14 January 2009
Kevin Schwantz - Q&A: EXCLUSIVE.
Kevin Schwantz needs little introduction, the 1993 500cc world champion winning 25 grands prix during an exciting seven (full) seasons with Suzuki, during which his wild riding style made him one of the most famous and popular riders ever to compete in the premier-class - even a young Valentino Rossi was a fan.
The Texan (and his #34) retired from racing during 1995 but Schwantz remains heavily involved in two-wheels through his riding school, the Red Bull Rookies Cup, media work and close association with Suzuki's racing teams at both national and international level.
In this exclusive interview with Crash.net, Schwantz discusses the recent changes at his riding school, before turning to such topics as the Rookies Cup, Ben Spies, Rossi vs. Bayliss, Suzuki's grand prix project, Kawasaki's withdraw and Kevin's own ambitions to return to MotoGP in a management role...
Kevin, you've recently moved your riding school, can you tell us the reasons for the move and what the change will mean?
The Kevin Schwantz Suzuki school has been at Road Atlanta for just over eight years but we have taken the school to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, mainly because, with it just being a Suzuki school and everyone's budgets getting tight with economic troubles around, I found that if I wanted to get a new manufacturer involved, it was difficult for them to go to Atlanta. Barber Motorsports Park has a museum and close access to the airport, so I was able to convince American Honda that this was something they would want to get involved in. With that said, we have Suzuki and Honda on board and we are working hard to get other manufacturers on board too, although in these times of struggles for the world, it makes so much sense to work together to try and save money. We should all be involved in schooling to a certain extent and I think this is a great opportunity.
What do you look to achieve with the riding school?
The school has always been based around riding. It is not a racing school and although we hold it at a racing circuit, it is so we can control that 2.5miles of race track. What I teach is what I learnt during my racing career, but mostly it is about basic handling skills, visual awareness, body position, braking technique… the things that can be applied to the race track or on the street. It is all very important to your safety.
And does everyone that attends your school get personal advice from yourself?
I am at every school there is. I missed my first day in eight years this year because I had a Red Bull Rookies commitment, but I work in the classroom in the morning and then ride with the students in the afternoon.
What's the main mistake you see most riders make when they first attend your school? How much difference are you able to make by the time they leave?
The first and most difficult thing we have to overcome is visual awareness - we have to be out in front of that motorcycle, so we are not reacting to situations but anticipating what is going to happen. If someone gets into a corner too deep, they typically get on the brakes, startle themselves and look at what is on the outside of the track. Our instinct tells us we want to see what is out there, but nine times out of ten, where you look is where you go. So, you have to continue to look where you want to go, rather than the outside of the track where the trouble is.
Do you have any plans to bring your school to Europe?
The ultimate goal is to have schools worldwide. We have done some French, German and Greek schools and it has been really successful. However, until we have the opportunity to get the distributors, whether it is Suzuki or Honda, to work together it is costly in bringing my entire staff over for a couple of schools. If we came over and spent more time and everyone got a bit of the share of the cost, then it would be a more reliable product.
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