Q&A: Kevin Schwantz
8 September 2005
1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz was the rider Valentino Rossi dreamed of being - and that probably says all anybody needs to know about the Suzuki hero, whose spectacular on-the-edge riding style earned him a legendary fan base, but cost him heavily in terms of injuries and title success.
Having retired in 1995, with 25 500cc victories to his credit, Schwantz has since remained an active supporter of his former employer, offering backing and advice to Suzuki's racing efforts in BSB and AMA SBK as well as the company's often troubled MotoGP project.
Here, the famous #34 talks about his current work with Suzuki, the impact new MotoGP team manager Paul Denning has had on the team, his thoughts on the four Americans currently racing in MotoGP, his own racing activities and more...
What's your current involvement with the Suzuki MotoGP team?
Basically I'm just a free loader! I come and I enjoy the food and the drink and I watch practice a bit and give input as often as I can. I don't get to come to a lot of grands prix - of course I did the US Grand Prix - and I also went to the British GP.
What effect do you think new team manager Paul Denning has had?
Paul has changed quite a bit of stuff around, the image of the team has changed. Attitude in the team is still not at a high, but at the same time it's not at a low with the results they have been getting.
It would be real easy to be walking around with your chin on the ground or your shoulders slumped over, so I think he does a good job keeping the guys motivated, keeping the riders excited about new stuff that might be coming. He is going about doing things in quite a good way.
What do you think of the American riders in MotoGP?
Well Nicky (Hayden) and Colin (Edwards) of course had a good Laguna Seca - congratulations to Nicky on winning. Colin seems to be consistently running near the front, practicing near the front, being a contender, so he seems to have found a home there at Yamaha.
I wish the two Suzuki Americans could be doing the same, but I think we have four strong riders. I think Kenny Junior is at the point in his career where he doesn't want to risk things, like the other kids might be wiling to, and I can't say that I blame him.
We've also seen you at some British Superbike rounds, what do you think of BSB?
You know for me, I work for Suzuki in their American Superbike series so any chance I get to travel abroad and see how Suzuki are doing with their racing efforts, for me that's good.
It's interesting to see the different ways the teams' work, the communication and stuff that goes on. I guess more than anything I try and stay involved with Suzuki and all aspects of road racing.
What about the level of racing at British Superbikes?
I think the British Superbike Championship is one of the top Superbike series in the world right now. I think AMA Superbike, British Superbike and the World Superbikes are on the rebound right now, I think they are all three great championships. We have Neil Hodgson over in the United States and he seems to really be enjoying himself and liking the racing.
It sounds like the Hondas are working real well (in BSB) and the Suzukis are doing good in the US and World Superbikes. We gotta try and find out why we are getting beat at British level, but I understand there is a fair commitment from the factory itself for Honda.
What else have you been doing since leaving grand prix racing?
Well I have a riding school, Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School at Atlanta Georgia, we also travel abroad and do some schools. Last year we did six schools across Europe, Germany and France. That is my biggest time consumer.
I work with Suzuki in their race team in the states, the AMA Superbike team, I'm also on the AMA Pro Racing Board which tries to help come up with rules, class changes and structure like that for the racing in the states.
I don't have a lot of free time, it keeps me pretty busy and I still love going to motorcycle races, so if I get the opportunity of a free weekend I'll travel to go see a Grand Prix or a World Superbike or a British Superbike.
Didn't you do some Supermoto racing as well?
Yeah I played around and did some in the past two or three years. I hurt my knee two years ago in the final in Vegas and haven't really done much since then.
You know when it first got started in the States I could show up and ride one or two races a year and have fun and race near the front, now it seems everyone has gotten serious about it and they are testing all the time and tyre development.
My schedule is full enough - I don't need something else to take precedent in my life and rule my life like grand prix road racing did.
But do you still have the racing bug?
Oh yeah, I did an AMA Formula Extreme race in Wisconsin in the middle of June. It was nice to go out and try and find the limits, pushing a motorcycle really hard again. I had fun. I still enjoy the thought of competition, and I enjoy going out and trying to push the limits all the time.