Former MotoGP Champ Now at COTA
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons
We sit down with Kevin Schwantz to find out what it was like to compete in motogp for over a decade and what he’s up to in Austin now.
Born and raised in Houston, 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz rode motorcycles and helped out in his parents’ motorcycle dealership throughout childhood. His uncle, Darryl Hurst, was a professional flat track racer, and Schwantz started by following in his footsteps. Schwantz’s dream was to make a living riding motorcycles, and he progressed to motocross competitions in his teens. He graduated high school in 1982, and in an attempt to put off full-time work at the family dealership moved to Austin to continue his education. He attended summer sessions at the University of Texas, but the lake, nightlife, and riding his motorcycle were more enticing than an education. So, he returned to Houston to begin working full-time in the family dealership.
Schwantz tried racing professional motocross in 1982 and 1983. After not making it to the main events for two years, he started to give up on motocross. Fortunately, some friends convinced him to try road racing at the end of 1983. While he was skeptical and late to the sport at age 19, Schwantz found that he was naturally skilled in road racing and began to focus his efforts there. He began winning races, and becoming more strategic about technique and training in the late 80s. He attributes some of his success to friend Jonathan Boyer, the first American to race in the Tour de France, convinced him to start riding road bikes for training and recovery. Per Boyer’s advice, Schwantz hopped on a (motorless) road bike immediately after a MotoGP race to run the same track. He quickly realized that recovery was completely dependent on how soon you got moving after a race.
With dedication and focus, his dream came true with a 10-year successful career as a professional motorcycle racer. Schwantz became the 1993 500cc World Champion and one of the most successful American road racers. After a final crash in 1995, he retired—keeping his promise to himself to quit when racing stopped being fun. In a display of respect, the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, the global governing/sanctioning body of motorcycle racing) retired his signature competition number 34 as a testament to his popularity. It was the first time in the history of the sport that a rider had been so honored.
Schwantz didn’t go back to working with race teams because he knew he would be too tempted to start racing again. So, he moved to North Carolina for a few years to help with a NASCAR team before making his way back to Austin in 2002. While he admits he suffers from joint pain due to countless injuries and surgeries as well as some memory loss from the concussions (he recalls at least 10), he considers himself lucky to still live a full life. At 53-years-old, he still rides roads and mountains bikes regularly as well as goes on runs with his beloved dog, Tank.
After returning to Austin, Schwantz also co-designed Austin’s Circuit of The Americas racetrack, and continues his involvement as their Two-Wheel Ambassador The sixth consecutive MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas will take place there later this month, on April 20–22.
Texas has a long-standing motorcycle heritage and coupled with COTA’s racing facility it ensures audiences can expect an action-packed weekend. In addition to the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, MotoAmerica will bring its signature brand of star-spangled motorcycle racing to the track with bikes hitting speeds up to 200 mph. In celebration of all motorcycle riders, COTA will be combining all cycle corrals into one—giving motorcycle fanatics the opportunity to get their own bikes on the 20-turn track.
ABOUT CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS
Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, is the only purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the United States designed for all classes of racing. The 3.4-mile racetrack hosts the world’s most prestigious sporting events, including Formula 1 and MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas, as well as opportunities for track rentals. The 1,500-acre campus is also home to the Austin360 Amphitheater— PollStar’s 2013 “Best New Major Concert Venue” and a 2014 “Best Major Outdoor Concert Venue” Pollstar nominee. There are impressive meeting and hospitality spaces and an iconic 25-story observation tower that offers a 360-degree view of the circuit, amphitheater, and downtown Austin.
For more information and to download videos and photos, visit theCircuit.com. For an experience as unique as Austin and a rush you’ll never forget, visit Circuit of The Americas—where exhilaration happens.