MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Kevin Schwantz: How I rode, Part 2
Kevin Schwantz, the hugely popular 1993 500cc world champion tells us about some of his scariest moments, some of his nastiest crashes and his greatest victories
Kevin Schwantz won 25 500cc grands prix and one world title between March 1988 and July 1994 but his impact on the sport of motorcycle racing was much greater than that.
The American’s wild riding technique, his ability to magic victories apparently out of nowhere and his willingness to ride way beyond the limit – sometimes with painful consequences – made him a huge favourite with fans.
Schwantz simply never knew when to back down, which was as much a negative as a positive. He also spent most of his seven and a half seasons as a full-time GP rider aboard Suzuki’s RGV500, which was mostly out-performed by Honda’s NSR500 and Yamaha’s YZR500. Therefore he often had to take huge risks to race with his rivals.
Schwantz came from U.S. superbike racing and continued riding Suzuki’s GSX-R750 four-stroke in the Suzuka 8 Hours during his GP career. He also rode a GSXR-R to victory in the 1988 Daytona 200, three weeks before his debut 500 win at that year’s Japanese GP at Suzuka.
The 500s were very light and lively, so I suppose you had to be careful with your upper-body inputs through the handlebars?
In fact, what taught me that lesson more than anything was Daytona 1986, on that year’s GSX-R750. The new bike was awesome, breaking track records like crazy, then we got it to Daytona and mine wouldn’t go in a straight line to save its ass.
I was trying to lock my elbows in front of my knees to force the handlebars to stay straight – I’m not going to let this thing shake its head! The guys from Yoshi were watching. They said, Kevin, you’re too tense on the thing. I said, you go ride that thing at 170 miles an hour when it starts friggin’ shaking and tell me you don’t tense up!
But the solution to the problem was to relax, don’t try to be a part of the chassis, don’t try to make the thing rigid. Let it have its head: come out of the chicane, spin the rear a bit, don’t get rigid on it, let it shake a bit and it’ll settle itself down. By the time I’d loosened up on the bike I could’ve eaten a sandwich between the chicane to the start finish line. It was that solid.
What was the scariest thing you did on a 500?
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.