NextGen Motorsports BMW Interview
Trev chats with NextGen BMW tech guru Shane Kinderis
Images by Russell Colvin
Trevor Hedge, MCNews.com.au: How’s it been going with your recent tests and the St George Club racing in NSW recently?
Shane Kinderis: “Really good, obviously we’ve been up there doing a little bit of testing and things and I think we’ve come a long way from where we were. The bike is night and day better than anything we’ve had before, and I am so disappointed we’re not racing as I think we’ve got something that we are really excited to race.”
Trev: You said you had some software updates recently, to get independent control of the throttle bodies?
Shane: “The software update came through and we were on our way – literally loading the trailer for Winton to go testing – and it came up on my computer that there was a new software update available, this was four weeks, five weeks ago so when we did a couple of Winton tests, we put that in the bike when we were at the test. So we did Winton, we’d been there previously using the combined throttles, so I said let’s throw it on and test it. Glen said, ‘Ah nah, they never work’, he pretty much hated the previous versions of the split throttles, and the beauty of it now we’ve got different maps, different modes, and Glenn can jump from split throttle to combined throttles on the fly. So he pushed the button and you could hear it, all of a sudden it sounded more like a crossplane crank Yamaha out on the racetrack, especially at Winton, he came back in and said holy shit what have you done. That is unbelievable. (Split throttles means that the ECU is working the throttle bodies independent of each other with different openings rather than as a matched set)
“So we spent the day working on it and we just went faster and faster and faster. I think we dropped in to the high 1m20s at the end. It was just a winters day, nothing special in the track conditions, and he was picking up the throttle that early in the last corner I just kept waiting him to run fair straight into the fence. It just frightened me how easily he could pick it up. Normally you hear them when they pick it up, and they’ve apexed already, but he’s starting to pick it up before the apex and you can hear the thing just dropping onto two cylinders, powers along, and then as soon as it starts to come upright, two, three, four, and away it goes. Between two and four it also spark cuts, it sounds real rugged. It’s hard to explain, but it sounds like a proper World Superbike.
“It’s just that software, obviously the dribble down from WSBK to us took longer than we thought. But getting access to what they have has always been a BMW thing. Whatever they have you can buy, anybody can buy it, there’s no secrets, if you want a factory engine they’ll sell you a factory engine. If you want anything from the factory they’ll sell it to you. For our land speed project in America I asked them for the best engine you guys can put together. I wanted the bottom end out of the original Troy Corser era engine, the 2010, the one that had a million horsepower and was un-ridable, I wanted that cylinder head, that camshaft, but I needed a custom gearbox, with extra long gears, custom primary gear sets, so we could run 270 odd mile an hour. ‘Yea no worries, here’s the invoice, you pay you can have it,’ they said.
“So they are really good, their technology is…. I’m fortunate enough to have a good working relationship with Mark Bongers (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director) and Peter Lauche (BMW WorldSBK Electronics Engineer) who does all the electronics, so I know those guys and that helps being able to ring up. We’ve had a few debates over the split throttles and that previously, but as I said, I think something got misread there and it’s been fixed now in this latest update.“
Trev: “If he’s getting on the throttle that early and it is driving so smoothly, that must be half the work of the shock set-up done for you in one fell swoop…?”
Shane: “We started the year at Phillip Island, we raced on a 5.2 kg spring and that’s crazy. We’re now hovering between 6.8 and 7 kg, that’s how far away we are from where we were.“
Trev: And I know Glenn hasn’t eaten a lot of pies in the plague lay-off as Brookesy told me that Glenn is fit as, and pumping plenty of power through the bicycle?
Shane: “*Laughs* “While we struggled at Phillip Island, one lap was incredible, we did 32.7 in that one lap in qualifying, and that was on the old tyre from the first practice session. We never got to put a zero in it because we couldn’t get the axle in, the brake pads fell out, all that shit didn’t go our way. But it was really good for one to two laps, and then it would fall off a cliff and we couldn’t put a finger on why. We just weren’t pushing the tyre hard enough into the ground, it was just spinning. Because we were the only people using stock links, the WSBK data was no good to us, and the WSBK guys were in our pits trying to help, but none of those guys use the stock stuff that we have to use in ASBK. You can buy a kit link that will fix all your problems, but we can’t use it.
