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MotoGP legend Schwantz: Attack at every opportunity

“I used every opportunity to get in front. Even if it was a banzai move” - Kevin Schwantz.
How do you beat a faster rider? It's a question many of the MotoGP field are facing ahead of this season, when Honda's Marc Marquez will be seeking a perfect third title in a row.

For 1993 500cc champion Kevin Schwantz there is only one option - try and pass at every opportunity to stop the top rider on the day getting away.

“What I used to do to race somebody who I thought maybe was better than me that weekend, was just to use every opportunity I had to get in front of them,” Schwantz told “Even if it was a banzai move up the inside to get past them on the brakes... I'd get in there and upset their rhythm a little bit.

“Sometimes it worked for me and sometimes it didn't. But I always felt like if I was in front of the person I thought would be most difficult to beat, at least at that moment in time I was winning.

“If you follow, follow, follow you're just going to watch that lead continue to grow and probably end up getting beat anyway.”

The most recent example of such tactics was Valentino Rossi against Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca 2008. Unfortunately for the 2015 grid, the rider Schwantz sees using the approach most is Marquez himself.

“When someone passes him he immediately tries to pass them back,” Schwantz stated.

The 50-year-old, famous for his rivalry with Wayne Rainey, added: “Marquez has shown a level of race craft that we haven't seen since Valentino was dominating. We've probably got a couple more seasons until his younger brother Alex gets in the MotoGP class - then there will be two of them to deal with!”

Schwantz also feels the older, 22-year-old, Marquez has held his advantage during winter testing to date, but that the unique nature of the Qatar season opener means “until they race here in Austin I don't think we'll really know how the championship is going to unfold, in any of the three classes.”

Something Schwantz is already confident of is that the best of the current riders would be equally successful if the sport was still using 500cc two-strokes. Well most of them anyway.

“I think once they figured out that there weren't the electronics there to help them, I think the same group. The cream would still rise to the top. You'd see Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi at the front of the field. I don't think you would ever have seen a Pedrosa at the front of a 500 field though!”

The only current MotoGP rider to have raced a 500cc machine is nine time world champion Valentino Rossi. At 36 Rossi is now the oldest rider on the grid, but finished runner-up to Marquez last season.

Schwantz first saw the Italian ride as a ten-year-old and believes the secret to his longevity is simple: “He doesn't take it as a job and I think Marquez has a similar attitude.

“Every day when I was racing professionally it was like, 'you are kidding me! How much more blessed can I be to have this job?' I think so many riders look at it as work. Go do a normal job and you'll know what the definition of work is.

“It's been interesting to know Rossi from a young kid to the person he is now. He's having a great time and loving what he does. He's one of the few that fame and fortune hasn't changed.”

In terms of up-and-coming MotoGP stars, Schwantz picked out Jack Miller and Scott Redding plus Suzuki riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. Suzuki, synonymous with Schwantz, is returning to MotoGP this season after a three-year absence.

Looking into his 'crystal ball', Schwantz said: “I'd like to think that those two kids they've got riding for them, Espargaro and Vinales, can continue to develop a motorcycle even over the race weekends and can fight for the podium somewhere, sometime this year. And if the conditions are right, a wet-to-dry or dry-to-wet race, maybe they can make the pit stops in a timely fashion and maybe even have the opportunity to win.”

That would be a real upset and exactly the kind of unpredictability Schwantz would like to see more of.

“I think the machinery has a lot to do with it, the electronics and everybody on the same tyres. It's kind of made racing a little bit less exciting, or I guess we can use the word boring,” he said.

“You may lose a little bit of grip as the race goes on, but the bikes have got so much more consistent with the electronics and the ability to monitor and stop wheelspin, stop this, stop that. It's taken a lot of the rider out of the equation.”

Schwantz “would like to think” that the change of tyre supplier from Bridgestone to Michelin will help shake things up in 2016, but warned:

“The thing is it's still going to be the same tyre for everybody. When we raced even among the Michelin competitors, 9 times out of 10 we didn't choose the same tyres.

“I think trying to save money by having just a single tyre manufacturer has really taken a lot more from the sport than it has given to the sport. I think the money that they are saving maybe we are losing in spectators because it's dumbed down the racing.”

There have been two American world champions since Schwantz, Kenny Roberts Jr in 2000 and Nicky Hayden in 2006. However the country that once ruled the premier-class results hasn't celebrated a win since Hayden's title-winning season.

“We used to dominate the sport in the '80s and '90s so it's tough to listen to the Spanish and Italian national anthems every week,” Schwantz admitted.

“We've still got Nicky out there racing, but it can be tough to watch these days knowing there aren't any Americans fighting for the championship. Hopefully our new championship, MotoAmerica, will create that pipeline to get American riders back involved in grand prix.”

CLICK HERE to read the full interview, which includes Schwantz naming his 'best ever' race...

Tagged as: Suzuki , Kevin Schwantz

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Rossi, Schwantz, Marquez, Grand Prix of The Americas, 2014
Crutchlow, Australian MotoGP 2016
Reddng, Petrucci, Smith Australian MotoGP 2016
Hayden after crash, Australian MotoGP 2016
jones, Australian MotoGP 2016
Redding, Petrucci Australian MotoGP 2016
Hayden, Australian MotoGP 2016
Barbera, Smith Australian MotoGP 2016
Hayden, Miller Australian MotoGP 2016
Redding, Australian MotoGP 2016
Redding, Australian MotoGP 2016
Pol Espargaro, Australian MotoGP 2016
Rossi, Australian MotoGP 2016
Rossi, Australian MotoGP 2016
Bradl, Hayden, Australian MotoGP 2016
Lorenzo, Australian MotoGP 2016
Redding, Australian MotoGP 2016
Dovizioso, Australian MotoGP 2016

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March 10, 2015 8:01 AM

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