CW INTERVIEW: Kevin Schwantz

The 1993 500cc World Champion speaks his mind about the 2015 MotoGP season and Marc Marquez.

Kevin Schwantz at press conference

The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off in Qatar this Sunday, March 29. Can Marc Marquez and Honda be beaten? Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 500cc World Champion, says there's only one way—try to break his rhythm from the very first lap to prevent him from getting away.

As longtime race fans know, the legendary Texan raced to win. When he made his move for a pass, the world held its breath. His heart-stopping style and charismatic personality won him legions of fans worldwide.

Q: Who is your hypothetical successor in the MotoGP field?

A: In the last years, I don’t see really anybody apart from Valentino Rossi. He enjoys racing, and his passion and charismatic personality are contagious. Marco Simoncelli could have been another great ambassador. Among the young guys, I like Jack Miller. He gives his 110 percent on track and knows what he wants. He had the courage to jump in MotoGP. I don’t know if it will works in terms of performance, but he showed to have a huge heart. I also like Scott Redding. This year he will have a better bike and can show his potential.

Q: And what about Marc Marquez?

A: I like Marc, because even when he was leading the championship last year, he didn’t ride just to score points. He kept trying to win races and he made mistakes trying to do that. To me as a racer, what counts more is how much effort a rider puts on track. Giving the maximum on track means passion. Every time I see a picture of Marc, he has a big smile on his face like a kid in Marc’s place should look, just the happiest kid in the world. As I always say, racing a motorcycle and making a living of it, is the best job in the world.

Valentino Rossi action

Q: What is Marquez is doing better than the others?

A: He gives 100 percent from the very first lap of practice. He keeps on trying different things, different lines and he and his team are communicating really well. Marc is really strong throughout the whole race too. Even when he won the first 10 races last year, he didn’t win them all by dominating. He won in all different conditions. What I like about Marc is that he finds a way to make passes where most of the other guys aren’t trying. He is a master in getting the most out of the tires in the first four to five laps. Even Dani or Jorge cannot do it. Valentino is fast, but he has shown that he struggles a bit in the beginning of the race. But once the first laps go by, Valentino is really quick. As a rider, for me it would have been difficult to be able to push 100 percent from the very beginning. It took me four or five to settle in and find my rhythm.

Q: Marquez and his RC213V are just a perfect match. How much is it the Honda? How much is it the rider?

A: The way Marc rides and how far he can lean over is just unbelievable. Dani can’t do the same and I am not sure that anybody can. Marc has shown us all that there is a new way of riding, there is a new limit to lean angles. Even Valentino over the past couple of years had to change his riding style a little bit to be able to hang off the bike further, to get off in the inside of the bike to ride as Marc does.

Q: Do you think that dirt track helped Marc to develop this unique riding style?

A: First of all, you need an amazing physical fitness. On top of it, he has a superb control of the bike that probably comes from dirt track, while hanging off the bike so far is something that maybe comes from Moto2. It’s a combination and, above all, it comes from having a huge heart, because he tries everything possible to be able to be a better rider.

Marc Marquez action

Q: How can Marc Marquez be beaten?

A: The key is in the first part of the race. The Yamaha guys should try to go faster earlier and go with him, because once Marc takes the lead, he builds confidence and he is faster and faster. And as soon as Marc passes you, try to pass him back immediately. You can’t follow Marc for a couple of corners, because he probably gets away. If you keep interrupting his rhythm, there is a better opportunity that Marc can make a mistake.

Q: What do you think about the return of Suzuki after a three-year absence?

A: It's exciting. I know how much effort they have put in, and how restricted the testing is to develop the bike. The choice of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales is very good and they will continue developing the bike even over the race weekends. We will have to wait a bit to see Suzuki fighting on top with Honda and Yamaha. Ducati is closer, but winning in MotoGP is not an easy scenario. Anyway, the Suzuki engineers are working hard in Japan and I think they can compete close to the front. Aprilia is struggling, but they have the ability to build a good bike as they showed in Superbike. It will just take time.

Q: Nicky Hayden is the only American in MotoGP. Is Moto America an opportunity for young American riders to arrive to MotoGP?

A: Wayne Rainey is doing a great job. We needed something new in America. The reason why we don't have American riders in the world championship right now was due to the national championship. Wayne has a big job ahead of him, but we know he is more than capable. He can really bring the championship back where it needs to be. There is no doubt that in America we have the same amount of talent we always had, but we have no avenue to get the young kids into the world championship. We have no manufacturers involved. When I raced for Suzuki in 1986-87, I knew that for 1988 I had a contract with Suzuki Japan. I wouldn't have been able to race in Europe without the support of a manufacturer. We need manufacturers to be involved in the championship.

Q: Who are the riders to follow in Moto2 and Moto3?

A: I’m curious to see how Alex Marquez adapts to a bigger bike in Moto2. In Moto3, I’m tracking South African Brad Binder and Brit Danny Kent, two guys I used to coach in the Red Bull Cup.

Kevin Schwantz race action

Q: Finally, Do you think that the top MotoGP guys would be equally successful on the old 500cc two-strokes?

A: Valentino showed he can ride anything. He is the only guy in the class to have raced a 500 and he did it successfully. As far as Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa go, it’s tough to say. It’s a learning process, and learning how to ride a 500 means getting hurt. And if they could survive the early injuries, I feel positive they could have ridden a 500. Would they have been consistently fast? Probably, but for sure the 46 could have competed with us, with Rainey, myself, Doohan and Gardner.

Kevin Schwantz.

Valentino Rossi.

Marc Marquez.

Kevin Schwantz.