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Schwantz Interview (Biaggi Bashing Included)

One More Than Twelve Questions: Kevin Schwantz
by dean adams & susan haas
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Kevin Schwantz won the third Grand Prix he ever entered.
image by wolf jay flywheel
There are opinions and then there are opinions you value.
Instead of boring you with our opinions on subjects like John Hopkins, traction control, turn twleve at Road Atlanta and if Max Biaggi deserves a second chance in MotoGP, we decided to ask someone who enjoys near universal respect for his opinions: former world champion Kevin Schwantz. Since retiring from a successful Superbike and Grand Prix career Schwantz has raced amateur-level off-road events, works with Suzuki riders here in the US, started a riding school and is now the lead analyst for CBS/Fox's MotoGP television broadcasts here in the US. We talked to 'The Three-Four' as he is known around the office, yesterday while he drove to a trials event in Colorado.
1. John Hopkins leaves Suzuki after years of pledging to stay there for his entire career. Your thoughts?
A My thought on it is I was sad to see John leave. I think he's done a lot of good work there, and I wish him well.
Why did he leave? The only thing I can think of is, unhappy with the structure of the team, or the management of the team. And money. That, to me, seems to be the two things that you just—even though the bike is sneaking up on being one of the better bikes out there right now, the tire package is good, everything is coming along just like it's supposed to. There's still something in that team you're not happy about. I think it's been covered from a question-asking perspective. If you're happy with the team, everything that John was asked about he seemed to be happy with. The only thing that wasn't ever asked is from a management perspective: Are you unhappy with who's running the team, or how the team's being run.
2. What's odd is that the move to Kawasaki is peripheral, in that the Suzuki and Kawasaki are more similar than they are dissimilar. Pneumatic valves, same tire package, etc. Agreed?
A Yeah. I think the Kawasaki seems to be quite a good. Randy dePuniet's doing a great job on it, even with the small amount of experience that he has. There wasn't—I don't think equipment was a reason to change. The only two things, from a rider's perspective, that I would have—the reasons I would have left would've been more money, or management that you got along with better, or that you liked more. That's all I can attribute it to.
3. You were offered more money to leave Suzuki, at least a couple of times.
A Yeah. But I also got along fine with Suzuki management. Garry Taylor, I thought, did a great job running that team. He let the engineers get on with their job. He did what an ideal team manager does, and that's stay in the background and chase sponsorship, and do his best to keep the team held together as best it possibly can. I still have that same amount of confidence in the people at Suzuki. I know that any day, any time, they could come up with the best overall package out there. It's just it's difficult to do, but I know they can do it. And that's why I stayed.
Colin Edwards needs to go where he can win. Wherever that is. 4. Next: With his 250 riding style, 250 riding experience, Max Biaggi could win 800cc MotoGP races. Agree or disagree? A Disagree. Max has a great style, but I don't think a good enough head on his shoulders. He's not smart enough. I don't think he could play with those guys at a MotoGP level. Yeah, he does good on a World Superbike, on occasions, but he's still very up and down Max, and the older that he gets, it seems like there's more downs than there are ups.
I wouldn't give him a chance, if I ran a team.
5. Colin Edwards. If the choice is some lame MotoGP team or a factory Yamaha Superbike ride here in the US for 2008, what would you say he should do?
A Colin Edwards needs to go where he can win. Wherever that is. It's obviously not at a MotoGP level, and I hate that for him. But if it's an AMA Superbike, back riding the factory Yamaha, then that's where he needs to come. If it's a factory Honda, then whatever. If it's World Superbike—go back to where you've had some success. And to say that he hasn't had success in MotoGP isn't fact, it's merely a statement from a person who sees success as winning races. Colin's been close a few times, but I think it's also an example of just how difficult it is at that level.
6. How do you think he would do in US Superbike on a Yamaha?
A I still don't think either of the guys who are riding Yamaha Superbikes are getting everything that that bike has. We're not seeing the full potential of the Yamaha. Quite possibly, Colin could come here, ride a Yamaha Superbike, and I think he could contend for the podium early on, and after some more development on that Yamaha, maybe another 12 months from now, development on it, who knows? Maybe he's got the measure of the Suzukis. I don't know. He's a good rider.
When I rode 500s, the front row was typically a second. The second row was another second. If you were on the third row, we considered ourselves on the barbecue row, because that may as well be where we were, at home having a barbecue...

