When it comes to American motorcycle racers, Kevin Schwantz is one of the most iconic names that come to mind and for good reason. He is one of the most spectacular riders to have ever graced the track, and his career is a testament to his passion, dedication, and skill. His aggressive riding style, never-give-up attitude, and undeniable talent made him a fan favorite and a true legend in the world of 500cc.
Schwantz has an impressive list of accomplishments to his name. He won the 500cc World Championship in 1993 and was a dominant force in the sport throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Schwantz was not only an exceptional racer, but he also had a magnetic personality that made him very popular. In this article, we will explore Schwantz’s early years, his entry into racing, his victories, his riding style, and his retirement from the sport.
The early years
Schwantz was born on June 19, 1964, in Houston, Texas. His father Davis was a former motorcycle racer, and his mother, Karen, was an avid motorcyclist and their passion for the sport was passed down to Kevin at an early age.
Schwantz was introduced to motorcycles very early and developed a passion for them. His parents encouraged his interest in racing, and he began competing in local motocross events at the age of five, by the age of eight, he was already winning championships and had begun racing in road circuits.
Starting in racing
Schwantz’s passion for road racing continued to grow, and In 1985, he won a couple of races and was seventh overall in the AMA 250 Grand National Championship. In 1986 Schwantz ended again in the 7th position in the AMA Superbike Championship.
On the same year Kevin had a first taste of the 500cc, he raced on a Rizla Heron Suzuki RG 500 in two occasions in Belgium at Spa, and in Misano. In both races he ended 10th scoring a total of 4 points for the Championship.
The following year 1987, he was second after Wayne Rainey in the AMA Superbike Championship. He won 5 races and he was an established name in the American racing scene. Schwantz was then picked up by Suzuki that decided to send him to Europe to compete in the 500cc world championship.
Schwantz joined the 500cc class in 1988, riding for Team Suzuki. He won two races in the same year. in Japan, at Suzuka, he fought a close battle with Eddie Lawson for most of the race, but managed to take the lead in the final stages and held on to win by just over a second on Wayne Gardner. He won again in Germany and was on the podium in France and in Brazil.
He was quickly recognized as one of the top riders in the sport closing the season in the 8th position with 119 points, a great result considering that he did not finish 5 races out of 15.
1998 was the real beginning of his stellar career in the 500cc class.
Victory of 500cc World Championship
Schwantz’s breakthrough though came in 1993 when he won the 500cc World Championship. The 500cc Grand Prix calendar counted 14 races that year and Schwantz managed to win four races and to always be on the podium apart from at the British Grand Prix in which he retired and at the Czech Grand Prix in Brno in which he was only fifth. He finished an exceptional season with a total of 248 points, well ahead of his nearest rival, Wayne Rainey. Speed and consistency made KS simply unbeatable in 1993.
Schwantz was known for his aggressive riding style and his willingness to take risks, his determination to win made him a fan favorite. KS cornering skills were exceptional, and he was able to slide the rear of his bike around corners in a way that other riders couldn’t match, take a look here to get an idea of what he was capable of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bomoMbvojvs
He was one of the most thrilling riders to watch in his prime, with a unique and flamboyant approach to racing.
One of Schwantz’s signature moves was his “backing it in” technique, where he would brake hard and slide the rear of the bike out, using the back tire to help him turn the bike quickly and effectively. This technique allowed him to take tight lines and make quick, decisive moves on the track, and it became one of his trademark riding styles.
Schwantz was also known for his exceptional throttle control, which he used to great effect in maintaining speed through corners and accelerating out of them. He was able to find traction where other riders couldn’t, allowing him to carry more speed and make passes in tight spaces.
Another key aspect of Schwantz’s riding style was his fearlessness. He was never afraid to take risks and make bold moves, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. This willingness to push himself and his bike to the limit made him a thrilling rider to watch and helped him achieve great success on the track.
Overall, Kevin Schwantz’s riding style was marked by a combination of speed, skill, and daring, and it made him one of the most exciting and memorable riders in the history of MotoGP.
The Iconic #34
One of the most recognizable things about Schwantz was his iconic number 34. He chose this number because it was the reverse of his lucky number, 43. He used the number throughout his career, and it became synonymous with his name.
Schwantz retired from racing in 1995, citing a lack of motivation to continue. He had suffered several accidents during his career, including a serious crash at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix, which left him with a broken collarbone and wrist. Despite his injuries, he continued to race and was known for his resilience and determination.
Rivalries with Fellow Riders
Schwantz had several intense rivalries during his racing career, including with fellow Americans Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson. The battles between the three of them were legendary and added to the excitement of the sport. Schwantz’s beef with Rainey was particularly intense, The two were both highly competitive and often battled it out exchanging blows on and off the track. One of the best races that fans still remember was the 1991 Hockenheim Grand Prix, you can watch the last lap here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWO2k63OFhc
Schwantz also fought often with Mick Doohan raising the level of competition in the sport at the time.
Schwantz was also known for his outgoing personality and his love for the fans. He always made time for his supporters, and he was generous with his time and resources. He was a true ambassador for the sport, and he helped to raise its profile around the world.
Schwantz retired from racing in 1995, but he remains active in the MotoGP world. He runs a riding school in the United States and also serves as an ambassador for various motorcycle-related brands. He is also involved in the organization of the US Grand Prix, which returned to the MotoGP calendar in 2013.
In conclusion, Kevin Schwantz is undoubtedly one of the greatest riders in the history of MotoGP. He won the 500cc World Championship in 1993 and was a dominant force in the sport throughout his career. He was much loved for his aggressive riding style and his iconic number 34 keeps selling plenty of merchandising.
Pictures, top to bottom:
Rikita, Kevin Schwantz, in Japan Grand Prix 1993, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Stu Newby, Kevin Schwantz, sitting on his Pepsi Cola Suzuki, waving his hands in the air and celebrating after winning the 1989 British Grand Prix., Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Craig Morey, Kevin Schwantz at a demonstration event in 2010, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.