MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Kevin Schwantz: How I Rode Part 1
Few grand prix stars are as revered as Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 500cc world champion, who rode with an ocean of natural riding talent and a tidal wave of aggression
Kevin Schwantz helped define an era of grand prix racing that’s rightly considered one of the sport’s golden ages. The American’s vicious battles with countrymen Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson and Australians Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner are the stuff of legend.
Who better to explain those days than Valentino Rossi, who grew up watching these races and idolising Schwantz?
“The 500 grands prix in that period were unforgettable because the bikes were f**king unbelievable – very difficult to ride – so it was always a big fight with the bikes,” says the seven-times MotoGP king. “They had bad tyres, bad brakes and less weight, but a lot of power, so there were many big crashes and bad injuries.
“I think in this time it was more like war than racing. The battle between Schwantz, Rainey, Doohan, Gardner and Lawson was incredible. These guys were very brave, always many injuries. I think they were the real riders.”
Schwantz was the most naturally-gifted of the five superheroes. His riding technique aboard Suzuki’s RGV500 was raw, with less of the niceties employed by some of his rivals. He did it all with natural talent and guts: big handfuls of brake, big handfuls of throttle and ride it, cowboy.
Why were the 500s of the late 1980 and early 1990s so tricky?
You’re riding a bike that weighs 130 kilos – when I first rode them they were 115 – and you’ve got 160 to 180 horsepower in a 2500rpm powerband. That was all the powerband you ever had, if it was jetted right. If it wasn’t jetted exactly right you had even less leeway and it was even more of an abrupt hit. So it was like trying to ride something like a light switch.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.