Glenn Allerton talks Le Mans 24 Hour with Ride Rage Radio

RRR: Glenn Allerton, congratulations on being selected to ride for the Penz13 team and second of all for the absolutely unbelievable result that you and the team obtained at the Le Mans 24 Hour, you’ve got to be over the moon.

Glenn: “Yeah, thanks Phil. Yeah, obviously it was good to just get to the finish in a race like that, I don’t think anything can prepare you for how tough a slog it is, especially through the night, when it’s dark and you start to feel tired and you’ve got to just keep pushing on. And you really don’t get a lot of time off the bike, it feels like it goes so fast and you’re back on the bike again. And yeah, for anybody that’s actually competed in the 24 Hour, I’ve got a lot of respect for them, because if you can make it to the end in one piece, you’ve done well.”

RRR: And the other thing is though too Glenn that it would be fair to say that of the three riders in the team, you were by far the most inexperienced in World Endurance terms, with both your teammate Sylvian Barrier and Jason Pridmore having done quite a few races previously.

Glenn: “Both of them have a lot of experience and the team, we were riding a bike in Open Class, which means that you can run whatever you want and our bike itself wasn’t homologated to race as a superbike, so it was a development bike for BMW and the whole time the team were just saying, ‘We want to use this as a test to develop the bike and make it good for next year, for the 2015 model.’

But Sylvian had other ideas, he didn’t want to just ride around and he took the lead at the start and we actually had a 36 second lead in the first stint off the start and then unfortunately he ran out of fuel, because the fuel light didn’t work. And with that bike they put in an extra big starter motor and an extra big battery on the bike, so if you do run out of fuel, you just put the bike in sixth gear and hold the starter button on and you ride it back on the starter motor. And now that’s what he had to do and he got it back to the pits and then we dropped a couple of laps from there and then we had lots of problems throughout the race, but I’m sure everybody has a story in the race of problems that went on for them, extended pit stops and stuff.

So we finished a fair way off the leaders, but our overall pace was good enough to win the race, but it’s always exciting to try and go and win a race and for me, we were pushing on as hard as we could and it was just the only problem that happened was the fact that we had some problems with pit stops and the gear lever broke and then rear brake pads were gone and they couldn’t get any pads into the back of the bike, so disconnected the rear brake. But like I said, everybody in that race would have had a story to tell.”

RRR: The other thing is though too that you wouldn’t have done a race anything like that distance before, and to be able to keep coming back every third hour and putting in stints of I’m guessing about 45 to 50 minutes at a time, at that sort of pace for 24 hours is a massive effort not only physically, but also mentally as well.

Glenn: “Yeah, look, it was tough, because the bike was a new bike and it had teething problems, so along this run that I’ve put together in the practice sessions and qualifying was like four laps, so when the race started and they handed the bike to me, at the end of that first stint I was in a bit of shock, because like you said, it was like 50 minutes of pushing as hard as you could and I was just in a race of the lap timer, because we had a lap timer on the bike, and I was trying to go faster and faster throughout the whole stint.

“And then when I got off the bike the first time, I thought, ‘I’m rooted, I can’t go on.’

“And then they basically want you to be ready and back in the pit box when the rider before you goes, so you get about another 50 minutes to get your gear off, get something to eat and start getting everything that you were just wearing drying with fans and stuff, get into another set of gear and then as the rider before you starts his stint, they want you in the box in case something goes wrong.

“So the chance to get sleep is almost impossible. But the team had a couple of physios there that would give us a bit of a massage, I always get problems with the back of my knee, where I’ve had surgery, and they were rubbing my knee and putting some stuff and then they strapped my knee, which made it a lot easier.

“It got really tough there at one point, because it started to rain at about 3 AM and hadn’t ridden the bike on wets. But I went out there and the bike had a really good feel and I managed to get us about three laps back throughout that stint and I’m pretty sure I was the fastest on track by about three seconds a lap, so that was a really good stint for me in the wet. So yeah, when I came back and the team said, ‘You were the fastest on track the whole session and you got us three laps back on the leaders,’ that was something that spurred me on to keep going.

“And you know you go through a range of emotions where you don’t want to go on anymore and you just want to stop, but when the sun comes back up again it makes it a lot easier and you can keep pushing and I was fortunate enough to be on the bike at the finish, and I actually caught the leaders and nobody wanted to go past the SERT Suzuki at the end, because they were leading the race, so me and GMT guys were behind the SERT bike and we rode around for the last three or four laps all together, just playing around, doing wheelies, which was really good and the crowd was into it. And the crowd invaded the track after the race ended and it was just an awesome atmosphere.”

RRR: Now I know you signed a confidentiality agreement, because as you said, Glenn, the bike is a development bike for what BMW is planning to incorporate into race and road bikes next year, but how much different was it to the bike that you rode at the beginning of the year, at the first round of the World Superbike Championships, where you actually were filling for an injured Sylvian Barrier, your teammate on that 24 hour weekend.

Glenn: “It was a lot different. Pretty much the only thing that was the same from that bike to the bike that I rode at Le Mans was probably just the tyres and the front fork. Yeah, everything else was different and new and then like you said I I can’t go into the details of what was different about that bike, but it was pretty special. And I’m not sure that everything that was on that bike is going to make it into production, because it had some really trick special parts on it, and it was just a privilege to be able to go there and ride the bike. And yeah, I’m pretty excited about how good that bike is and for anybody who wants to buy a trick bike next year, that BMW is going to be a nice machine.”

