Schwantz Goes Slow Fast

Henny Ray Abrams | February 6, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND, FEB 6 – Kevin Schwantz is almost as good going slowly as he is going fast.The 1993 500cc World Champion showed off his trials skills in the Revolution show, an exhibition/competition that was part of the Carole Nash MCN (Motorcycle News) Motorcycle Show on the London Docklands. Schwantz was joined by fellow World Champions Freddie Spencer, Neil Hodgson, and Dougie Lampkin, as well as four-time 500cc World Championship runner-up Randy Mamola, 500cc and World Superbike contender Frankie Chili, and multi-time Isle of Man champion John McGuinness. As if that wasn’t enough star power, Charlie Boorman, Ewan McGregor’s riding mate, put on a show on his BMW R 1200 GS.The trials competition included identical sets of obstacles that the riders raced through separately. They rode under a limbo bar, weaved through a set of poles, then rode across a set of tabletops and over a seesaw. The most exciting obstacle was a tower of scaffolding with a metal pathway going up four stories. That was where the riders finished, ascending, then descending before racing to the finish line.Of the non-trials specialists – Lampkin was replaced by 17-year-old phenom Jack Sheppard on Sunday  – Schwantz was in a class by himself. In the head-to-head competion, Schwantz, riding Lampkin’s spare Gas Gas, was unbeatable, until he came up against Sheppard. Still, it was clear that the Texan knew what he was doing.”I’ve been to a few world indoor competitions and they have a little bit of a timed, head-to-head, so I guess it is something they sort of do,” Schwantz said after the third and final day of competition. ” And being as we’re pretty confined with the space we’ve got, it probably doesn’t quite meet FIM standards as far as safety go. But I think we all realized that. We got [road circuit racer John] McGuinness here to remind us how bad safety really is at some places.”So far it’s been good fun. Pretty good group of guys. Everybody gets along pretty good. We all go out and have dinner at night and have kind of an idea on where to check on each other when we’re doing the compeititon and making it as close as we can. Nothing too risky.”Schwantz grew up riding trials and counts former European Trials Champion Mick Andrews among his friends and heroes”For me, riding trials is something that I really enjoy,” he said. “Some of the guys, I mean, Freddie [Spencer] and Randy [Mamola] and [Frankie] Chili had never done anything, any real trials riding, to speak of. So a little bit more difficult for them than it was for me. [Neil] Hodgson said, ‘Ah, I found out we were going to ride trails bikes, so I went and got one and rode four times before I came here. That’s all the riding I’ve done.'”Hodgson had borrowed a trials bike, but had so much fun that he plans to add one to his garage on the Isle of Man as soon as possible. For Hodgson, whose World Championship-winning career was effectively ended nearly two years ago by a horrific crash on his right shoulder at a Southern California motocross track – he tried racing in British Superbike last year, but retired after falling on the same shoulder – it was racing his idol Freddie Spencer who was the highlight of the weekend. And not just racing Spencer, but beating him on identical Honda XR100s on a concrete oval layout.”Well, you know, it’s a famous saying in racing you’re as good as your last race,” Hodgson said with a smile. “Definitely Freddie’s [Spencer] got the experience on me on the flat tracking, but at the end, a little bit of cheating from Mr. Hodgson and I managed to hold him off. Quite enjoyed that.”Me and Freddie, I’m not joking, I’m acting like about an eight-year-old and he’s acting like a 12-year-old. We have had so much fun,” he said. “Me and Freddie, we’re down here in the morning in our kit, whilst everybody is not even changed, playing on the XR100s. Superb. Obviously, not to be the boring cliche, but when I was a kid he was totally a hero of mine, so just to have fun with him on like a personal level means more to me than anything.”After his forced retirement, Hodgson remained involved with the Motorpoint Yamaha team, while also mentoring Steve Brogan (BMW – Jentin Racing), who won the BSB EVO Superbike class by three points. And he’ll continue to spend his life at racetracks.”I’ve got quite a bit coming up,” he said. “I’m doing quite a lot of work for Eurosport, doing a lot of commentary on the World Superbike events. And I’m also working for a company called Focused Events,doing track days, mainly in the UK. But this time of the year when the weather’s terrible we go to Europe, southern Spain. We go to all the top tracks, Jerez, Aragon, Cartagena, so I’m keeping busy. I’m definitely keeping out of trouble.”As for a possible return to racing, that won’t happen. The shoulder’s “a lot better,” but even after two operations he knows he’ll “never get the full movement, I’ve got no strength sort of like above my head. But I can ride dirt bikes. I can ride, obviously, XR100s and trials bikes, but I can’t really complain.”On his track day road bike, “it’s literally the last three seconds and it takes that little bit of extra strength and I’ve just got no strength in it, so I’m definitely done with the racing. But obviously staying involved in the sport, because it’s the greatest sport in the world.”


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.