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Grid talk – Troy Corser | Columns | Gassit Garage

We caught up with the Superbike legend Troy Corser

You’re a household name to bike fans in Australia, but people might not know you’re also a YouTube sensation…

If you watch the way I ride that BMW at Goodwood, you’ll be able to see how I ride a classic bike – like I stole it!

There’s a point where you’re trying to round up John McGuinness in the wet and it doesn’t go exactly to plan

I didn’t realise the puddle was as deep as what it was. We had only completed the sighting lap and that was the first lap of the race. There was a bit of a downpour just before the start, and when I came around I hooked it up a gear, as I needed to coming out of the corner, then I hit the puddle and it just aquaplaned. I wasn’t going to let go of it, just so it didn’t flick round and take anyone out. The engine was still running and everything…

Did they give you any special instructions, like “take it easy on this one-of-a-kind museum piece”?

“Take care of this cos there’s only one of them!” That was my instruction…

That bike there was pretty much straight out of the museum. It’s an original 1935 BMW, not one piece is a replica, it’s all original parts. For the qualifying lap on YouTube, it wasn’t my bike. I actually did steal it!

It belonged to the other BMW team, but my guy had gone out on my bike – the #5 bike which I race – and he came wobbling into the pits halfway through qualifying with a flat tyre.

I asked where the spare wheel was so we could go change it, and they didn’t have one. So I said “call in the #7 bike,” and just as I said it, he came rolling into the pits. They had already qualified, so I grabbed the bike and told the rider “get off, I’m taking your bike,” grabbed my transponder and jammed it down my boot and rode out. I’d never even sat on that bike. That lap was my first ever flying lap on it.

I had an out lap to get a feel for it, then set the fastest lap, then next lap I was three seconds faster again.

After winning the Australian Superbike Championship for Honda in 1993, you went over to the AMA. How did that happen?

That came about through Barry Sheene. He called me up after I won the championship and asked what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to get out of Australia. He tried for World Supers, but there were no rides.

So he rang Eraldo Ferracci [of Fast by Ferracci fame] and organised for me to go to a test at Daytona. We flew over, went to the track and there were a heap of guys trying out like me. I think everyone got eight laps – fastest lap got the ride.

Daytona is a track like no other, with that banking. But I’d never been there before, never ever seen the place. Colin Edwards was there, Jamie James, a few other names, and I said I wanted to go last. I went out and sat around the track and listened to them ride, to try and learn it, listening for gear changes. After eight laps I was quickest, so I got the ride.

Then it was pretty much straight out in the Daytona 200. I felt that good I thought I could win it. Winners’ circle with Scott Russell (Mr Daytona) and Eddie Lawson was a big moment.

In Australia the Ducati 916 was considered very exotic at the time. Did you feel like you were on exotic machinery?

Absolutely. After I won the Australian Superbike title, I actually got the chance to go to Japan and ride the F1 Honda, and it was a weapon compared to what I was racing in Australia. But to jump on the Ducati, well, the Ferracci bikes were awesome. Doug Polen had just won the championship on it [in 1991 and ’92], so I thought to myself ‘I’ve just got to get on it and ride it.’

I wasn’t worried about changing anything, I had confidence that the bike was good, and it was a twin. That was the first time I had ridden a twin, and it was easier to ride. It wasn’t peaky or trying to wheelstand, it had nice power and torque and it suited my style. Easy to wheelie, easy on throttle control…

After the AMA title I got a chance to break into the international scene, pretty much. People took a bit of notice – I was the first Aussie to win it.

Back in 1996, World Supers was compulsive viewing, with larger-than-life personalities and massive crowds. What are your memories of that year?

Because there were lots of different nationalities at the top – Americans, Aussies, Japanese, Kiwis, Brits, and all the Europeans – half of them couldn’t understand each other and I think that really helped bring out the personalities. Plus a load of wildcards each round. It was quite different to today, and these really big characters naturally developed. They were great times and I was glad I was part of it back then.

I didn’t really have a main rival. Maybe the odd run-in on track, but no real grudge or rivalry. It was all clean racing. I just did my thing, and as long as they didn’t get in my way I was … happier! I raced for myself really, and didn’t really worry about anybody else.

Foggy [Carl Fogarty], we had lots of close races. Frankie Chili, Noriyuki Haga, Colin Edwards, Aaron Slight, John Kocinski … lots of big names and lots of close racing. It wasn’t unusual to come back after a race and have tyre marks all up your shoulder. Some of the tracks like Hockenheim and Monza, we used to be six deep in a corner.

The bikes were fairly evenly matched and it came down to the rider a lot more. Set-up and tyres were crucial. Some tracks favoured the Dunlops, some tracks favoured the Michelins. Some tracks favoured the Ducati, some were better for the Yamaha or Honda.

You have two WSBK titles and still hold the record for longest time between titles (nine years). Which one was your favourite?

The second one, I think. In 1996 we were kind of expected to win. After that, the years in between where we didn’t win, it made me work for it harder. And on a manufacturer that hadn’t won that title before [Suzuki], it meant a lot.

When I was on the Ducati, it was considered the best bike out there and we had the best team. To win it on the Suzuki with the Alstare team, who were probably the most experienced in the paddock, was really satisfying. They were amazing and it was a great year.

I had missed out on another title in 1998 with just a stupid little crash on morning warm-up in Sugo that put me in intensive care for weeks. So I was also determined to get that second title. Three would have been nice.

You do a school called Race Academy, right?

Yes, I work with the Race Academy. It’s a Dutch company and they’d been operating for a while even before I joined them, which was about six years ago now. It’s a race school that I was first introduced to by BMW. The first thing I wanted to do was create a program that ALL the instructors would stick to. So basically we started by instructing all the instructors! There is nothing worse than instructors all telling the customers different things. It doesn’t work and it’s confusing. I came in and modified what we teach and we’re getting some really good results. It’s surprised me to see how quick people progress.

We have a great team, who all work well together. We go to some really nice tracks, all GP circuits, and it’s basically a fly in and ride deal, you just have to turn up. We’ve had a few Aussies come over and really enjoyed it. It’s good for me to have a few Aussies around.

Interview Matt O’Connell