In part two of's exclusive interview with 1993 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz, the '34' casts his eye over the first two races of the 2011 MotoGP season - a night race in Qatar and wet race at Jerez...
What are your thoughts on the first two races of this season? What stood out for you?

Kevin Schwantz:
The first one in Qatar I thought was kind of as we expected. There were a few passes at the front but not a whole lot happening. Not a real thriller, by any stretch by an imagination.

Jerez was absolutely the opposite. The rain opened it up for a lot of different people to be at the front - Simoncelli, Lorenzo, Stoner, Pedrosa. And Rossi was on a charge through until he made a little mistake. It was great to see him get back up and score some points but unfortunate for Casey.

You know Bernie [Ecclestone] made some noise about 'we need to wet the track [in F1]. We need to open this up and make it a better opportunity for everyone to win'. That wet race in Jerez showed that a little moisture on the track sure makes a big difference.

A little tweak on the set-up and someone who really wants to push the envelope can actually find his way to the front, where maybe in dry conditions that opportunity wouldn't be there.

Both rounds of Moto2 have been okay, but not great. Not that huge field at the front, a little bit of a breakaway. But that's to be expected after a year of racing. There's going to be some teams that have sorted things out and some riders that are on top of their game at the start of the season.

I don't see it being that way all season long. I think everybody else will catch up, figure out what's going on and both Moto2 and 125 will still offer the great competitive racing that they've always been.

For me the Jerez 125cc race was a real treat, to see Danny Kent and Taylor Mackenzie finish fourth and fifth. A couple of young kids coming through, who got an opportunity on a wet track to really show what their riding ability is all about. And they made the most of it.

I'm looking for great things from the smaller class and trying to see who will be our next MotoGP stars. And both of those kids were Red Bull Rookies last year, when I was working with them.
Looking at the top of MotoGP now, we've got Jorge Lorenzo leading by nine points. What have you made of his performances? Do you think he's taken another step now he's got a title under his belt?

Kevin Schwantz:
If I had to give a ride of the race in Qatar it would be him, because I really didn't think he'd be able to get between the Hondas - especially not Dani and Casey. Finding a way to get those extra points for second position was almost like a win for him.

Then at Jerez he was the smart guy in the group. He stayed out of trouble. Realised, as he started having issues with the tyres, 'I gotta slow down a little bit, things are getting a little messy for me'. In those conditions it's so easy to make one small mistake and in the rain you don't really get much chance to save it.

That's what happened to Spies. Spies made a great move from third to second, caught and passed Pedrosa and then should have done just enough to stay in front of Dani. But instead one little bobble got him on the ground. And you can't always get up and get the bike restarted, as we saw on Sunday.
Casey Stoner is now level with your great rival Wayne Rainey on 24 race wins and just one behind your 25 wins. What do you think about Casey as a rider and what he's been doing on the Honda?

Kevin Schwantz:
Well, I said at the start of the year if Casey gets to grips with that Honda like he got to grips with the Ducati, we're all going to struggle to see which way he went. He proved that in Qatar. He realised he couldn't make a break early, waited for about ten laps, then put his head back down and rode away from everybody.

And now he's probably got a little anger pent up in him [after being taken out by Rossi in Jerez] and sometimes a mad Casey is even quicker than a plain-old-ordinary fast Casey!

We can only expect to see more of what we saw at the first couple of rounds, and that is Casey right there at the front doing all he can to make up for the points he lost at Jerez.

For the others, looking ahead, Dani is maybe getting back over his shoulder injury. He's got a little chance to heal up now. Lorenzo is obviously fighting fit and ready to go. Rossi and the Ducati are both unknowns right now. I think once Valentino is back to 100 percent fit we'll see bigger things from him. I think Rossi and Ducati will be winning races before the end of the year.

And of course I've got a little soft spot in my heart there for Spies and I hope he finds his way to the top of the box at least once or twice this year.
Suzuki, your former team, are having a really tough time. They are down to one bike this year and then Bautista broke his femur in practice for Qatar. Where do they go from here?

Kevin Schwantz:
I know Bautista is going to be as keen as he can to get back on the bike, but with the injury he suffered he really needs to take his time and be 100 percent when he gets back on the bike.

An injury like that, the biggest bone in your body, is not something you want to play around with - bending the rod that's in there, tweaking everything around when it's not fully healed.

It's just unfortunate right now that they don't have a great replacement. I think Hopkins got absolutely everything he could, in the conditions, out of the Suzuki [with tenth at Jerez]. But of course John's got a commitment to BSB now.

Maybe it's the opportunity for them to put some different people on the bike and try some new riders - whether it's British guys, American guys, Australians. I've no idea who they should try.

This situation has really shown what having two riders in a team does for you. When one rider is down you at least have the opportunity for the second rider to still get the result you were looking for and get the exposure that the team and sponsors need.

It's a tough position and I don't really have a solution for their problem right now.

The guys in that team, in the garage, I got a text from several of them after the Jerez race and they were really excited about getting in the top ten. That was good for them and a little bit of motivation.

I think it showed them that the bike is capable, but then John's always been pretty good in the wet and the wet always lets the rider - not so much the machine - get the result and I think that's what we saw there.

Kudos to Hopkins because it was not an easy situation to step into and do well. There was a fair bit of attrition and he didn't make any silly mistakes. When it started getting messy at the end of the race he slowed down and he brought the thing home in one piece.

Suzuki have got a really tough season ahead of them and I hope Bautista waits a little bit longer than perhaps he wants to before he gets back onto the bike. He needs to be 100 percent fit, not 75 percent. That's for sure.
Last question Kevin, aside from your involvement in the new Austin F1 and MotoGP track (see part 1 of the interview), what else have you got going on at the moment? Are you still involved with the Rookies Cup?

Kevin Schwantz:
You know, I'll always be involved with the Rookies. I'm not actually working with them any more. Red Bull decided that with the coaching they have in Spain they really didn't need my help. I was a bit of an added expense for them.

But working with them for three years, meeting and knowing those kids, I still get calls and texts - even from the kids that were here back in 2008. I try and help them and give them some advice, I'll continue to do everything I can for them.

More so this year I'm just focused on my Riding School. We've implemented a new programme, a single day school we're doing for Honda, called 'Schwantz School Lites'. So most of my time this year will be taken up with my School and the new [ Austin track] facility here.

It might be a little less work than I had last year, but I'm really looking forward to the end of 2012 and getting everything moved here. Having everything close to home.

End of Part 2. For more on Kevin Schwantz, visit



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