The long-running dispute between Kevin Schwantz and the Circuit of the Americas has finally come to an end. Today, the circuit in Austin, Texas and the 1993 500cc World Champion announced that the two sides had reached an amicable settlement, and that Schwantz would act as motorcycle racing ambassador for COTA.
The split between Schwantz and the track emerged after Schwantz accused the then owner of the track, Steve Sexton, of agreeing a deal with Dorna to promote the race behind Schwantz' back, when Schwantz already had a 10-year contract to organize the Texas MotoGP round. Schwantz sued COTA to get the rights back from the circuit, and the circuit countersued for costs and fees. Schwantz had been involved in the circuit from its very inception, having acted as an advisor to Hermann Tilke, the German designer of the track. The Texan had worked tirelessly to bring the race to his native state, and when he fell out with circuit management, it was a blow both to Schwantz and to the circuit and the status of the race.
Schwantz was a prominent absentee at the first running of the Austin MotoGP round, despite having been instrumental in it coming about, and despite the presence of the Red Bull Rookies Cup, in which he also plays a prominent role. For 2014, Schwantz is to be the Grand Marshal for the race, and will help promote the event in the two weeks before the race happens.
Terms of the settlement were not agreed, but the changes appear to be part of a number of recent changes at the track, which have been undertaken to make both the facility and the events held there more attractive to the public and the locals. It also removes probably the biggest public relations problem facing both the track and the race. Having Schwantz on board and promoting the race is a major boost for all concerned.
The press release issued jointly by COTA and Kevin Schwantz appears below:
Kevin Schwantz joins Circuit of The Americas™ as motorcycle racing ambassador
AUSTIN, Texas (March 27, 2014) – Circuit of The Americas (COTA) and motorcycle racing legend Kevin Schwantz have amicably settled their legal differences and have reached a new agreement to collaboratively promote motorcycling racing at the Austin circuit and across the United States. Schwantz will serve as an official ambassador for COTA and work to promote the upcoming Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas MotoGP™ event set for April 11-13, 2014.
“Kevin is a great champion and partnering with him gives us an opportunity to learn from his deep knowledge, as well as continue to celebrate his accomplishments,” Circuit Chairman Bobby Epstein said. “Kevin and I have always shared the desire to see him be a part of COTA, and it's awesome to finally see it become a reality. A great American track and a great American champion in the same city can't be kept apart. As a result, casual riders, current racers, future stars and the fans all win.”
"I look forward to being the ambassador for two-wheel racing for COTA, especially as the 2014 MotoGP season begins and returns to Texas,” Schwantz said. “Grand prix motorcycle racing has been my life, and to help COTA market and promote that moving forward is exciting!"
As a COTA ambassador, Schwantz will play a prominent role in a variety of promotions for the upcoming Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas event in April, including media availabilities and fan activities. For example, Schwantz will serve as Grand Marshal for the MotoGP race on Sunday, April 13, and will lead the parade laps scheduled for COTA’s personal seat license holders on Friday, April 11, between grand prix practice sessions.
Additionally, COTA will work with Schwantz to raise money for an important charity he supports, the Simoncelli Foundation, which was established in memory of Schwantz’s good friend, Marco Simoncelli, a MotoGP competitor from Italy who will be inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame as a MotoGP Legend this May. Simoncelli died after an accident during the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix. Today through Friday, April 4, COTA will donate $1 for every ticket purchased for the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas to the Simoncelli Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting humanitarian projects that benefit the disadvantaged.
"I am thankful for COTA's support of the Simoncelli Foundation, a charity that's important to all of us who knew Marco personally and fans that followed his career," Schwantz added. “Marco was a great competitor and a very special friend. Now racing fans everywhere can honor his memory and help a cause important to Marco by purchasing a ticket to Austin’s MotoGP race."
Tickets for the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas start at $39 and are available for purchase at http://circuitoftheamericas.com/motogp/. Children ages 12 and under receive free general admission with a ticketed adult.
Terms of the legal settlement between COTA and Kevin Schwantz were not disclosed.
About Kevin Schwantz
One of the most popular motorcycle racers of all time, 1993 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Kevin Schwantz is one of just 20 riders to have earned the status of MotoGP Legend.
Born to parents who ran a Texas motorcycle shop, Schwantz learned to ride at a very young age, and he soon began competing in observed-trials events, where he developed a fine sense of balance. Unsatisfied with the slow speeds in trials, he quickly moved on to hare scrambles, flat track and motocross racing, but following a bad crash at a 1983 supercross race in Houston he began road racing in the competitive WERA series.
Schwantz immediately earned a reputation for riding any motorcycle at the absolute limit, and in 1984 he caught the attention of journalist/racer John Ulrich, who arranged a test ride with Yoshimura Suzuki. That led to a spot on the team in the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) national series the following year, and even an appearance in a Japanese race at Suzuka, where Schwantz finished second.
Schwantz continued in the AMA for the next two years, although Suzuki also sent him to Europe on several occasions for wildcard appearances in the 500cc Grand Prix World Championship. Upon winning the AMA’s season-opening Daytona 200 in 1988, Schwantz was promoted to Suzuki’s grand prix team full time.
The late 1980s and early 1990s are generally considered to be the Golden Era of grand prix road racing, in which Schwantz had epic battles with his arch-rival Wayne Rainey and other motorcycling heroes like Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan. Schwantz soon attracted a legion of enthusiastic fans who were inspired by his charismatic personality, his aggressive style aboard a bike that was often slower than those of the competition, and his propensity for spectacular crashes.
Between 1989 and 1992, Schwantz finished the season fourth, second, third and again fourth in the final standings, while Rainey collected a trio of crowns. Finally, Schwantz landed the 500cc World Championship in 1993. An injury-plagued title defense saw him finish fourth, and the Texan participated in the first three races of the 1995 season before announcing his retirement from grand prix racing, at which point his racing number, 34, was also retired from grand prix competition. This was the first time in the history of the sport that a rider had been so honored.
Currently seventh on the list of premier-class grand prix race winners, with 25 victories, Schwantz remains a favorite with the fans, many of whom have benefited from his riding instruction at the respected Schwantz School. He was named to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999 and the MotoGP Hall of Fame in 2000.
Still an active racer, Kevin entered the prestigious 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours with Yukio Kagayama and Noriyuki Haga, finishing on the podium. In June 2014, at the age of 50, Schwantz will return to the race with a special Yoshimura Suzuki “Legends Team” that will pair him with Satoshi Tsujimoto, with whom he finished on the podium in the 1986 Suzuka 8 Hours.
Kevin Schwantz Personal Information
- Birthdate: June 19, 1964
- Birthplace: Houston, Texas, USA
- Residence: Austin, Texas, USA
- Kevin Schwantz Racing Accomplishments
- First Grand Prix (500cc): 1986, Netherlands
- First pole position (500cc): 1989, Australia
- First fastest race lap (500cc): 1988, Japan
- First podium result (500cc): 1988, Japan
- First GP victory (500cc): 1988, Japan
- GP starts (500cc): 105
- GP victories (500cc): 25
- GP podiums (500cc): 51
- GP pole positions (500cc): 29
- GP fastest race laps (500cc): 26
- World Championships (500cc): 1 (1993)
- Last GP victory (500cc): 1994, Great Britain
- Last Grand Prix (500cc): 1995, Japan
- AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame - 1999
- MotoGP Hall of Fame - 2000