Trevor Hedge: So, a successful debut for the new M 1000 RR at Darwin that probably surpassed your expectations and now third in the championship. Have you been able to get out on the new bike again since Darwin to further refine the package and set it up more to your liking?
Glenn Allerton: “To answer that question, no we haven’t been able to do any testing at all since Darwin, kinda did have some plans to do some testing and you know, Winton and Morgan Park were on the cards, but unfortunately with the lockdowns that we suffered, straight away after it, it knocked all that on the head. So we haven’t been able to do any further testing. To answer the first part of what you said, the debut was awesome, couldn’t have asked for a better feeling motorcycle. Behind that story, when we got here, the bike was brand new, as you publicised, we pretty much built the bike from the showroom to the racetrack in two days. My hopes weren’t actually really that high, that we would get it right, I tried not to get too optimistic about it. I kinda had my brain set on the fact we were going to race the old bike and if we turned some laps on the new bike that was great. But it would be very difficult to be better and stronger than the current bike that we had. But from the first lap that I rode thenew bike, I could straight away recognise there was a definite improvement in the bike and the way that it handles and delivers power. It’s a definite step forward.”
Trev: When I interviewed Shane (Kinderis) as he was building the bikes in Darwin he mentioned to me that when you had trialled the M bodywork with its wings on your standard bike the difference was quite stark, particularly regarding stability under brakes. Take us through the differences you found with the wings in that first instance, and try to put it into words that us lemmings might understand.
Allerton: “So the hard part to understand for me at first was that the wings are mounted up on the front of the bike, and when we went to Wakefield and tested out the winged bodywork from the M on the S, I really couldn’t feel that much difference in the front of the bike, but where the wings make the difference was the stability under braking. To me it felt like the load was getting pushed into the bike through the wing, but actually where the effect happened was at the back of the bike. So the back of the bike felt like it stayed down and didn’t want to sit up, or hop all over the place or slide. Wakefield as you know is not a high speed track, but in the fast area down into the first braking zone after the finish line, I could really feel the difference in the braking stability of the bike, because the rear wheel felt like it was being pushed onto the ground, it was a definite advantage in that sense.”
Trev: You couldn’t have predicted that, it must have been almost hard to get your head around that sensation and prove it to yourself.
Allerton: “You can see with your eyes the wings are mounted at the front of the bike and your expectation is that the resulting downforce will be at the front of the bike, but I really didn’t feel like the front of the bike felt that much different. At first I came in and said I don’t really feel any difference, but then as I pushed on and got closer to a decent lap time, I could really feel the rear stability was better. So it was a lot to get my head around. I did about 50 or 60 laps before I could understand where the difference was and where the load was being pushed into the bike. But it was definitely an advantage, I guess going forward you’re probably going to see wings on every 1000 cc motorbike soon. There’s no secret that it definitely makes the bike better.”
Trev: I better bolt some to my tricycle today and go down the driveway. I understand once you modified your style and pushed harder to take the advantages those wings gave you, you actually had to go stiffer fork springs, etc, as you could actually hit the brakes even harder.
Allerton: “To me it felt like I can go further in on the brakes, I can probably brake maybe 10-15 metres further into some corners than I could before. The bike remains so stable even when you snatch the brake really hard and you transfer the weight to the front, it’s like the bike recovers really quickly, because of the aerodynamics. You know at the end of the front straight at Darwin there, we were probably pushing 290-295 km/h, and the confidence that the wings seemed to give me when I grabbed the brakes was unbelievable. The bike just feels like it stops so fast and the stability felt like it wanted to be upright, straight and smooth. So the confidence that came off the back of that was great. I still feel like I haven’t really gotten the most out of it yet, you know, I just need a little bit more time and to change a few more settings. We went stiffer with the fork spring, because we can brake so much harder, but I think we need to go a step further again.”
Trev: We also have new brakes on the M model. Braking performance under race conditions was an early criticism levelled at the BMW Superbike by many. A few years ago BMW moved away from using Brembo calipers to the American made Hayes caliper looking for improvements, along with a Nissin master cylinder. Now for the M bike Nissin calipers are used with zinc-nickel coated steel pistons that have added cooling features integrated into the calipers along with thicker disc rotors. How obvious was the change in this braking power when you first got on the M bike in Darwin?
