Colin Edwards has announced that he is to retire from motorcycle racing at the end of the 2014 season. The 40-year-old Texan told a shocked press conference that he had decided to hang up his helmet for good, after finding it increasingly harder to be competitive, and struggling to make the family sacrifices with children growing up.
Edwards seemed uncharacteristically at a loss for words as he made his announcement. The Texan has always been outspoken, and never afraid to speak his mind, yet this announcement was hard. 'I don't even know how to say it, I rehearsed it so many times,' Edwards hesitated. '2014 will be my last year racing motorcycles.' It was a tough decision to make, he said. He has been racing in Europe since 1995, and been away from his family an awful lot. With his kids reaching the age where they are becoming much more active, Edwards hinted that it was getting hard to keep missing big moments in their lives.
The biggest factor was his struggle to be competitive, however. After a difficult year on the Suter-BMW, then a slightly better year on the FTR Kawasaki, Edwards had high hopes for 2014. The return to a Yamaha M1-powered bike meant he would no longer have to fight a lack of horsepower, but Edwards could never really get to grips with the Yamaha M1 chassis. 'Preseason was a little tough, testing was a little tough. I wasn't really getting the results that I wanted, and I realized I had to really change my body, my style. 'Trying to do that was…I was like man I don’t know if I can do this,' he told the press conference.
The Texan had been thinking about retirement for a while - though he laughed off question from a French reporter, who he had told he would keep racing for a while just last week. 'If I'd have told you, you would have told everyone,' he joked. 'My wife hadn't asked me [about retiring] for a couple months, we had talked a little bit about it, and then finally last week she's like 'are you going to retire on Thursday?' and I said 'yes' and she said 'shit, I didn't want to ask!' because…my whole life has been racing motorcycles,' Edwards said.
Asked about the best memories of his career, Edwards immediately pointed to his 2002 World Superbike title, which he clinched in one of the most thrilling races of recent years. The battle came down to the final race at Imola, where he beat Troy Bayliss in dramatic fashion to take the race win and the title. Edwards also highlighted his wins at the Suzuka 8 Hour races in 2000 and 2001.
Colin Edwards started his professional racing career in 1992, racing a 250. For the following two years, Edwards raced for the factory Yamaha team in the AMA Superbike series. In 1995, he switched to World Superbikes with Yamaha, but did not make the impact he hoped. He switched to Honda for 1998 after sitting out most of the 1997 series with injury. Edwards scored his biggest successes with Honda, first on the four-cylinder RC45, then on the V-twin RC51, clinching the title in 2000 and 2002. He switched to MotoGP in 2003, racing the vicious Aprilia RS3 Cube, then jumping ship to ride a Honda in 2004. In 2005, he joined Valentino Rossi at the factory Yamaha squad, having his best season with the factory in 2006, where he came within a corner of winning the Dutch TT at Assen. Edwards remained in the factory team for 2007, before switching to Tech 3 in 2008 to make way for Jorge Lorenzo. Edwards stayed with Tech 3 until the end of 2011. For 2012, he switched to the Forward Racing team, where he has remained ever since.
The loss of Colin Edwards is a double blow for MotoGP. Edwards is one of just three American riders in the Grand Prix paddock, along with Nicky Hayden and Josh Herrin, meaning there will be fewer US riders on the grid next year. Most of all, though, Edwards' personality will be missed. Quick-witted, and with a colorful (if often unprintable) turn of phrase, Colin Edwards was one of the old school of riders who are not afraid to speak their minds. Edwards spoke freely, and without concern for his sponsors or his employers. His openness and lively turn of phrase made him massively popular with fans and press alike, his popularity more than compensating for the fact that he refused to toe the corporate line.
Edwards will be sorely missed. We can only hope that other young riders will cultivate character and personality over corporate and sponsorship demands. Motorcycle racing is a highly individual sport, where much revolves around the personality of the rider. Without personalities, the popularity of the sport suffers massively.