“And Glenn and I butt heads now and then, ‘Why don’t we just put a link it to try’ he asks, but we can’t race with one… But after last week I said I’d probably buy a kit link and we’ll map it, and get some data off it, and run two bikes back to back, until we can simulate the kit links, shock travel and stuff like that.
“Because the big issue is the stock bike was designed for electronic suspension. The only way you can make electronic suspension work is to have a long shaft travel stroke, to give the electronics time to react. So this has a link ratio that is so far away from any other superbike that it’s not funny, so nothing convetional set-up wise works. So that’s why you run around with 5 kg springs in it. Now we have a bit more of a handle on it, we’re up to 6.8 or 7 kilo spring now the bike is so much better behaved, we may as well have started all our development four weeks ago because it is pretty much starting all over again from a new base.”
Trev: There’s been a few man-hours spent….?
Shane: “Yea, so much time and anguish and we’ve looked stupid. It wasn’t for lack of trying, we worked so hard to get the thing to be competitive, but we couldn’t get it to do what we wanted to do. But now it’s a different story. We’re happy, we started to get an idea at the Wakefield test, but that was on the combined throttles. We started going that way on the suspension geometry at the Wakefield test, so that chassis geometry, we figured out a direction where the bike was starting to work. And we definitely need to get back to Wakefield, with the split-throttles, you can pick the throttle up anywhere, and that’s a big thing at Wakefield, being able to get on the throttle. So we’re excited to get back and doing those sort of tracks again, and especially Phillip Island. You know at Phillip Island you always go up a spring rate because of the g-forces, and we are 35 per cent stiffer than we were at Phillip Island. So it’s going to be night and day as to what it’s capable of doing. Let’s hope we can get to go racing.”
Trev: We’ve been talking so much about electronics development, what’s your thoughts with the M.A. canvassing the introduction of a control ECU, and on the current battle between Wayne wanting to run a MoTeC ECU on the V4 R, but M.A. trying to prevent that from happening?
Shane: “It’s one of those things, the computer is only as good as the guys operating it. And I think for an even field, a kit ECU gives all the punters the chance, because the software – the factory kits aren’t that complicated – ours are more complicated than most. In this day and age of flashing ECUs, and there’s so many different ways, Flash Tune out of America, I can do it myself, I know what I can do with an ECU, but joe punter has no chance, nothing. You go to a control ECU and he will.
“We go back to 2001 or 2002, with everyone running MoTeCs back then, because there was no kit ECUs. We all had 10k MoTeC ECUs on our bikes. Now it would cost $8000 to have a MoTeC specced out the way you want it. I was going to have one for our turbo bike for land speed racing, I was going to put a M150 MoTeC in it, but the whole BMW electronics package is 1500 bucks.
“As for Wayne and the Ducati, I now know why Wayne was struggling, because there was an issue there more so with the trickle down from Ducati, not going to him directly, there was some politics in there. Which isn’t fair, because if you have a kit ECU, everyone should be able to have that. I agree with Wayne 100 per cent, he should have been able to have what Mike had access to at Round One.
“For MA though to say yes, you can run a MoTeC, it’s just a big can of worms. I’ll happily run MoTeC if they made us, because I know the stuff back to front, inside out. So I know what I can do with MoTeC. I know there’s so much more you can do with MoTeC, the MoTeC drives split throttles, not a problem. The dash we use is basically MoTeC, it’s an easy transition. But is it cost effective for joe public? No.”
Trev: What about for the equalisation and parity of racing, if you went to a MoTeC ECU, potentially would that help equal the field, if say one or two brands aren’t quite up to speed, or does it just come back to who is driving the computer?
Shane: “I think at the end of the day it’s the guy who is operating the sytems. At any World Championship, it’s only as good as the team running the electronics. MotoGP they all have the same electronics, but some of the teams are light years ahead of others. That’s because you’ve got some very very smart people out there that know their electronics.”
Trev: And with your bikes, you’ve got two different specs of the S 1000 RR?
Shane: “Originally we got a Race, we didn’t get an M because we don’t need the carbon wheels, we don’t need the bling, so it’s a base model bike. So our first bike was the first bike in the country of the new model, but it was a base model. It doesn’t have an adjustable swingarm pivot, doesn’t have the adjustable link, and the only thing we really need is the adjustable swingarm pivot. Especially now we did some tests for the weekend, for the first time shifting the pivot and made some very interesting gains, but gains in some places, losses in other places. But we haven’t had time to go back and go over the data. But for joe public you can go and buy a Race.”