Allerton: “Brakes have been something that’s been really difficult for us, especially at a track like Darwin or Winton, braking performance has been difficult. Fortunately we’ve, throughout those years, we’ve been able to get the right fluid and the right brake pads to help us in those situations. The biggest issue I’ve found that I had was the lever itself would feel stiff, and then it would feel soft and that consistency was never really there. But with this new bike, the lever feels nice and firm and it doesn’t seem to change throughout the entire race – you know we did two races and a qualifying session on the bike and the front brakes never felt like they were any different the entire time. It was that consistency of feel that as a rider you’re looking for, every time you grab the brake you want to have the same feeling and the same performance, and that was something we lacked on the old bike.”
Trev: And the new swingarm linkage set-up on the M, that is designed for conventional suspension, did that offer a much more linear feel to the rear suspension in compared to the linkage on the normal bikes that was designed for the electronic suspension.
Allerton: “The other linkage that’s designed for the electronic suspension is very difficult to get the spring rate and pre-load and the damping in the right zone, where the bike works. In the racing environment.”
Trev: I understand that linkage setup for the electric setup simply works a conventional shock way too hard, because the travel is so much further… as it has to have that extra travel so the electronic suspension can cope and have time to make those adjustments throughout the stroke, but of course when you’re not running the electronic suspension it then overworks a conventional shock, until you got this new linkage.
Allerton: “You’re exactly right, it displaces a lot more fluid, the old design for the electronic suspension, I believe that’s so the electronic shock has more influence over the performance of the bike, but like you said, when you put a normal racing shock it’s difficult to get a good setting. This new linkage is almost the same as the older style linkage on the early bikes, so we just put a setting in. We had some help from Bitubo that we put a setting in that was similar to the old link, we didn’t touch the shock all weekend, we didn’t really have time, but the rear of the bike felt really good. When you can just put a setting in there that you know works and the spring preload that we ran and the spring rate, was all something we’ve used on the previous bike, the model before and it works just fine. It’s made it a lot easier for the race track that’s for sure.”
Trev: I believe even the standard M engine was more impressive than the race peddled engines in the last gen BMW before?
Allerton: “The top end is unbelievable, I really don’t think we got to show the strength of the bike in the races, because we had some clutch issues, I managed to burn the clutch out on every start that we did, just being too aggressive with the lever. The bike, it’s hard to explain, it feels quite smooth down in the lower range rpm, but for top end power it just keeps pulling all the way down the straight which was really impressive. The engine on the bike just feels like an electric motor, it’s so linear and smooth.”
Trev: So you’ve certainly taken to the system of the bike only fuelling the engine via two cylinders when banked over, before the remaining cylinders come into play when the IMU feels you pick the bike up off the side of the tyre, so just how soft does the bike lay that power down and just how much throttle control is still required on a superbike? At 8/10ths it must be a relative doddle compared to the pre-RbW Superbikes you rode, but when it comes to full 10/10ths race pace is throttle controle anywhere near as important as it once was? It seems all the gains to be made these days for a competitive lap time is on corner entry, and then for race distance fine tuning the suspension and your riding style around the limits of tyre longevity. Even with the short race distances in Australia that still seems to be quite critical.
Allerton: “It has changed a lot, but as a rider you’re always looking for that throttle connection and feeling to be something that’s hooked up to you, and the ability to push the motorcycle, right on the edge. Without the feeling that the throttle is in your hands, it’s very difficult to achieve that, you feel like there’s something not right and, for me, I always find that if something doesn’t feel right, it’s hard to push to that last tenth. The split throttle system that you’re talking about, where two cylinders are fuelling and the other two aren’t, it’s a little more complicated than the way you explained it. What’s happening is that the ECU is controlling two of the cylinders and my hand is controlling the other two cylinders, while the bank is banked over and it’s called split throttles. What that does – I feel – is it just changes the firing order and makes it feel like a twin cylinder, or the cross-plane crank feel that the Yamaha had, a very similar feel in the chain and the way that the chain pull works, and the firing into the rear tyre. It’s to try and produce grip, and it’s definitely picked up grip when we had those split throttles. They were a little difficult to use at first, as the throttle feel wasn’t there, but now BMW have got some updates where the throttle feel in your hand to the rear tyre is really close and that split throttle feature just seems to give the bike more forward drive, even if the tyre is spinning a little bit and the tyre is worn out, it still gives you grip and drives the bike forward. It definitely helps the longevity of the tyre, especially at the end of the race, I always feel like I’m making time up on the guys in front of me as I’ve got tyre life on my side. The technology has jumped forward and you kinda got to get your head around that there’s some systems in there that are designed to help you, but when you’re riding right on the edge, you still have to have that feel with the rear tyre and the throttle in your hand.”
