After years of contributing to the planning and construction
and then spending two more years in a legal dispute with its leadership former
World Champion Kevin Schwantz finally got to ride his hometown racetrack,
Circuit of The Americas (COTA), today for the very first time.
“It’s a real special day for me,” Schwantz told
Roadracingworld.com Monday in the paddock at COTA, just five days after
settling his civil lawsuit against the racetrack and its leadership regarding the
promotional rights of MotoGP racing in Texas and becoming an “ambassador” for
COTA. “It was really special when we came to an agreement and got everything
signed, but it was actually more special being out here and shaking hands and
seeing Mel [Harder, Senior Vice President and General Manager] and Chuck
[Aksland, Vice President of Motorsport Operations] and Bobby [Epstein, Circuit
Chairman] and meeting all the staff who work out here.
“I texted Mel on Thursday night, ‘What time do I need to be
at work Friday?’ He said, ‘Take Friday off. We start Monday.’”
Monday was a special media event in which COTA partnered
with the GEICO Motorcycle Racing Team and Chris Ulrich to give local reporters
rides on the back of Ulrich’s two-seat Honda CBR1000RR Superbike to give them a
better understanding of motorcycle road racing ahead of the Red Bull Grand Prix
of The Americas April 11-13.
What did Schwantz think of the 3.4-mile road course?
“I think it pretty much met all of my expectations,” said
the 1993 500cc Grand Prix World Champion. “Having seen it go from a bar napkin
to a piece of paper and some pencil sketches to the ideas of Tilke [architect
Hermann Tilke] to renovating it and making a few modifications and trying to
keep it as safe as we possibly can for two-wheel [use], I’m happy with it. I
think it turned out really good.
“I like the challenges that it presents. There’s a couple of
things that maybe that sequence of corners, Turn 12 to 15 is a little tighter
than they looked [on paper], but they create some great passing opportunities.
As a rider when I raced I wouldn’t have particularly liked it because you’ve
got to remember to be somewhat defensive, but I think with electronics taking
so much away from racing these days you have to have a track that opens up
passing opportunities. I like it. I wouldn’t say it’s Suzuka or Donington Park.
It wouldn’t rank up there with me, but I haven’t won four Grands Prix at this
place either. So I’m pretty biased to places where I had some success.”
Ulrich gave 14 journalists and COTA staff members
150-plus-mph rides around the 18-month-old road course while Schwantz, riding a
2014-model Suzuki GSX-R1000, rode in close proximity to Ulrich to give the
passengers a small feeling of racing. Then during a break in the action,
Schwantz took former lawsuit opponent Epstein for a ride around the track on
“Just riding the bike around here was really exciting,” said
Schwantz, “but actually getting to get him on the back and see and listen to
him talk to me as we were leaving pit lane, like, ‘Please don’t kill me, please
don’t go too fast,’ that was pretty fun.
“But just seeing and listening to him and all the people who
rode on the back with Chris [Ulrich] today, everybody just absolutely cannot
believe how fast a motorcycle goes and what it feels like to lean a motorcycle
over that far and how abrupt and how physical it is trying to slow the thing
down and speed the thing up and how you’ve got to hang on stopping and hang on
“I told one person, you think you’re tired after that [two
laps] and you’re just hanging on and doing what he’s doing. Imagine if you have
to control everything, process everything and do the hanging on. It’s not an
easy job, although as it is with anything professional the good guys make it
look easy. Every time I watch a baseball game I think I can hit a homerun except
that I can’t even see a 95-mph fastball.”
As Epstein dismounted Schwantz’s motorcycle he joked about
giving Schwantz a contract extension on his riding school, the Schwantz School,
something Schwantz downplayed somewhat.
“Of course I would love to be able to have my school here,
to be able to wake up in the morning and drive 20 minutes to come to the track,
probably the best motorsports facility in the United States, possibly the world,”
said Schwantz. “I think the Schwantz School would be a great complement to all
the other great things that happen here. Right now we’re going to work together.
We’re going to do our best to promote two wheel [events] and hopefully
somewhere along the line that includes some Schwantz Schools as well.”