Trev: Which isn’t a HP4 race.
Shane: “No it isn’t, it’s just a Race, you get forged wheels, adjustable swingarm pivot, adjustable link or ride height in the link, and that’s all you need to go racing. 26 grand or something, that’s cheap. Everything you need, and you can go buy a race kit on top of it and away you go.
“The M is an incredibly cheap road bike for what it is, but we don’t need the carbon, I’d like to revisit the carbon wheels, our initial test, our suspension set-up didn’t work, we had too many other things going on. I’d like to revisit it, because there’s some weight savings there, but our bike is underweight as it is now, so we put carbon wheels on it, we’d need to strap lead to it. So we need to finish every race with at least a litre of fuel in it, or we are underweight. So you know, carbon wheels are kinda pointless in some ways, although it may help the gyro.
“With $25,000 difference in price between a Ducati V4 R, or Honda in comparison to the much more affordable BMW. And the BMW is an awful lot of motorcycle for the money.
“We’re getting back into this homologation special stuff we had years ago, you and I have been around this for a long while, and we had all those homologation specials. The RC30s, the trick bits of kit and that’s fine, because at the end of the day you get a really nice race bike base, for fifty-odd thousand dollars. These (NextGen BMW ASBK bikes) are probably about that with the race kit on them, but that’s ready to race, that’s not as a road bike. And I think at some point you’re going to get, either a price cap, which is 40K Euros in World Superbike, which is pretty much the price of the Ducati and the Honda, that they are coming in at. And it’s like ok, if that’s the price cap, then make that the price cap and then everyone says, that rules out Joe Public, but you know it’s a fine line between Joe Public and racing at the end of the day. Racing we’ll spend money, where we can spend money and have money to spend.”
Trev: I remember I was reading some books by some F1 engineers, I can’t remember what the last one was, but he was saying when they bought in mandatory wheel changes and all the rest of it, he said, ‘you’re going to have to have a control wheel-gun, otherwise we’ll spend million euro making the best wheel gun, but they didn’t mandate a controlled wheel-gun, but they should have done, that left then spending endless man hours and money in wheel-gun development to try and gain an advantage.’
Shane: “V8 Supercars made a control rattle gun because of exactly that. It’s the mentality we all play.“
Trev: I’ve often said, with our rules, we are allowed to do so little, and that is a good thing in some ways as there are a lot of guys racing, who need protecting from themselves with how much they can spend on racing.
Shane: “I mean it’s things like we have to run factory wheels, I’ve got a couple of sets of Oz wheels, they are cheaper than BMW wheels… But we can’t use them.“
Trev: Which is an example of what I just said, having things as standard can work in the opposite direction in some ways when it comes to costs.
Shane: “The sub-frame of these bikes is double the price of a racing one. But at least they changed that rule, so that you can put an aftermarket sub-frame on now.”
Trev: That is great that has been changed, obviously a race sub-frame doesn’t need to be strong enough to carry a pillion.
Shane: “MA have been good with some of the rule changes, the brake discs was another good one. We don’t need to run factory brake discs any more, I still think brake calipers on the front could probably have a price cap, because you know some brake calipers are better than others, especially for pad wear, pad price, but that said, these Hayes brakes on these things are unbelievable. They initially copped a lot of flak, but we’ve had nothing but success with these using standard pads. At the end of the day, the electronics are where it’s at, and it is the largest part of getting a 200 plus horsepower motorcycle to do anything. But it’s the guy who’s running it, and who’s got the most budget, as you’ll get the best guys.”
Trev: So how much horsepower are you pushing now?
Shane: “That thing is 205 at the rear tyre on my dyno.“
Trev: And you could potentially make a fair bit more but the ASBK restrictions are quite strict, we are more stock than most international Superstock classes, despite being called Superbike.