Trev: Are you adjusting the traction control during the race?
Allerton: “I don’t personally, I can adjust the engine brake map, which is something we do when we practice and test and qualify to try and get the engine brake rolling into the corners about right, but once we get into the race situation we come up with two strategies. I’m able to adjust traction individually or just engine brake individually if I chose, but once we get into a race scenario, Shane and I pre-set two different maps, so we have Dry 1 and Dry 2. Dry 1 will be all-out power as fast as we can and maybe let the tyre spin quite a lot. Dry 2 will be a map featuring a little bit more traction control if the tyre is worn and we are looking for grip. When I’m in a race situation I’ll only toggle between Dry 1 and Dry 2 depending on how much grip I’ve got on the bike and if I need that extra bit of power, or trying to conserve the tyre.”
Trev: This week the Wakefield Park round that was scheduled for October was cancelled. Depending on how the plague pans out over the next couple of months, we still have three rounds scheduled to be run, two at Phillip Island and one at The Bend. We missed the originally scheduled season opener at Phillip Island, and Morgan Park was cancelled, but we have had three points-scoring rounds for Superbike so far this year. I am pretty sure I can remember some years where we had only five rounds of the Australian Superbike Championship in normal years, thus if we do get those three scheduled rounds that are remaining we could potentially still have a six-round championship. If however those rounds are unable to be held, do you think that the championship should still be awarded off the back of the three rounds that did get held?
Allerton: “It’s not really up to me to say whether it should or it shouldn’t, I feel like we’ve all had our chance to go out and have a shot at it, people argue for and against it. I guess it is what it is, last year it got cut short and we awarded championships to people. I feel like last year Wayne deserved to be the champion – he did ride really well and this year he is riding well again – it’s really sad to see that we’re not going to race at Wakefield as it’s one of my stronger tracks, I managed to get into the 56s there at the start of this year. Unfortunately I had an accident and hurt my neck that hampered me a bit, but with this new bike I’m confident we can go even faster again. So that’s a disappointment we aren’t going to Wakefield again, as it would be a strong round for us. I don’t like our chances of getting to South Australia, I just feel like it’s going to be too hard, to get all these New South Welshman through the border, as well as Queenslanders, I feel like that’s a optimistic race for us to think we are going to go and do. But it would be great to get at least two more, if we can get two more rounds in before the year is out and we can crown a champion and a top three out of that, it’d be really good and better than last year. Then we can move on, and hopefully have some normally moving into 2022.”
Trev: With the down-time in racing and general track and testing activity, what is Glenn Allerton keeping himself busy with right now?
Allerton: “I’ve actually kind of needed it, like the first Covid helped me with recovery, and I felt like I have gotten strong because of it. It’s no secret I’ve had a lot of injuries in the past 3-4 years,. I keep myself busy cycling and mountain biking, during this lockdown, but I am still allowed to run my business, doing the motorcycle suspension. The only downside is that the track is closed at Eastern Creek, and I’m normally at every track day helping punters out with their bikes, setting up their suspension to get them going and keep them safe so they can enjoy their track day. So it sucks we can’t be at the track, working in the track environment. I really miss the community of the track days and racing. I miss the community of bike racers. It’s just a good bunch of people, for me not much has changed really. I’m training a little bit more, and I’ve probably got a little bit less work than I had before, but I’ve still got work nonetheless. I’m just riding this thing out and waiting till 11 o’clock every day and unfortunately they’ve been going up and up and up lately. So I’m just looking forward to the day when the numbers come down and the restrictions release, and we can go back to some normality and bike racing.”
Trev: Hopefully I get to see you at a race track before this year is out, and perhaps have a beer with you at an after-party. Fingers crossed.
Allerton: “That’d be really awesome, I was hoping that after party was going to be at Wakefield Park after I win a couple of races, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen now, but it’ll be great to catch up at a race track soon.”
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