Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Superbike Planet: In conversation with Kevin Schwantz

Kevin Schwantz, 1993 500cc motorcycle GP racing world champ, speaks his mind...

Superbike Planet
recently spoke to 1993 500cc motorcycle GP racing world champ, Kevin Schwantz. Here are some excerpts from what no.34 had to say:

On Kenny Roberts

Somebody once asked me, ‘What if you'd ever ridden for Kenny Roberts?’ I said, ‘Probably one of the two of us wouldn't be around right now, because I'm not sure me and that guy could get along.’ He's a great man and he's done a lot for the sport of motorcycling, but man

I've beaten Wayne Rainey on a weekend, and I've seen Kenny go, ‘You dumbass! What were you thinking? What were you doing? Why'd you let him outbrake you in that turn?’ I'd have put up with that about that long.

But the knowledge that Kenny brought, to Wayne, to Eddie, the experience that was there, it was obviously a very first-class team the entire time. Had I had somebody like that to go back and ask questions of, instead of just some of my engineers who had worked in racing for a while, but never really did much racing themselves, it probably would've helped a little bit. Might have made my career span just a touch longer. But I enjoyed the way I did it. I had fun the way I did it. And I'd do it all over again exactly the same way if I was given the chance.

On whether he would have liked to come back to help with Suzuki’s MotoGP effort

After I quit racing at Suzuki, I took a few years, got away from motorcycles. Felt like I got an arm's length enough away, so that if I got back involved in racing, I could get back involved and not want to race. And with that, I've always told Suzuki, ‘My heart, my soul – any part of my career that ever really had much meaning to it – was in MotoGP. And absolutely, if you guys feel like I could assist you in getting Suzuki and their MotoGP team back to a world championship winning level, call me. You've got my number.’

On his priorities, after Suzuki told him that running a third bike in MotoGP would not be possible

Two years ago, they [Suzuki] said, ‘You know what? We're still planning on building that third bike, but hold off just a little bit.’ Then at the end of last year and the downturn in motorcycle sales – almost immediately at the start of this season – it was kind of said, ‘There's not really going to be a third bike. There's no way we can economically make it happen. The math just doesn't make out. We've got to focus more on sales. We've got to focus more on the two-bike factory team that we've got.’ With that, I have no idea what my position is there.

Once again, if my phone were to ring, I would probably have to tell Suzuki that, ‘You know what, I've got enough obligations here.’ I'm obligated to Red Bull and the KTM Rookies' Cup program for three years. So right now, I don't see it happening. I think Paul, the sponsors, and everything that's going on in MotoGP at Suzuki – I think they look to be doing okay. From a race-winning level, they're not where they need to be, but I don't think that's anybody’s fault in particular.

On the Suzuki GSV-R MotoGP bike

I've got all the respect in the world for Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen. You watch Capirossi put the thing on the front row, qualifying at Mugello, one of the fastest racetracks there is out there. Yeah, he said, ‘I pushed really, really hard.’ Well, let me see that every lap then. Because until you find the ability and the want to push very, very hard every lap, it's just this – you can't go out there at 90 percent.

It's obvious the Suzuki's not quite there. But it's funny how, when those guys really get a spur in their side, and really want to prove a point, boom! Vermeulen riding through the pack to finish third at Laguna. It's not an easy place. The GSV-R is obviously a decent motorcycle. I think the results aren't quite indicative of what the bike is capable of, at least not consistently.

On what he would say to Suzuki’s current MotoGP riders

Well, the bike's never going to be perfect, and the bike's never going to be the best. It's going to be one of the best. It's going to be pretty close to the best. To make it the best, we've got to figure out what to do. We've got to hope that that extra bit can come from you...!

For the full interview, visit the Superbike Planet website here
Kevin Schwantz

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