As is customary prior to the Indianapolis MotoGP round, the Press Communications staff organize a conference call with a senior figure in American racing to help stir up the already intense interest in the event. Last year, we spoke to Colin Edwards, and this year, the press assembled on the end of the phone lines has the distinct honor to talk to US racing legend Kevin Schwantz. Schwantz is known for his outspoken yet well thought out opinions - his article on what he thought of the DMG's attempt at running the AMA Superbike series over on Superbikeplanet.com is an excellent example - and we were hoping to hear something interesting.
We got that, alright. The first question to Kevin Schwantz, once the mike had been turned over to the press, was from Superbikeplanet's Dean Adams, who asked Schwantz for his thoughts on the situation surrounding Casey Stoner and his mystery illness. A transcript of his replies follows below:
Dean Adams: Can you touch on the Casey Stoner situation a little bit, a lot of mysterious stories going around at the moment. You've been to several MotoGP races this season, what have you heard, what have you seen, what do you think?
Kevin Schwantz: Well I guess first of all what I've heard and what I've seen is that Casey's been struggling with some type of an illness, whether it was a stomach bug or whatever, at a bunch of the earlier grand prix that I went to. Of course the last one I went to at the Czech Republic he wasn't there, still with no form of illness that's been diagnosed by any doctors that I've heard, anyway.
As a rider, my gut feeling is Casey needs to be out there competing. This championship, when he made a tire choice at Donington which seemed to be a little bit off of the norm, had him right at the top of it. I mean, he didn't need to be making a gamble on tires like that when he was in the championship hunt. For me that told me there was more going on with Casey than just "you know I don't really feel all that good but I'm finding a way to perform." And for me, to have signed a contract whenever it was, beginning of this year, beginning of last year, whenever it was, you're signing a contract to compete unless something is medically wrong with you. I'm out there doing the best that I can, whether I can give 100% every weekend is kind of another question.
For me it's a real disappointment. I think Casey's a great competitor and I think ... maybe a little bit more of this has something to do with something behind the scenes that none of us quite yet know about. Maybe that's some Stoner hard feelings towards Ducati or towards the series or I don't exactly know what it's going to be. But to just decide to skip three race and see if you feel any better at the end of it to me is a little bit out of the norm.
DA: Can you talk a little bit about how difficult it is to remain motivated as a rider if your heart just simply isn't in it?
KS: Well, yeah, I can be the first to comment on that because when I quit racing it was, you know any motivation, any focus I'd had any inspiration to go out and compete every weekend was based around trying to figure out how to beat Wayne Rainey. Without Wayne there ... you know winning a race was winning a race and it was still really cool, but it didn't have near the meaning to it that it did when I was beating him.
You know, if your heart's not in it, it's somewhat of a high-risk profession, and maybe you're better off going to get a desk job or at least stepping away from the sport, and that in my situation is what I did. I sure hope that's not the case with Casey Stoner and he hasn't just lost interest and focus in this sport at such a young age. Because he's definitely a huge draw to the series, and I think, you know, he's been a world champ, so he obviously can ride one of these two-wheeled rockets at the best of his ability, which is world championship winning level.
A full transcript of the press conference is due to be released later today, and if it doesn't get posted here, it will be up on the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix's excellent website.