people power

Garry Taylor and Kevin Schwantz have worked together longer than any other team manager/rider partnership at the top of Grand Prix racing. Ultimately their relationship has been very successful, not just in terms of winning the world championship and a string of Grand Prix victories but in terms of the impact that the team has had beyond the racing world through Kevin's dynamic personality and all action style coupled with the work done by sponsors such and Pepsi and Lucky Strike.

Along the way though that partnership has at times been strained, whether because of personality differences, misunderstandings or the simple fact that juggling the often conflicting demands of racing, publicity and factory requirements puts a tremendous stress on any such relationship. Garry Taylor admits that the strain showed. "Kevin and I went through some difficult times a few years ago. I don't think either of us know where that started, it finished when we got it sorted out at Paul Ricard in 1991."

"We had a fairly heavy week or so around that French Grand Prix. I think that because I wasn't able to help Kevin I had concentrated more on the running of the team and the commercial aspect. Perhaps Kevin misinterpreted that as my not being interested in him or didn't feel he was getting the help or support he needed. It got fairly lively there for a while! We sat down behind closed doors in the motorhome, talked about it and agreed to find a way together. We had reached the stage where we realised the need to change things in the team."

"The problem of working with Kevin is that he has so much support from his family, which is great to see, it actually leaves very little room for anyone else to give their help. However I feel that after Kevin was brought down at Donington this year the team and Kevin proved their metal. It was then at that most crucial time that we could fully support Kevin as a team, and I think we did."

"I think we were all able to lift him over the depression that was inside him. He didn't show it outwardly, ten minutes after the crash he was walking round pit lane, wearing full team clothing and shrugging it off, making light of the championship situation when people asked him."

"But it was there and I think the team's enthusiasm and confidence in Kevin helped lift him over that."


Air travel is a big part of Kevin's life, Amy is often happy to stay at home. Even though he does it all the time he still finds that long flights take their toll. "I always try and get to a place, travelling to somewhere like Australia, Japan of Malaysia I try to get there at least two nights before I have to do any riding. I used to not worry about it, I'd show up Thursday night, so what I got here, I'll sleep overnight and get on the bike. But you are still tired on Friday, it doesn't matter how much sleep you get you are tired and still not acclimatized. I try and not subject myself to any little risks that I can avoid."

"It is a big help being able to fly first class. It is that much easier to sleep in big seats so it is difficult in economy unless it is empty and you can flip all the arm rests up and lay down across four seats. Even the difference from business to first is an advantage, it is so much easier to sleep in a first class seat where you can lay all the way back flat, turn on your side and sleep like that if you want. Compare to a business class seat where you still have to sleep and sit fairly much sat up."

"Whether you fly first class or economy class the plane ride, the nine hours to Europe or the fourteen or sixteen coming west makes a big difference, you really need time to get over it."

 

Garry picked out the moment of truth at Donington in '93 as a specific point at which he feels the team were able to give Kevin vital support. Back in '91 there had been friction in the team and it had to be resolved. "Kevin felt that he wanted a change of chief mechanic. He and Simon Tonge had been working together for a long time. If it had been a marriage you would say that it had broken down due to irreconcilable differences. Kevin and Simon were practically the same age, they had got together very young, worked together and had matured in slightly different ways."

"Kevin' had nineteen Grand Prix wins with Simon. Simon has a rider's mentality, aggressive in his own way and sometimes unsympathetic when the rider needs him to be understanding. His style of setting up a bike is inspirational and when things were going wrong he would tend to make relatively major changes to the bike which, if they worked, were wonderful. If they didn't Kevin's concentration could be totally blown by missing a complete session because they'd gone the wrong way."

"So we needed to make a change. We looked around for the right person to help Kevin. We talked to Kel Carruthers for quite a while but that didn't work out. I'd been trying to get Stuart (Shen ton) to join the team from the year before but he still had things he wanted to do at Honda. Fortunately I was then able to convince Stuart to join us. I talked to Kevin long and hard about it, explained how long I'd known Stuart and how much confidence I had in him."

"My relationship with Kevin was good enough by then that Kevin was willing to give it a try. I don't think they've looked back since! Kevin's relationship with Stuart is extremely good. Stuart is very meticulous and ordered in the way that he does things and not easily flustered. He rarely gets excited, mind you, when he does its usually worth watching."

"You can never take away the nineteen wins that Simon had with Kevin but Stuart is much more structured and that is what Kevin needs, it is what brought him the World Championship."

"
That's a partnership that works very well and that went also for Hamish, Cohn and Wilf who worked with them during '93. Kevin knows that we are all 100% behind him. He needs to feel the commitment all around him and I think perhaps in previous years he didn't always feel that. I think it was our mistake and our shortfall that we let Kevin feel that he was taking the weight of everything on his shoulders, he won or he lost and the rest of us just trundled along doing our jobs. We all did everything we could for him but it takes such a long time to get to know Kevin and to get him to accept people."

Kevin does draw on those around him rather than bull headishly pursue a blinkered path of his own. "I think that is one of Kevin's strengths, he's able to listen to other people and take their advice. When it occasionally goes wrong he doesn't ram it down people's throats, he is very philosophical about it."


Wired for sound, Gary and team assistant manger Howard Plumpton.
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