leon uses the clutch to backshift… like a lot. It’s effectively like pulling in the clutch and just rolling into the corner almost like a two-stroke because he feels there’s not enough engine brake or push. What he’s doing with the clutch actually makes it hard to understand what the problem is… it’s just the way he’s riding. I think this is the main part but also he’s probably struggling a bit with Marco coming in and getting results and winning. Nobody likes getting beat by their teammate; and Leon isn’t a very good loser. He gets a bit hot headed about things and flustered, and that’s definitely not going to help him on the bike. So I think a little bit of that has also come into play for sure. Because the results have come, Marco has sort of been put up on a little bit of a pedestal compared to Leon. But that’s to be expected. If you want to be the number one rider you need to be getting the results.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this exclusive interview in which Corser gives us some insight into the future of BMW’s World Superbike effort, shares some of his most fond racing moments, and explains how he would improve the state of motorcycle road racing worldwide.