Kevin Schwantz casts his eye over the new MotoGP ´world´ in Catalunya
Suzuki legend and 1993 World Champion Kevin Schwantz visited the MotoGP paddock for the first time this year at last weekend´s Grand Prix of Catalunya and Motograndprix.com took ten minutes out of his day to ask one of the sport's most flamboyant and spectacular riders ever how he was spending his days and what he thought of the changing face of GP racing.
Q: So Kevin, this is your first visit to a MotoGP race for some time, what do you think?
KS: This is the first four-stroke race I have been to and I am really impressed. I think the transition from two-stroke to four-stroke has been very smooth. I have always thought it was something that would be very good for the sport and bring a lot of people from outside the industry into the show, this is just starting to happen and it will grow even more. The bikes sound great! I really like riding two-strokes but the technology is heading in the direction of the four-strokes. The paddock is definitely bigger than from when I raced and you can tell that there is a whole lot more sponsorship dollars involved. It seems that there are a lot more smaller sponsors but at all levels, right through 125, 250 and up to MotoGP. I still have a lot of friends here that I have made over the years so it is fun coming back.
Q: Aside from being a part of the AMA board what else are you up to?
KS: I have a riding school in Atlanta, ´schwantzschool.com´. We do 15 schools a year in the US but in ´03 we are also travelling out to Germany. We have some days in Berlin before Sachsenring and then more sessions at the Nurburgring after the MotoGP, and I'm really looking forward to that. I am also doing some Supermoto racing in a six race National Championship; I think some light competition will be good for me! The AMA Pro Racing board takes quite a bit of time with regards to meetings, rules and that kind of stuff. I don't have a lot of spare hours and I wish I could get to more MotoGP races.
I still have a really active role with Suzuki and I work with their Yoshimura race team in the States. I like to do whatever I can to help and I'm not much use as a rider any longer. I can still get out there and ride the bike fast enough to give my impressions but the level that it needs to be pushed is now too high for me to give any valuable input.
I´m very interested in the managerial side. I like talking to the riders, going out watching practice and offering some advice. All riders are so different. With the US team they all have varying styles, approaches and attitudes. I will go out and watch and then tell them what I see other riders doing differently. It´s not a case of saying ´you are doing this right or this wrong´ but pointing out that other guys are not having problems getting through these corners maybe you should try another approach.
I also try to work with the Suzuki supported guys, the young and upcoming riders who do not have the factory gear because I feel if there is some way that I can see something and prevent them from making a mistake and having a crash or an injury then that makes it all worthwhile.
I like to try and give ideas and one of the reasons that I like to do this is because when I was riding I did not feel like I was racing against Wayne Rainey, rather against Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts. Every practice session, except when it was raining, I would go out and see Kenny sitting somewhere around the circuit watching where I had an advantage or where I was making time. He would really help Wayne out and that´s why typically on a Sunday afternoon he was one tough cookie to beat. Wayne´s success was not solely down to Kenny but his presence was an important part.
Q: Is it now a little upsetting to see Suzuki struggling on the GP stage?
KS: It really bothers me. Upset is not really the word because I know that everybody at the factory, the team and the riders are more than capable. The way I see it now is that there is a communication problem between these three parts and that really has to be fixed. I have confidence though in the guys at Suzuki that they can make things work.