Bernard
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"Itīs not easier to ride, but I donīt need something easier, I need something faster."
- Nicky Hayden #69

Next Track Days (NESBA): September 10 - Summit (Main)
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 08-16-2007, 10:27 AM Thread Starter
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7. Here's something I heard about at Laguna USGP; I'd like to get your reaction to it. One MotoGP team, who shall remain nameless, the crew were watching 600 Supersport practice, and as the bikes went through Turn 11 on about the third lap, and as the riders accelerated hard the bikes slid sideways, hooked up and wheelied out of the corner. Seeing this, the MotoGP crew reacted like drunken monkeys. They hooted and hollared; and smiled, laughing with a 'that's cool' look on their faces. They were impressed to see bikes doing that. Their team manager said that because of traction control they haven't seen bikes do that in two and a half years in MotoGP.

A Well, I think it's a pretty general consensus across the board amongst the riders that electronics are making it very difficult to find the opportunity, to create the ability or the opportunity to pass somebody. Everybody gets on the gas at about the same time, the electronics all work just about the same, and going off into the corner it's now just a push come to shove on the brakes. I think the racing would be better without electronics. Yeah, I think seeing bikes sideways—even a couple of years ago, back when they were still 1000s, the racing was better, I think. Electronics are definitely the way everything's headed, and if you use Formula One as the motorsports Mecca, the draw, the thing everybody looks at, that racing's gotten boring too. The only place they pass now is in the pits, and unfortunately for MotoGP, we don't do pit stops. The only time they do is when it goes from wet to dry, or dry to wet. My opinion is, electronics have really made the average guy be able to go out and go fast, and everybody qualifies really, really well, and I think that we're paying too much attention to that.
When I rode 500s, the front row was typically a second. The second row was another second. If you were on the third row, we considered ourselves on the barbecue row, because that may as well be where we were, at home having a barbecue, because we'd never stand a chance from the third row. But seeing everybody, all 20 bikes within less than a second or a second and a half in qualifying, hasn't made the racing any better. We need to go back to letting these guys really ride these things, and wrestle these things around. The one thing it's going to do is, it's going to make it a whole lot less forgiving of a sport. You're going to start seeing more banged-up riders walking around. Why? Because of all the power that the modern-day equipment has. With 250 horsepower, I doubt anybody would ever use all the power. You'd end up pulling plug wires, you'd end up doing something that wasn't proper traction control. When those things decide to snap sideways and spit you off, it's going to be a pretty hairy ride.

8. Not taking anything away from MotoGP at all—at all—but there's still something missing in the way that a 500 went into the corner, in the middle of the corner, and exited the corner, the combination of finesse going in and complete brutality coming out. Your thoughts?

A I think you'd start to see that finesse ... I think we're starting to see it a little bit more getting in, and to the middle. But getting rid of the electronics is what I think would be the fix. A smaller displacement, 800cc bikes, taking all the electronics away, you're not going to have all that saving grace helping you getting out. You're going to have to get in, you're going to have to pick that throttle up as soon as you can, you're going to have to start trying to finesse the thing out. Whereas now it's just kind of grab it and do what you want, hang on. But I think the electronics would bring a little bit of that mystique back that there used to be in 500cc Grand Prix racing.

9. Turn 12 at Road Atlanta. What to do?

A Fix it.
That's, straightforward, the only respectable thing to do. Yeah, we've got an event coming up there, we need to do everything we can there. Hay bales, anything they can do safety-wise to make it safe enough for this event. But then, the proper fix for Turn 12 at Road Atlanta is tons of runoff, completely changing the corner and making it safe.

