Kevin Schwantz

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Kevin on the Suzuki RGV500.

Kevin Schwantz (born June 19, 1964 in Houston, Texas) was an American World Champion motorcycle road racer during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was hugely popular for his aggressive, all-or-nothing riding style.

Schwantz, whose parents owned a motorcycle shop, learned to ride at the age of three. He began his competitive career as a trials rider, following his father in that sport. From trials, he progressed to motocross in his teens, becoming a top regional MX racer. After a serious crash in qualifying for the Houston Supercross in 1983, he decided to quit motocross.

At the end of the 1984 season, he was offered a test ride with the Yoshimura Suzuki Superbike team, who promptly signed the Texan to a contract. In his first race for Yoshimura, he won both legs of the 1985 Willow Springs National. He would finish seventh overall in the championship despite only competing in half the races. He finished second to Eddie Lawson in the 1986 Daytona 200 on the new GSXR-750 Suzuki. Then, in what would become an all too common occurrence throughout his career, he broke his collarbone in a qualifying crash and missed several races. Once again he finished seventh overall in the Championship.

The 1987 Superbike National Championship would be remembered by motorcycle fans as the beginning of Schwantz' fiercely competitive rivalry with Wayne Rainey. The two battled throughout the entire season, often coming into contact on the track. Rainey eventually won the National Championship but Schwantz closed out the season winning five out of six races. So intense was their rivalry that they continued their battle during the 1987 Trans-Atlantic Match Races in which they were supposedly team mates competing against a team of British riders.

Schwantz began 1988 by winning the season opening Daytona 200 in what would be his only win in that prestigious event.

He then departed for Europe as Suzuki promoted him to its 500cc Grand Prix team where he made an immediate impact by winning the first Grand Prix he entered at the opening round in Suzuka, Japan. His arch rival, Rainey would join him in the GP wars, signing with the Team Roberts Yamaha squad. For the next six years, the two would continue their intense rivalry on race tracks all across Europe. The late 80's and early 90's are remembered as one of the most competitive eras of Grand Prix racing with a field rich in talent that included Rainey, Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Eddie Lawson and Randy Mamola. He was often at a disadvantage in that his Suzukis never seemed to be as fast as those of his Yamaha and Honda mounted rivals. His sheer determination to win at all cost meant that he seemed to crash as often as he won. This trait made him a popular favorite among race fans the world over. His last lap pass of Rainey to win the 1991 German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring, with his rear tire fish-tailing on the verge of control, will forever typify Schwantz' do or die riding style.

He culminated his career in 1993 by winning his first and only 500cc World Championship. After suffering through a crash infested 1994 season, the injuries he had incurred over the years began to take their toll on him, as did the career ending injuries suffered by his rival Rainey, at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Early in the 1995 season, after a conversation with Rainey, Schwantz decided to retire from motorcycle competition. Schwantz had accumulated 25 Grand Prix wins during his career, one more than his great rival, Wayne Rainey. This made him the second most successful American roadracer behind Eddie Lawson. In a rare display of respect, the FIM retired his racing number (34) as a testament to his popularity.

For several years he competed in the NASCAR Busch Series, running 18 races with 2 top tens, and touring car races. He currently owns and operates a motorcycle riding school in Atlanta, Georgia.

Motorcycle Grand Prix Results

Year Class Classification Machine Victories
1988 500cc 8th Suzuki 2
1989 500cc 4th Suzuki 6
1990 500cc 2nd Suzuki 5
1991 500cc 3rd Suzuki 5
1992 500cc 4th Suzuki 1
1993 500cc 1st Suzuki 4
1994 500cc 4th Suzuki 2

External links