Interviews 1 Jan 2009

Moto Talk with Glenn Allerton

New Aussie Superbike champ Glenn Allerton has had a rollercoaster career but now he's the country's best.

Allerton will fight to defend his crown in '09

Allerton will fight to defend his crown in '09

Last year’s Australian Superbike Championship was one of the closest national series ever contested, but in the end it was Teknic Honda’s Glenn Allerton who earned his first ever Australian road racing title after a nail-biting season finale.

Allerton took over the lead at Mallala’s second round of the seven round series, but his biggest point lead was at the end of the year at Eastern Creek, where he was finally able to wrap it up by just 10 points over defending two-times champion Jamie Stauffer.

Before clinching the crown in that last weekend of the season, Allerton’s biggest gap was only six points following round five in Queensland. His only round win of the season came at Mallala, although his podium run stretched over five of the seven rounds, with a total of three race victories.

Another highlight was the MotoGP support races at Phillip Island, where he took the Superbike class victory under the watchful eye of the world’s best teams and racers.

It’s been a long road to championship success for the likeable 27-year-old, but judging by his late season form, it would be wise to bet on him taking out title number two in 2009.

Allerton’s story is unique as he has fought through diversity in his career, losing his factory ride at the end of 2006 before fighting back even stronger as a privateer in 2007.

His final reward was a spot back in Paul Free’s Motologic-run factory Honda team, and this time Allerton made the most of the opportunity — scoring the championship and quickly becoming a fan favourite along the way.

Moto Online caught up with the determined New South Welshman to reflect on his championship season and his comeback as a professional motorcycle racer.

Congratulations on winning the Superbike title. Is it a dream come true?

Absolutely, it’s something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid at school. All I wanted to do was race motorcycles and become a champion, but it hasn’t really set in that I’ve achieved it yet. Some days I wake up and still feel like I’ve got something to prove, so it’s good that I’m still hungry to win.

There must have been some pressure coming into that final round at Eastern Creek.

Yeah, for sure. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I really wanted to win for everybody who has supported me over the years. It was kind of a thank you for them that I was able to win the championship.

I just tried to keep it simple — still kept going to work and kept my head down. I didn’t answer my phone that much because you always have people calling trying to pump you up for the race, but I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to talk too much off the track. I like to let my results do the talking.

It was tough but I feel like I handled the situation pretty well. If we had to do it all over again I feel like I could.

Winning at the MotoGP support races just a fortnight before the final round must have raised your confidence.

I felt like we had a job to do at the end of the year. We had a test right before the Phillip Island race and I focused hard on that, pushing 110 percent to keep improving the bike, and we managed to make it really good.

When we rolled out of the pits at the GP we were straight on the pace. It did raise our confidence and then when we got to Eastern Creek we put the pressure on again. I was quickest in both practice sessions and then through qualifying [teammate] Jason [O’Halloran] and I were both the fastest, so we managed to put the pressure back on the Yamaha guys by being fast straight away.

You finished fifth at the opening round in March. Did you believe you had a legitimate shot at the title this season?

We had a few problems back then with the 2007 model Blade. Last year as a privateer I used Ohlins suspension on the same motorcycle, but switching to Showa this year I had a bit of trouble adapting and it showed in that first round when we were chasing setup.

When the new 2008 model Fireblade arrived for Mallala’s second round, your confidence seemed to rise straight away and you were able to take pole and the two victories. What clicked?

I like the ergonomics and feel of the new motorcycle, the power delivery and the way the front-end feels. The geometry just seems to suit the way I ride and it just clicked. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was the whole time I was riding the bike at Mallala.

Throughout the year our competition was able to get better and better, but at that time of the year we were able to do it pretty easy.

Did you believe you could go ahead and take off in the series after the dominant weekend at Mallala?

After Mallala I came out with the championship lead and I felt like I was going to go on and run away with it and win the championship. I thought I was going to streak away and win it easy, but like I said, the competition worked really hard and came up to our level.

We had a few technical issues at Winton that hampered our progress, but we managed to get third again. Throughout the year we had a few little dramas but we were able to score good points, and that’s what it takes to win the championship.

Your biggest point lead of the year was six after your round five, race two, win at Queensland. But you were able to maintain that slender margin throughout the entire year – was consistency your aim?

