The current tires let elites like Marquez show their stuff, but hinder young riders' progress, Schwantz says.
All images by Red Bull except where indicated
Kevin Schwantz (LAT photo)
Fresh off a remarkable third-place finish with Noriyuki Haga and Yukio Kagayama in the Suzuka 8 Hours – his first race back after retiring 18 years ago! – 1993 World Champion Kevin Schwantz returned to the U.S. and downloaded his thoughts on the 2013 MotoGP season at its midway point.
RACER: Not sure we should start a midseason review on a 2014 story, but anyway…Cal Crutchlow leaving Tech 3 Yamaha and joining Ducati next year is the hot story of the moment. Why would he do that when Ducati are still struggling, and he's started scoring podiums with Tech 3? Surely he could have just hung on, and eventually the works Yamaha ride would have been his when Valentino Rossi retires?
KEVIN SCHWANTZ: I was a bit surprised that's the direction he went in, yeah, but at the same time, maybe Cal has met with some of the new guys in charge or some of the guys from Audi. Someone must have said, “This is what we do, this is how we fix it.” I'd imagine Cal is not the sort of guy who'd shy away from a hard day's work and, as a rider, it would mean so much to him to be able to go to a team in a slump and get it headed in the right direction.
And maybe he's got Casey Stoner's phone number and can ask him, “How in hell did you manage to ride those Ducatis? Nobody else has looked good on them. Tell me how you did it!” It will be interesting to watch. Will he be able to immediately start working with the Ducati boys or is he going to have to wait until his contract's up with Yamaha?
If Crutchlow's decision is the topic at the moment, the theme through much of the season has been the top riders having accidents. Is it just about the nature of the tires?
I think it's partly to do with sensitivity to how quick the tires cool when they come out of the garage. I talked to Blake Young, who had a crash at Laguna Seca. He came out of the pits, tried to keep out of the way of a couple of fast guys, then got stood up by a CRT guy, so he just rode around for half a lap until he got some clear track in front and behind. That let the tires cool down too much and then when he got to Turn 5, he cracked the throttle and it threw him into a cartwheel.
The Bridgestones are really sensitive to cooling and if you're one of the top guys and you can just go out and put your head down and not care who's coming, then they're fine. But it's not a good steppingstone for some of the kids trying to learn, especially not the ones on the CRT bikes who come out of the pits just trying to keep out of the leaders' way and trying not piss anybody off. Any time we have a wild card or someone gets a one-off ride because one of the regular guys has gotten hurt, the new guy spends the entire week trying to learn how to use these tires. That shouldn't be the way it is; it should be about trying to learn the motorcycle. It's like they've built the tires specifically for the elite and the rest are left trying to make it work, but now it's gotten so edgy that it's biting the elite guys, too, unless they go flat-out from the word go each time they leave the pits.
The Bridgestones are good once you get them warmed up and in good racing condition: the ultimate grip is amazing, and the lean angles are just unbelievable. We've seen them leaning over at 60 degrees! I don't think my Dunlops at Suzuka would have allowed me to do that…well, actually, I tried to but my ass was dragging and then the side of the bike was too!
Do you think that Marc Marquez's pace this year has been partly because he's had less to “unlearn” about these tires than his more experienced rivals?
Well, kind of, yes, but I'd put it another way: because he doesn't know what to expect, I think Marc is treating these tires with a little bit more respect. He made his mistake in Mugello, when he was beating his [Honda] teammate Dani Pedrosa but fell off trying to catch up with Jorge Lorenzo [Yamaha], so everybody's had a race he'd prefer not to talk about; Lorenzo's had a couple, in fact.
It's interesting that now that we've had this break, because everyone's going to have a chance to get back healthy for the Indianapolis Grand Prix. The youngster's leading and the older guys are going to have a chance to come back at him and put some pressure on, and that's when we're going to have a chance to see what Marquez is made of. If he starts getting beaten or starts getting raced against and rubbed against, he may start making mistakes, hand over fist. Maybe.
But the three races at Indianapolis, Brno and Silverstone are going to be very telling. Marquez has to look at the first half of the season, thinking “I've won three grands prix now, that's a whole lot more than ever was expected of me. What I don't need to do now is dig myself a big hole by crashing or running off the track.” I think his aim should be to be as fast, smooth and consistent as he can be. That may involve winning one or two more races and if the other two split the wins then Marc is still sitting pretty, so long as he stays in those top three or four bikes at all times. That will make it tough for his rivals because as often as they are going to beat him, he's gonna beat them and they're gonna beat each other. That's how close it is.
Pedrosa leads Lorenzo and Marquez
If Marquez does go on to win the title, do you regard it as being cheapened in any way by Lorenzo and Pedrosa hurting themselves, or should we think, “Well, it's up to those two to stay on their bikes,” and give credit to Marquez for doing that?
I'm sure in the Lorenzo or Pedrosa garage, they may look on it as Marquez being lucky, sure…but I don't think anyone else in the world will think that way! If I were the folks in Lorenzo's garage, I'd say, “Jorge, why were you soooo set on going fast in free practice in the wet in Assen? That puddle was only gonna get worse, you couldn't go through it at the lean angle you did, you should've known what was going to happen.”
And maybe Dani Pedrosa's mindset when he got to Sachsenring was that, with Lorenzo injured, he only had his teammate to worry about and he relaxed a little bit and that's what caused his error. Trust me, at no point in MotoGP, AMA, World Superbike, whatever, can you drop your guard and think, “I got this,” when you're in the title race. You cannot switch from mindset to mindset. You've got to go out and focus each and every session, with no slips, no silly mistakes, because at the speed they're going, an error is going to involve hitting the ground and getting hurt.