Shane: “There is a lot left in them within the rules, we can’t port the head, you can’t put cams in it, you can’t buy camshafts for a BMW anyway, a K67, you’ve seen how complex they are with ShiftCam etc. which we do use. You cannot buy aftermarket camshafts for ShiftCam, there are none. At Phillip Island we were 317km/h down the straight, Tom Sykes was 316 km/h as we were all running, even the WorldSBK team, were running standard engines back then. We’re happy with what we’ve got. Yes the Ducati is faster than us, but only just. It is what it is, we’ll run a whole season without looking at that engine, we’ll change the oil. I don’t know how often the boys are pulling their Ducati’s apart, but I tell you it’s not after a whole season.“
Trev: Back on the rules and regulations, what would you like to see changed from here heading into next year, that might benefit the series and racing in general?
Shane: “From where we’ve been, to where we are at now, I think we’ve got a pretty good mix. The tyre thing now is pretty good, we’re not throwing qualifiers at them for days, the qualifying format works pretty good, with having to make that tyre stretch a little bit. It’d be nice to have one more tyre, as I think that effects the show a little bit. People won’t go out in the second part of the session because you’ve gotta get that one tyre in. And that kind of hurts the spectacle, and when you’ve got paying spectators there. I think you should have the extra tyre, only if you get through as perhaps a congratulations you’ve done well. But people say that’s another 300 bucks, but what’s that in the scope of what you spend…
“But everything else I’m pretty happy with how it’s all been run. I feel there’s been some management stuff we could probably do better. As far as working as a unit, and we had some pretty good discussions in Eastern Creek a few weeks back, about maybe it’s time as teams we sat down and really joined forces together, because at the end of the day, we’re the ones spending the money and I don’t think the teams have enough of a say in the overall what happens. Like the calendar this year, fair credit to MA for doing what they are trying to do, I understand how bad it all is, but every time they change their mind if costs us money. Its logistics we have to shift, we’ve already booked accommodation, we’ve lost a bit of accommodation getting refunds. Most places now will say ok to refunds, but they kept shifting the goal posts, but what they’ve done now is fine.“
Trev: Yes as of now they’ve said nothing more will be changed in regards to dates, if a round needs to get cancelled it gets cancelled and not rescheduled.
Shane: “Honestly I don’t believe we’ll race this year, which seems sad to say. I’m good friends with Lachy and Greg Epis, I was talking to them, and Greg said, do you think we should go back to the World Championship or go to ASBK this year, and I said, ‘we aren’t going to race this year’. Thus they raced at Jerez last weekend.
“That’s what’s disappointing, to not see everybody at St George the other week. We’ve done the right thing to get clubs involved in the series again, which is good. Clubs are where everyone comes from. The St George meeting the other weekend was insane. I’ve never seen so many bikes on the grid. We can never get a crowd out at Eastern Creek, and we can never get people to enter ASBK at Eastern Creek. But you can go there on any ride day, any weekend and the place is packed. Sydney is the biggest motorcycle market in this country and we can’t seem to make it work there… I don’t know what we have to do.
“The lighting and the facility they have got there is unreal, let’s go race at night, on a Saturday night and make a big show out of it. The other thing we talked about, there was a few teams all together at Eastern Creek, and we all talked about maybe we should have more control over what happens, and yes I get that there’s the 600 [supersport] guys, and the 300 guys have different priorities… I get that, but we’re spending ten or a hundred times the money they are spending. Without us (Superbike) there is no show, let’s do the best for our show, so we can get sponsors. The follow on effect is how it works.
“Anyway we were talking about all that amongst the teams up in Sydney. When V8 supercars said they would race at night they had no support categories or anything. So lets go, we’re all ready, the bikes were all ready to go. Two-minutes and we can be there… Lets run middle of the week, what difference does it make. We get to take a day off work. We’re all doing that anyway. If we can’t race with crowds, let’s fit into a TV environment, where we can get some TV audiences, making it a Friday night. Gotta think outside the box. People go and watch people Playstation before they’ll go to the racetrack in this day and age. We’ve got to be in people’s faces and Friday night, who wouldn’t go and have a beer on a hill and watch a bike race. That would be huge. The infrastructure, the lighting towers up at that place (Sydney) are incredible… why not use all of the facility.
“But we’ve got this issue with M.A. and Eastern Creek and we know why the issue is there (a long story that harks back a few years amongst the whole ASBK v Formula Xtreme contest), but for the good of the sport… that sorta stuff frustrates me. Wayne (Hepburn fellow team owner of NextGen BMW), and I talk about it a lot, because as I said before, we have the longest running team in this championship and it’s Wayne, Nathan and I, and we do it for shits and giggles. We never made one dollar out of it. We do it for fun, to meet our friends, it’s a good reason to hang out with the guys every couple of weeks.