RRR: Now the effort at the 24 hour, Glenn, obviously you rode very well. Has there been some talk now about maybe if there is an official BMW ride next year with the Penz13 team that you may be in consideration for that or is it too early to start speculating about that sort of stuff?

Glenn: “I think it’s too early. They had two teams going when I was there. So they had a Superstock team as well, who they were trying to win the Championship, but they ran into a lot of problems early on with electrics, and it really ruined their race, because they were fast. But from what I could see by lap times, they had some good riders there, so I mean Sylvian Barrier, he was the fastest there and then really surprsied by Jason Pridmore was pretty much, he matched everything that I could do and I was impressed because when it got down to the slog and the hard grind at 5 AM and you’re pushing as hard as you can, he was matching the times that I was matching, it was pretty good for a 44 year old guy.   I sort of wanted to be the fastest on the team, as you do, but he was matching everything that I could do, so I was pretty impressed. But the other Superstock team had some fast riders on it as well, so… I mean, it would be great, I talked to him a little bit about it, but as far as I know nothing’s set in stone yet, but I’d love to go and do it again, even if it was with a different team, I’d still like to go and have a go, because yeah, it’s just a challenge.

“At the end of it you get a sense of satisfaction just to have finished and the fact that I got to stand on the podium and get a trophy was just unbelievable, and I was just happy to finish the race and I think that the atmosphere and the crowd there was just something that I’ve never seen before. I’ve been to Bathurst before, and it’s similar, but on a larger scale. The camp grounds were just absolutely huge,  I got there on Tuesday and the camp grounds were already full and by Wednesday night, we were staying about 5 km away from the circuit and you can hear at night just motorbikes revving on the limiter in the camp grounds and people are partying and just the atmosphere at the start of the race is something I’ve never seen before. As far as I know there’s about 180,000 people that had gone into the place and when it was dark at night, the top end of the track is right near the camp grounds and they’ve all got fires going and they’re partying. You come roaring up to the top end of the track and you can’t see through from all the fog of all the smoke from all those campfires. It’s just a really good atmosphere, like similar to something like Phillip Island when Moto GP is on, where just everybody’s there on their bikes and they’re all enthusiastic about racing and just love being a part of it and yeah, it was something that I really enjoyed and I just loved the atmosphere.”

RRR: And I suppose the other thing too is that your familiarity with the BMW motorcycle even though you said it was a whole lot different, and the Pirelli tyres and everything, were you able to contribute to the setup of the bike and that as well or was it pretty much Sylvian’s settings and everyone had to get used to riding with those?

Glenn: “No, there was quite a few instances throughout practice and qualifying where I made suggestions on what I felt was going on, and Sylvian agreed with me, and then after a while a few of my suggestions on which path we should go down, they actually used it and they came good. So Sylvian was probably really the go-to guy throughout that part of the race meeting, because he was fast on a new tyre and he qualified really well for us, the biggest problem, the thing that held us back in qualifying was actually my run in qualifying, because when I actually got to have a go in qualifying on my run, we had a problem, an electrical problem with the bike and then by the time we’d fixed it, I literally only had done one lap, which was way off the pace, because the bike wouldn’t rev out properly and then I got pretty much one lap in and that was it. So at that point all of Sylvian’s feedback was what they were looking for, but the feeling between me chasing and Sylvian was all identical, which was really good, the team really liked the fact that every bit of feedback we gave was almost the same for all of us, we all agreed on the same issues that the bike had. And as the weekend went on, the bike just got better and better, which was great.”

RRR: I’m sure it was an unbelievable experience, Glenn. It’s been great to hear from you about how good it was and I can’t wait to catch up with you at Phillip Island where you’ll be back on board your local mount and fighting for the second round of the Phillip Island Championship.

Glenn: “I’m really looking forward to Phillip Island MotoGP too, because like I said that atmosphere that you get at something like Moto GP and Le Mans is something that you just don’t forget, and I think it’s why we all love motorcycles so much, because everybody loves it and we all have a good time and I can’t wait to get there.”

Le Mans 24 Hour 2014 - Jason Pridmore - Sylvain Barrier - Glenn Allerton
Le Mans 24 Hour 2014 – Jason Pridmore – Sylvain Barrier – Glenn Allerton

FIM Endurance World Championship – Le Mans 24 Hours Race Results 2014

  1. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team | Phillipe – Delhalle – Nigon | 812 laps
  2. Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin | Checa – Foray – Gines | 2 laps
  3. Monster Energy Yamaha YART | Parkes – Laverty – Morais | 8 laps
  4. Qatar Endurance Racing Team | West – Cudlin – Al Naimi | 10 laps (First Superstock category machine home)
  5. Junior Team LMS Suzuki | Guittet – Masson – Black | 12 laps
  6. National Motos | Junod – Tizon – Four | 18 laps
  7. Penz 13 Racing Team BMW | Pridmore – Barrier – Allerton | 20 laps (First Open category machine home)
  8. R2CL Suzuki | Jones – Martin – Giabbani | 22 laps

Le Mans 24 Hour 2014 Podium

 Advert Moto National Win one of five Contour Action Cameras
Advert Moto National Win one of five Contour Action Cameras