Hanging Out With Kevin Schwantz

Andrea Wilson | October 2, 2014
Schwantz talks MotoAmerica  Jack Miller and Suzukis MotoGP effort. Photography By Gold   Goose.

The folks at the American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) hosted a live video press conference today with Kevin Schwantz, the AIMExpo Champion for this year’s event in Orlando, Florida on October 16-19. Here’s some of what he had to say.

What are your thoughts on the change in American road racing going from DMG to MotoAmerica? And what do you think the future holds?

We all as motorcycle aficionados I think have to expect whatever the new group does is gonna have to be better than DMG because I don’t know that you can do anything any worse.

I have tons of respect for Wayne Rainey, the group that he’s assembled, he’s working with Chuck [Aksland] and a bunch of the other guys. It’s not going to happen over night. He’s got a big job ahead of him, but I’ve seen the guy compete. When I thought I had him by the throat and that there was no way, no chance he was ever going to show up at a Grand Prix, at least not up in the part of the race I expected to be in, and to my surprise he was up there almost every weekend in every Grand Prix.

This is going to be something that Wayne’s going to take to heart just like he did racing. He’s going to want to turn American racing into what it used to be and that is the place that MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 teams, World Superbike and World Supersport are looking for their next up-and-coming young talent.

I know we’ve still got that group of kids in America. That group is always evolving, the 15, 16 year olds now that need to be getting on. That need to be going overseas. They’re still there. If Wayne can put a series together and a TV package together that meets the standards that everybody is so accustomed to, I think the fans will come back to it. The television will get the coverage that we need. As media you guys have done everything that you possibly can to try and help DMG, but at the same time… I don’t know the perfect description for it. I’m glad Wayne’s doing what he’s doing. I think he’ll do a great job.

What would he like to see done differently in the class structure?

Maybe we need some classes that are manufacturer specific. Maybe there’s a certain manufacturer out there that builds a certain bike that suits that group of kids that we need to get a look at younger than 16, when they can actually get their professional license. Or even right at 16. I don’t know that a 600… We’ve done everything with 600s that we can. We’ve got Daytona Sportbike, We’ve Supersport [where] you can only stay in the class a certain matter of time.

What it needs more than anything is manufacturer support. And I think DMG had done a good enough job of stepping on enough toes that the manufacturers weren’t excited. That’s the most polite way I can think of – stepping on toes or kicking them somewhere. The manufacturers have to get involved because how did I get to Europe? I got to Europe because I raced for American Suzuki and Suzuki Japan said, “Hey, you know what, that kid when he’s done with his contract with you guys or maybe even a year before we’re going to take him. We want him on our Grand Prix bike.” But you have to have the manufacturers there to get the communication internationally to be able to get the kid the proper channels to get overseas. Whether it’s doing a few wild cards one season or whether it’s just going over and spending an entire season over there in British Superbike, World Superbike or MotoGP. You’ve got to have some support from someone because financially it’s not an easy step to take. And had I not had Suzuki support, I doubt I could’ve made that jump that’s for sure.

What did he think about Jack Miller making the jump from Moto3 to MotoGP?

I think it’s awesome. I’ve always felt like if riding the big bike is what you want to do, don’t bother with Moto2. You’re going to go there and the class is going to change in another year. You’re going to be on all kinds of different stuff. Just go get on what you can get on.

It’s difficult to make that jump. I think people, manufacturers, team owners need to see something special in a kid to be able to give him that opportunity and I think Jack has proven his worth. I hope he doesn’t prove me wrong, but I think the sooner Jack gets on a MotoGP bike the sooner he’ll learn the ins and outs of riding one and the faster he’s going to find his way to the front.

Schwantz got to ride the Suzuki MotoGP bike at the post race test at the Circuit Of the Americas this past April. What were his thoughts on the bike? And what was his expectations for the team?

I didn’t ride it long enough or hard enough to be able to tell what the electronics do as far as traction control and things like that. But the bike with the exception of just putting it in the wrong place on the racetrack at the speeds that I went on it, it was awesome. It turned back on itself. It liked staying on its side for a long time. Which typically the Suzuki’s that I rode, a simple 90-degree turn was about all they liked to do.

Suzuki is as capable as anybody of building a Grand Prix bike. My concern is that they built this bike, they tested it two years ago in Barcelona. They were less than a second off the pace of what everybody had done after racing there and being there all weekend. This year they go back and do the same test, same track and they are 2.5 seconds off the pace. The sooner that they can get to racing the less that deficit is going to continue to go. Even waiting through Japan and Australia everything else that’s got to come before they actually get to race in Valencia. They’re, once again, still losing ground. My take is they should be at the Japanese Grand Prix in a couple of weeks with a wild card entry. Racing is what they need to do. It’s just going to take time. Is it a year? Is it a two-year effort to be able to find the front or get close to the front again? As restricted as you are on testing, I’m not sure. I know the engineers at Suzuki. I know how capable they are and I wish them the best because they’ve got a tough road ahead of them.

To watch the complete AIMExpoLive Hangout with Kevin Schwantz, click here


Andrea Wilson | Associate Editor / Website Coordinator

Andrea has been shooting everything from flat track to road racing in her job as a professional freelance photographer, but she's made the move to a full-time staff position at Cycle News where her love of all things motorcycling will translate well. Wilson has proven her worth as more than a photographer as she migrates to the written word with everything from race coverage to interviews.