“Racing we love to win, we take it serious, but we’d still be doing it if we were racing a bunch of 300s, if we run out of money, we’d still run a couple of 300s. It’s a passion, it’s not a business, it’s certainly by far from a business for us, we all have our own businesses but racing is not our primary business. I think, when you do it for a passion you have to have a little more control over what happens. I know Greg from Racer’s Edge Fairings, Craig McMartin, Nathan Spiteri, a whole bunch of us the other week out testing, and we’ve got no control over what’s happening. We plan out at the start of the year, and I get this year’s a complete cluster, but if you can’t make the date just cancel it.”
Trev: That’s where we’ve got to now… And I understand the logistics, I think I’ve missed one ASBK round this century, which is probably a bit sad, but it is what it is. But the cost and logistics of taking a whole team, and bikes, mechanics, riders, everything else is obviously infinitely large. It’s hard enough just taking myself without having to take a fleet of people.
Shane: “Hotels, and food… it all adds up.”
Trev: And then spending too much in a bar on the Friday night…
Shane: “Yeah we have all been there but on that previous topic I do feel that we should have – we talked about it years ago – about an entrants group, same as what TEGA with touring cars have, F1 have it, Superbikes, they have teams, they have people, everyone has a say. We have no say.”
Trev: Can you possibly imagine that most of the top level teams would be able to do anything but argue, or see past their own backyard?
Shane: “Well at a certain point we all have to get over ourselves, everyone will have an opinion on what will serve them best to win, but we also need to have at least some sort of unity, in what’s best for the sport. Racetracks that we should be going to, we should have been in Darwin weeks ago when the borders were open, Tasmania, another good race track we don’t go to. It’s always fun down there, we always get good crowds down there.”
Trev: But then you’ve got other teams that will argue black and blue that will not want to go to Darwin, or to Tassie.
Shane: “Yea, but it doesn’t cost you any more, logistically, you’ve got to put a driver in there and do a couple days worth of driving, but logistically it’s not that much more. Anyone who’s ever been to Darwin it’s a great trip. The racing is always good there, the track is good. There’s just things we should be doing, but even MA says its expensive, but we were going to go to WA this year, and we’d all budgeted for that, then when that doesn’t happen, then you have got the Western Australians, like Adam Senior and that saying that well we’re still coming over here…. It’s gotta go a little bit both ways, everyone has to have some kind of input.”
Trev: We have come across this in previous years, some factories team have chosen not to go to WA before, many years ago, and so in later years we’ve just taken Superbike to Perth, or Darwin, so the mums and dads with R15s or 300s don’t have to lose as much time off work, which is understandable, so basically I think what we’re saying is the superbikes are most important and run stand alone if need be and a business case can be made to run stand alone Superbike rounds.
“But then we have the mums and dads with kids on R15s will spend 10 times more than we ever will, because they’ll get the shits with it here, and go to Europe. That is what a lot of people are doing. If you’ve got the money you’re going to spend it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lot of money or a little bit of money, if you’re serious you’re going to spend it.
“Every year we do the budget, and every year we spend 10 times what we ever planned on spending. But as I said, we’re a little bit different to everyone else as we’ll do it regardless, we’ll race 150s around the car park somewhere if that’s all we can do for a bit of fun.
“Some people don’t want to go to Perth, then don’t go, I don’t care. It’s the same deal. All the years we drove to Perth it was a great trip. I remember back in the good ole days, 2003-2004 the trip from Perth back to Melbourne, every night a roadhouse, it was just a big ASBK party, traveling across the country. It was brilliant. It’s like, everyone will punch each other in the face on the racetrack, but having a beer with someone in a road house in the middle of nowhere… it needs to be a little more of that.
“Yes we’re all professional at what we do, and everyone cares what happens, but every time we come to make a decision we can’t agree. It does my head in, at a certain point we need to get together and say, you’re our riders/teams representatives, and you have a say at MA, because I feel we don’t have enough. That’s the only thing that M.A. does wrong… everything else they’ve done in the last years has been fantastic, and the sport is on the up. We’ve been talking before that the motorcycle market is going well, things aren’t as bad as people thought, but if we miss the opportunity to make hay while sun shines, we’re buggered.“
Trev: Thanks for your time Shane!