I always had a game plan and that was to go as fast as I could, but if I couldn’t win the race then I wasn’t going to fall off trying to win it. We always had the pace in qualifying to be top three or four not matter what, but if we had a bad start or something go wrong then our worst finish would still be a fourth because I had the mindset to get good points.

We were able to haul in the points and that’s what helps.

How does this title, as a factory rider, compare to your top privateer crown last year considering all the money and hard work you personally put in last season?

Last year was very satisfying. I was able to beat everybody who was on the same motorcycle as me and I was able to finish consistently at the front. It was extremely satisfying because so much of my own personal money and effort went into that year, but nothing really compares to being able to look at that Australian Superbike Championship trophy with your own name on it. It’s something I’ll treasure forever.

After winning the Aussie Superbike title, what’s next? Do you have any overseas aspirations?

I really want to go overseas. It’s something that I really want to do but it just seems to me at the moment that my best opportunity to race a good motorcycle with a good team around me is here in Australia.

I spent a month in Europe earlier this year scouting around and looking for rides, but there’s a lot of good riders in the world Superbike scene who all bring their own money. For me to get a good ride would be very difficult.

After that I just thought I’d like to stay in Australia. I’m racing against awesome guys, so it’s only going to make me better to stay here for another year. I’ll try to win the title again and then hopefully I’ll be able to get the support of an outside sponsor and move overseas to race in the world championship.

Looking back earlier in your career, you only began road racing in 2001 — which wasn’t long ago.

Nah, it’s not that long ago. Because I’m 27 years old then people seem to think I’ve been around a long time, but the first time I ever rode a road bike was in 2001, so to win the Superbike championship in 2008 is a pretty big achievement for me.

I haven’t been around the sport for a long time but I’m learning a lot and am getting better each time I’m on the bike, so hopefully within the next two years I can be in the world championship.

After two years in the 250cc Production class, you moved on to Supersport as a privateer for 2003 and 2004 — winning top privateer both years. Did you feel ready for Superbike after that?

Mentally I felt like I was ready to do it, but I kind of proved on the track that I wasn’t. I didn’t have that great results, so overall I felt like I should have stayed in Supersport for another year and then I would have been that little bit more prepared to race Superbike.

How was that first year in Superbike for Suzuki? You did still manage to win one race in Queensland.

It was an awesome learning experience. I got to work with Shawn Giles, who is a hero of mine, and he was really good for me. He always offered his support and still does. It was an awesome experience overall.

Interestingly, you also used skills from your dirt bike background to capture the Australian Supermoto Championship that year for Suzuki. Was that a highlight?

That was a great thing for us to be able to win the Supermoto championship. That was a highlight of the year, along with winning the Superbike race in Queensland, so I’ll always look back on that year with fond memories.

The following year you switched to Honda for Superbike and Supersport on the championship-winning team, but that year didn’t go so well.

No, I had a few injuries that year. I broke my collarbone and broke a few ribs, but the worst part was that I had four concussions in the one year. That was a hard period of my life, but we stayed strong and focused and just kept pushing because I knew the goal in the end was to win the championship and now it’s finally come true.

Were you close to giving up when you lost your factory ride for 2007?

I never really thought about throwing the towel in. I still had the desire to race the motorbike, so in 2007 I just put it all on the line. I put my own money into it knowing that I could do it and I was still fast, and that’s all you need. For all the young guys coming through, if you want something bad enough and you’re prepared to put it all on the line, then nine times out of ten you’re going to get what you want.

That round victory at Tasmania as a privateer in 2007 must have been a great feeling?

That was an amazing feeling. To get the lap record and win as a privateer against all of the factory teams was awesome. I can’t thank Russell Farrow and Geoff Winzer enough for their help that year.

Did it make you even more determined to come back strong as a factory rider this year?

Yeah, it did. It taught me a lot of things about just appreciating what you have as a factory rider and your place in the sport. It taught me how much effort you really need to put in to be a champion and this year I’ve managed to do that.

What’s it going to take to retain the title in the new-look ASBK series for 2009?

It’s going to take a lot of hard work in training and testing, but also going to take consistent results throughout the year. I have to finish every single race and haul in good points at every race, and then I’m sure at the end of the year we will be right there in the top three.