10. What can be done before the next AMA event, besides bales and air fence?

A I don't know of anything else you can do right now. My take is move the tower inside to where the media center should be. Get rid of the bridge so that none of those footings play any part in it. If you need to get from one side to the other, the outside is for spectating or the support paddock, but if you want to go inside, to have some kind of shuttles to run you around and up the hill and across to where vendor row is, or back down into the pro paddock. It's not - there's not an easy fix to it. There's not an economical fix to it. But I think if Road Atlanta and the AMA - from a Road Atlanta perspective, they have to understand that the riders don't consider Turn 12 to be safe, because it's not. They need to align themselves with the AMA and come up with a plan of when they're going to fix that, and that's before there's ever another race on it. If there has to be 12 months where they're not going, where AMA doesn't go race at Road Atlanta, then that's fine. But then they plan on coming back, because it's such a financial commitment to the track, that they really need to know that when they get it fixed, they can have an event back there. There's other things that need attention at Road Atlanta, too. Turn 12 is by far the biggest of the problems, but I think you've got to have management that's willing to make an investment in a sport such as motorcycling. You're never going to fix that track for nothing. You're going to have to spend some money. I wish it was safe the way it is, but it's not.

11. Roger Lee Hayden might have a shot to go MotoGP racing. There seems to be some question as to whether he wants to go or not. Should he go?

A My take on going MotoGP racing is, can you stand around and say "I'm the winningest Supersport or Superstock or AMA Superbike rider ever," or "I am MotoGP World Champion." To me, to have conquered the world means a whole lot more—meant a whole lot more to me when I was racing. I never even thought for an instant about doing anything any different. When somebody said, "You want to go do some Grands Prix?" I was like, "When?" and "Where?" and "Do I have to swim to get over there, or can I actually fly?" So. Anybody that has the opportunity and is still fairly young in age, should jump at it. It's the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. It is the championship of all championships.

12. In the same vein, Chaz Davies. How do you rate him? It's rumored that he doesn't think he's ready for a Superbike.

A Come on, Chaz. The only way you're ever going to get ready is to get on one. You can ride 600 and Formula Xtreme bikes forever, and I don't think you're ever—ever—going to get the experience that you need to be comfortable immediately jumping on a Superbike, a World Superbike, or a MotoGP bike. You've just got to go do it. I think Chaz is a great talent. I think he's done a great job for his lack of experience on any tracks here in America. He has really, I think, opened some eyes. He's got some pretty decent equipment underneath him, and I think he's kind of been the pinnacle of what Yamaha's done, with the exception of a couple events where Josh Herrin seems to maybe have gotten just the better of him.

13. You're flicking into this role of the elder statesman of the paddock. Are you comfortable with that, or do you still get up in the morning with your head is stuck in 'racer mode'?

A No, I'm pretty good with just sitting back and watching now. I went to the hospital and saw Miguel Duhamel after he crashed in Turn 12. And I don't ... I did not, I did not want to be in his position. I remember what it felt like laying there, all attached, all hooked up to wires, oxygen, struggling to breathe, broken ribs, punctured lung, internally as beat up as he was. I'm 43, and unless I go crash my motocross bike or fall off my mountain bike or bust my ass playing around on my trials bike, I get up in the morning and I hurt bad enough anyway. I don't need to still have my head pounded to try and prove something to somebody.


ENDS

Bernard
NESBA #12I
CBR1000RR8 (street)
CBR600RR5 (track)



"Itīs not easier to ride, but I donīt need something easier, I need something faster."
- Nicky Hayden #69

Next Track Days (NESBA): September 10 - Summit (Main)

Last edited by sooperman12; 08-16-2007 at 10:30 AM.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 08-16-2007, 10:31 PM
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Schwantz is great. I took his class and would love to do it again.

Quote from one of my best friends " Kiss My faggot azz"


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