usa Vs uk =500

"Those were some pretty scary days, we had everything to gain. We wanted to prove we were names to be reckoned with. I remember talking to Rob after that. We all watched it on the tape and none of us could believe it. I admitted to Rob that it wasn't really something that I had anything to do with, it was just luck that I landed still a bit on the bike and managed to hang on to it."


Barry Sheene had retired from racing after winning two 500cc World Championships for Suzuki and was doing the television commentary when he first met Kevin at Donington Park. Here he his pictured sitting in the pit lane next to Fred Merkel and talking to Kevin who Dunlop seemed to think was already pretty impressive. "I'd never heard of Kevin Schwantz before he came to the match races. I talked to Kevin and Jim before the races and the seemed like a real nice family. Then I saw the performances he put up in the races and obviously I was very impressed. I got talking to them between the races and knowing what it is like to earn money when you are racing I set up a deal for him to earn £1000 for every race he won just for putting a DAF sticker on the bike."

"It just sort of went on from there, I asked Denny Rohan at Heron to see if we could use my old bike for him to race at Mallory Park and so he got his first ride on a 500. Kevin and his Dad were real keen on riding it. I got the bike built up for him at my place, Jim, Shirley, and Kevin came to my house and they are really nice people"

"You can't get any better people than your mum and dad to look after you. is mum and dad spoke to mine, Franco and Iris told them that what Grand Prix racing was like and I told Kevin, "If you ever do the World Championship races, you'll never get better supporters, better people to have around you than your family. You only get one lot so make sure you look after them.' You don't need dopey managers to take fifty percent of your earnings or whatever and if someone asks you if it's raining you don't want someone to be as stupid as to turn round and say, 'I don't know. I'll have to speak to my manager.' ".

"I had no doubt in my mind that he was going to be a World Champion, he had the ability to do it. To me the thing that is very important in personality, he's a nice bloke and I have always got on well with him. The thing we have most in common with Kevin is that I also love my family, I just think that people who look after their parents and like their parents are nice people."

 

What a way to make an impact not only on those who saw him at Donington but on the millions of TV viewers. "I forget how many races I won but Barry Sheene was doing the TV commentary. After about the second or third day he came up and started talking to me, telling me that he would try and get me a ride on a 500."

"The British importers Heron worked things out so that I could stay over a week or so for the Race of the Year at Mallory Park. He got one of his bikes that he raced in '83 or '84, his last season. He got it out of the museum and got it prepared for me to ride at Mallory Park."

"That was the old square four of course, the first 500 I ever rode. I thought it was a blast, it was fun to ride round Mallory Park. At 21 it was fun to ride round there on a 500, I don't think I'd think the same now."

"It was heaps of fun to ride, it handled well, it didn't seem to be real real fast, I mean it was light and had good acceleration but it wasn't a late model 500. That was maybe one of the reasons I enjoyed riding it so much, it was an older hike, not that fast and probably not that big a step up from a superbike."

"I think the race was run in two legs. In the first leg I finished second behind Roger Marshall and I just beat Roger Burnett. In the second leg I was just gone, cleared off. There is a stop for the throttle that keeps you from spinning it back too far, a pin that's Araldited in. The pin fell out and two of the cables fell off the carburetors. So I was basically riding a 250 for the last five laps and Marshall got back past me. But I had fun."

"I was just out there trying to figure out the quickest way to get around. Paul Lewis was there, he was riding for Heron in '86 and he had the later model 500s. I watched him crash right in front of me. He actually almost knocked me down."

"I hoped at that stage that I would eventually work my way up to riding a 500. Later that race I went back to Heron Suzuki to talk to the managing director Denny Rohan. He agreed that I would do three Grand Prix in 1986, it ended up being Assen in Holland, Spa in Belgium and Misano in Italy."

"I guess it was just when Sheene came up and said, 'why don't you ride a 500,' I never had really considered it up to that point. That ride at the Race of the Year just opened the door."

"I then definitely started to take more notice of what went on in the Grand Prix, who was doing what. At that stage it was still push starts and if there was anything that I really disliked about 500 racing at that stage it was that you had to push start with a dead engine. I thought, 'you have to do what!!"'

"I remember at Assen, the first Grand Prix I rode I had fallen off back in the US a couple of weeks before. I had broken my collarbone and that made push starting the bike even more fun. I remember not getting anywhere practicing, just pushing, pushing, pushing this damn 500, trying all sorts of tricks to try and get this square four to start."


First Grand Prix, not the look of a nervous newcomer and not a bad start either, even though he was new to push starting. Behind (lower picture) is a certain Mr. E. Lawson on the number two Marlboro Yamaha. "I remember Eddie coming up at Assen and saying, 'boy did yo pick a great Grand Prix to come to, this is like racing around on the sidewalk.' Back then it was only about eight feet wide. It was impossible to get away with the slightest mistake. I think including the T Formula One and GP, I ran off the track three times
"Backing it up, carefully just right up against compression, pulling the clutch in, running forwards, pushing on the back of the tank with my chest as I dropped the clutch, trying to put enough weight on it to turn the engine over with out jumping on the seat in case it didn't fire and I had to give it another go. I seemed to spend more time and got more tired trying to learn to push start the thing than I did learning to ride it"
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