34 ON TRIAL FREE KEVIN SCHWANTZ
ESTRANGED WORLD CHAMPION SUBJECT OF GRASS-ROOTS SUPPORT CAMPAIGN
AMERICA HAS produced many great Grand Prix roadracers, but none has spent more time after retiring from competition promoting motorcycling stateside than 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz. Crowning moment came two years ago, when Schwantz joined Circuit of The Americas principals "Red” McCombs, Bobby Epstein and Tavo Hellmund at a press conference in Austin
to announce that MotoGP would be coming to his home state of Texas in 2013.
But when CoTA hosted the inaugural Grand Prix of The Americas in April, neither Hellmund nor Schwantz was part of the show. Within months of the press conference, both parties’ relationships with CoTA soured. In March of 2012, Hellmund sued for $18 million; they settled out of court. Schwantz is currently embroiled in his own legal battle.
After CoTA blocked the Houston native from attending the race due to his pending litigation, an independent group of motorcycle racing enthusiasts, "disgusted that track management cannot put aside their differences for the greater good of the sport that they are capitalizing on so that Schwantz could attend the very race that he assisted in promoting and bringing to Texas," deemed April 19-21 “FreeKevin34” weekend.
“I always hoped we’d have the opportunity to bring Grand Prix racing to Texas,” said Schwantz.
"It was something that I’d spoken te [Dorna CEO] Carmelo [Ezpeleta] about, and as Tavo started getting all his ducks in a row and things looked like they were coming together, I wanted to help make the track safe, make it challeng-
ing, make sure it was a place that
I could drive 20 minutes, not 1000 miles, to do a school.”
In a release issued last March, CoTA said that Schwantz "is not one of the investors who spent $400 million to design and build the facility. Circuit of The Americas is the organization responsible for bringing MotoGP to Texas through its promotional agreement with the commercial rights holder Dorna.”
“I didn’t ask for ownership in the facility,” admitted Schwantz.
"I did what I did because I knew it was going to be for the good of the sport and allow me to showcase a series that I don’t think gets showcased anywhere near the way it should like in Italy or Spain.
“There’s no way you can make this series be accepted the way it needs to be accepted in the U.S. unless we’ve got Americans in every
class. Right now, besides Ben Spies, Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden, we’ve got two Americans in Red Bull Rookies Cup, and that’s it.
"One of the beefs held both by CoTA and by the Spanish was how
much money I was trying to make.
I told Carmelo point-blank, ‘I’m going to try and make some money so I can field some American kids in Moto2 and Moto3. Everybody keeps asking me if America can
support three Grands Prix. We could if we have two or three kids in each class. Hell, yeah, the excitement about Grand Prix racing would be unbelievable.”
Schwantz says his court case with CoTA is different from that of Hellmund, but the bigger picture is similar. "You do a bunch of work, bring everything to me and, by the way, I’m going to sidestep you and might give you a penny.” Schwantz says he remains friends with Heilmund. “It hasn’t affected our relationship whatsoever. He was able to piece everything together so that he and his father, who has since passed away, could get to the Formula 1 race last year in Austin. His dad
had helped promote the Mexico City Grand Prix. It was his dream to see F1 back in the USA.”
F1 and MotoGP have different needs, which Schwantz acknowledged. "You build a track suitable for F1 and it’s typically going to be a fairly boring, featureless racetrack for MotoGP,” he said. "If you take the two and try to put them togethersome of the things that motorcycles need, some of the things that cars need-you can come up with a configuration that's going to be challenging for both and allow for a lot of good passing. That was our intention."
Schwantz is "pretty convinced” his case will go to trial. “After I gave my deposition,” he said, "I spent two days walking around just dumbfounded by some of the questions and points they were bringing up. I think it’s going to be a fight. Is it a year away, two years away? Who knows?"