Friday, August 21, 2009

In conversation with Kevin ‘Revvin’ Schwantz

Kevin Schwantz, 1993 500cc motorcycle GP racing world champ

Kevin Schwantz, 500cc motorcycle grand prix racing world champ in 1993, recently spoke at a teleconference hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the US. Here are some excerpts from what the champ had to say:

On Casey Stoner pulling out of three MotoGP races due to some ‘mystery illness’

As a rider, my gut feeling is Casey needs to be out there competing. This championship, when he made a tyre choice at Donington that seemed to be a little bit off of the norm, had him right at the top of it. I mean, he didn't need to be making a gamble on tyres like that when he was in a championship hunt. For me, that kind of told me that there was something more going on with Casey than just, you know, ‘I don't really feel all that good but I'm finding a way to perform.’

To have signed a contract, whenever it was, you're signing a contract to compete unless something is medically wrong with you. I'm out there doing the best that I can. Whether I can give 100% every weekend or not is kind of the question. But for me it's a real disappointment, and I think, you know, Casey is a great competitor, and I think maybe a little bit more of this has to do with something behind the scenes that maybe none of us quite yet know about. I don't exactly know what it could be. But to just decide you're going to skip three races and see if you feel any better at the end of it, to me, is a little bit out of the norm.

On staying motivated when your heart’s no longer in it

If your heart is not in it, it's somewhat of a high-risk profession. Maybe you're better off going to go get a desk job or at least stepping away from the sport. And that, in my situation, is what I did.

I sure hope that's not the case with Casey Stoner and that, you know, he's just lost interest and focus in this sport at such a young age because he's definitely a huge draw to the series. And I think he's been a world champ, so he obviously can ride one of these two-wheel rockets at the best of his ability, which is world championship-winning level.

Schwantz thinks Ducati's MotoGP bike may be a bit inconsistent...

On what he thinks of Ducati’s MotoGP bike

I don't honestly have an answer as to what I see that bike doing that makes it so difficult to ride. You know, I've talked to Nicky Hayden a bit about riding, Marco Melandri just a touch. It's just a bike that seems to be, from what they say, somewhat inconsistent. Watching Nicky and some of the things he does on the track, it just doesn't look like from lap to lap he's confident that the bike is going to continue to do the same thing in the same exact corner lap to lap to lap.

So as a rider, he can't quite start to compensate or make an adjustment from a rider's perspective to try and be able to do things a little bit better because it's a little bit inconsistent. And I don't know whether that comes from the geometry of the bike, the chassis of the bike, the electronics on the bike, exactly what it is. I'm still a little bit too far away from that to have a really good idea what makes that bike so difficult to ride.

On Rossi’s prospects of winning the MotoGP championship this year

Here at Indy, I'm sure Nicky and Colin are both going to be really strong. But I still think championship-wise number 46 seems to kind of have the measure of everybody. I don't know if it's just a mental edge that the guy has, because I really felt like in watching practice both at Donington and in Czecho, that Lorenzo was fast, and he was smooth, and he was consistently fast. But Rossi has a way of just upping his game a little bit on Sunday afternoon, and it's been devastating to Lorenzo both weekends.

You know, as a racer, one of the most difficult things to do out there is to try and back off and just start thinking championship now. You lose a little bit of that motivation, you lose a bit of that speed. Then when you have to, it seems like it's even more difficult to find it back again. So I'm sure Rossi is going to continue to be Rossi here and going to love to win races just like he always has.

Kevin's Pepsi Suzuki RGV500 racebike from 1989

On James Toseland’s performance in MotoGP

I think James has been as disappointing to us as he has been to himself. I know James probably didn't expect to come here and start winning races immediately, but I'm sure he felt like he was going to be a guy that could contend for the podium. When you've got a veteran such as Colin Edwards alongside you in the team who's managing to put the bike up on the podium or somewhere right near the front somewhat consistently, I think there's probably a lot of doubt running around in James' head right now.

I don't know, maybe a year or two ride some superbikes, get some confidence back. I don't honestly know what the best path might be right now for James. But I know for me I was expecting big things of him and he's done an OK job a couple of weekends. He's had some decent results, but he hasn't ever shown me that spark and that fire that I saw out of him riding a World Superbike.

On what he thinks of Moto2

I think the idea behind Moto2 is good. Once again, it's headed a direction that we've seen should cost a whole lot more money than two-stroke racing but, at the same time, I think four-stroke technology is the direction that most of the manufacturers are headed from a development standpoint.

You know, with one type of engine, everybody gets to build their own chassis to try and come up with some different ideas on what might work best or what might not. You know, I have to go into it with an open mind. I think it could be really good. The fact that there's 40-some-odd teams, more than 40 teams interested in competing in the series, have fielded entries, I think that in itself is pretty exciting for MotoGP.

On Moto2 replacing two-stroke 250s

Hopefully that new class and its structure will lend us some really, close competitive racing because the 250 field has really shrunk quite a bit, too. It's a shame because I got the opportunity a couple of years ago to ride KTM’s 250s. Just over maybe 110 horsepower and 90 kilos a bike, it reminded me a lot of riding my 500, it was just a little bit slower acceleration-wise. But just the precision, the sound, the sharpness of that two-stroke, everything about it was a real pleasure to ride, that's for sure!

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