In the first part of an exclusive Crash.net
interview with 1993 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz, the (official) MotoGP Legend talks about his involvement with the new 'Circuit of the Americas' being built in his home state of Texas.
The Austin track, which already had a long-term contract to host an F1 Grand Prix from 2012, has now also secured MotoGP in a ten-year deal beginning in 2013.
In part two of the interview (to follow) the '#34' casts his eye over the first two races of the 2011 MotoGP season...
It's an exciting time for MotoGP in America, and especially Texas. Tell us about the new track being built in Austin - how did it all get started and when did you first hear about it?
Well a really close friend of mine is Tavo Hellmund [Managing Partner of Full Throttle Productions] and Tavo is the one who put the whole deal together with Formula One. Tavo has been talking to me about it for probably 4 or maybe 5 years.
When he first told me I just kind of looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. I said 'you know, it just sounds like a really big job and really tough to pull off'.
But as time continued he just got closer and closer on it. And then two or three years ago he called me, we went and had lunch and he said, 'You know, I think the time is right now because I think Bernie [Ecclestone, President and CEO of the Formula One Group] really wants to come back to America'.
So he got Bernie on board and met the right people in Texas, as far as private investors, and found some funding for it. So he pulled off the two biggest hurdles that I thought were going to really be stumbling blocks for him and made it look easy.
At what point did bikes come into the picture? Were they always in the discussions right from the start?
They may not have been in the discussions from the start, but they were definitely in the back of my mind!
I've always felt, being a native Texan, that if we could ever find a way to get a facility built that was adequate to bring MotoGP here, it would be a resounding success.
Of course, there was also the opportunity to move my Riding School here. Even closer to home. It'll now be only 20 minutes away - there are a lot of ulterior motives on my behalf, but all stuff that I think will be beneficial to the facility as well.
How have you managed to influence the design of the circuit, in terms of thinking about bikes?