Schwantz on… CRT riders
I don't see a major shift in power – it will be between Aspar's Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro, not just because of the team's strength but because they're also the best riders in CRT and they've got a lot of experience at this level. There may be new guys in the class who surprise us, but it's hard to cause surprises: the Bridgestones make these bikes a pretty unique beast and trying to make those tires work is not easy. Blake Young [second in AMA Pro SuperBike championship last year] tested that bike for a total of five days at Austin and I still don't think he figured out what that front tire needs to get temperature into it, to keep temperature in it and how to get that bike turning like he needs it.
It would be nice to have something to offer national-level riders for MotoGPs in their home country, so they can come in and be a wild card. Anyone who ever gets a one-off ride in a MotoGP bike or a CRT bike will say at the end of the event, “Man, I still don't know what that front tire's gonna do.” Have Bridgestone built a tire that 90 percent of mortals just can't understand? I don't know. When I did that test in '06, it was on Bridgestones but everyone had their own stuff; it wasn't yet a spec tire.
Schwantz on… Colin Edwards
Well, we started talking about the Americans, and Colin Edwards is our man in the CRT class, and I just don't think his heart's in it anymore. You can tell a lot from his demeanor in interviews. He's one of a few riders out there who are riding because they're getting paid to do it. In my opinion, you should race for free and race to win, and when you win, that's how you make your money. Colin is 39 and he has a family. Man, if I'd won a couple of World Superbike titles a decade ago, and now I was on a bike that, if I'm lucky, will only allow me to slide into the top 10, I'd pack up and go fishing. This can't be fun for him at this stage after a strong career in World Superbikes. There's so much to lose and nothing to gain…not on-track, anyway.
When we were flying home from the Japanese Grand Prix in 1995, Wayne Rainey said to me: “Kevin, if you don't get off that bike, you're gonna get hurt. You're not having fun and you're not focused on trying to go as fast as you can. You're riding around looking at all the unsafe aspects of the tracks.” And I thought, “Dammit, he's right. How can he tell?” Anyway, that got me thinking back to when I started, when I said to myself that I'd quit when it wasn't fun anymore. And I realized I'd reached that point and, boom, that was it. All over.
Schwantz on… America's MotoGP struggle
I don't think having three grands prix is that big a deal for America, because we don't have any Americans at the front of the class right now. We have two kids in Red Bull Rookies' Cup, and PJ Jacobsen is racing in British Superbikes. Otherwise, we have no riders racing internationally at a world championship level except Spies, Hayden and Edwards. We need excitement throughout all the classes, we need kids on Moto3, Moto2 and Superbikes, SuperStock, and so on.
That's what made the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca so special. There were a handful of American riders who could win it and there was a 90 percent chance we were going to win it. It used to be a case of, “Which American's gonna win?” and then it became, “Is an American gonna win?” and now it's almost, “Where might the one or two Americans finish this weekend?” That's depressing. That doesn't mean I think less of Ben or Nicky or Colin: but manufacturers have not done a good job of rounding up our talents here in the U.S.. My opinion is that an American leading races and winning races is going to create more excitement for the motorcycle industry here in the U.S. than having three MotoGP races.
And I tell you, the industry needs that excitement right now. The national race scene is dwindling – not helped by the TV package – and we've got to change that, because it's having a knock-on effect. I'm not saying we could quite get back to how bike sales were before 2008, but having American riders on the podium in grand prix road racing would improve things ten-fold. It's a rider-driven thing, a personality-driven thing. That's what I was going to do as promoter for the Austin MotoGP race – take some of the money and plow it into getting wild card entries for American racers. We've got to change how things are currently.
Anyway, thanks for reading. I'll catch up with you here, midseason.
• Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinSchwantz
Photos: Red Bull, Ducati Corse, Yamaha MotoGP, Monster