Friday, November 13, 2009
Colin Edwards, a Houston native nicknamed “The Texas Tornado,” has offered candid insight about his performance, competitors and life in the exciting world of MotoGP motorcycle racing before every event in 2009 in “Tornado Warning.”
Two-time World Superbike champion Edwards, 35, recently finished his seventh year of MotoGP competition, riding this season for Monster Yamaha Tech 3. He finished fifth in the season standings, the top satellite (non-factory) rider in the championship.
The colorful Edwards finished fifth in the second annual Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 28-30 at IMS, racing along with fellow American MotoGP star Nicky Hayden, and MotoGP superstars Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.
Strong finish to the season at Valencia, finishing fourth. What changed on the bike or with you from the bad race at Malaysia?
I like that track. I’ve always liked that track. I’ve just never really had the right … iffy setup. Never really gone that well there, to be honest with you, even in World Superbike. In ’02, I finished on the podium every race, except for that one race there in Valencia. That was kind of our bogey track. There are characteristics of Valencia. We knew we had some traction issues there. We kind of stayed with our short bike, the new thing that Valentino (Rossi) kind of found for us. But man, it is so short. It wheelies everywhere. You’re so busy controlling the wheelies. But the one good thing is that you have traction. Anyways, we just had to pretty much focus on that. We didn’t mess around too much. We were playing a little bit with the front, but we got it working pretty good, as good as it could. As good as the bike was set up, that was as hard as I could ride the damn thing.
How much shorter was the bike than what you were accustomed to riding?
It isn’t a lot. We say short bike, and we say long bike. But in reality, it isn’t even a half an inch, I don’t think.
But is it the shortest bike you’ve ridden this year or ever?
This is the shortest bike I’ve probably ever ridden. Whenever I say shortest bike, we’re probably talking about purely swingarm length, countershaft to axle. That’s the length we always play around with, trying to get a bit more traction or more stability or whatever we need.
But a half inch feels like a foot when you first get on it, right?
Oh, man. I could sit here and talk about it all day, and nobody would ever understand. You could change it a millimeter or 2 millimeters, and you can feel it, which sounds completely retarded. But in all honesty, and it makes a difference. That’s the thing. You think, “How moving 1 or 2, 3 millimeters going to make a difference?” But it does. It’s all about riding style and what you’re asking of the bike and how it’s reacting. That’s how what you tune it for.
What were your thoughts when you rode to the grid after the warm-up lap at Valencia and saw Casey Stoner wasn’t there due to his crash on the warm-up lap?
Man, I rolled up, and I didn’t even know he crashed, obviously. I looked at the guy on the grid, and the guy started walking away. I kept waiting for Casey to pull up, pull up. And he didn’t pull up. And I thought, “Ah, dude.” The guy walked away, and there was another couple of points I could get. To get five points on somebody when the podium is taken more or less, with the top three or four guys, it was going to be tough to get five points on (Andrea) Dovizioso, that’s for sure. Yeah, I was just like: “Woo-hoo! All right. We have that much more of a chance.”
Beating Dovizioso for fifth in the championship must have been very satisifying. When we talked after Malaysia, you sounded like it was going to be a tough task.
Oh, yeah. It was going to be difficult. I didn’t have any grand illusions that it was going to be a piece of cake. But that was the goal. We just had to try to do all we could do.
What about Ben Spies’ weekend? Finished seventh, passed Dovizioso to help you get fifth in the standings. You know Ben’s talent. Were you surprised at all about how well he rode at Valencia?
I don’t really know about surprised. He lived up to or exceeded what those who know him and those who know his abilities, I think he lived up to or exceeded the expectation. I think all of the general folks like, “Just wait ’til he comes to Grand Prix, just wait ’til he comes to Grand Prix.” I think everybody had a bit of that kind of thought. But he went good. He went really well. For jumping on the bike the first time, he went really good. He obviously went really good in the test. I was sick that day, and he did all my testing, as well. I had a few tire compounds and some wheel stuff that I had to test, but I was out unconscious, and he did all my testing, as well.
You know as well as anybody: What’s the biggest adjustment you have to make jumping from a Superbike to a Grand Prix bike?
One of the biggest things is just the load. The bike is so heavy on a Superbike. When you roll into a corner and just before that point of crashing, you know what that load feels like, that G-force load pushing you down on the bike or pushing you sideways, whichever that is. But the problem is, when you jump on a much lighter bike, well then obviously you can go that much faster to create that same amount of load, if that makes any sense. But getting your body accustomed to that, being able to hold that much load, it just seems ridiculous after you’ve been on a Superbike for so long. That is one of the main things you’ve got to get your head around. That’s one of the good things about the 250 (cc) guys. Those guys carry so much corner speed and so much load on such a lighter bike that once they come over to a heavier bike, it seems pretty natural for them.
What is the difference in weight between a Superbike and a MotoGP bike?
I think it’s about 20 kilos, which is 44-45 pounds. Something like that, off the top of my head.
That’s a pretty big number considering a MotoGP bike only weighs about 300 pounds.
Yeah, I don’t know what it is in pounds. I think it’s about 140 or 142 kilos (309-313 pounds). They might have moved it up. Something like that. It’s light. The thing is light and agile and nimble. You’ve just got to get accustomed to all of that stuff.
Ben rode for Yamaha Racing last weekend, not Tech 3. You weren’t teammates at the race, but did you exchange information like you were teammates to prepare for next season?
There was really not that much communication. I think Yamaha, really, they had told me in the beginning of the weekend they really wanted him just to – actually they told me in Malaysia – they wanted him to just ride on our standard setting, more or less what we started the year with, which kind of what we come back to. We kind of done this big around-the-horn thing. And just go, get used to it, and instead of jacking around and getting lost. They wanted him just to go ride and ride and ride. And he did. And he got pretty comfortable with it. Obviously, if he was to play around with the collars a bit or the steering angle, he could probably squeeze out a little bit more and get a little more comfortable. But that will come in testing; that will come in time.
You tested on Monday, right?
Yeah, I tested on Monday.
You didn’t get the entire bike, did you? You were just testing parts and pieces?
What did I test on Monday? I can’t even remember. Oh, yeah, we just tested some little bits on the existing bike. It wasn’t anything new. We tested a couple of things. We obviously went back longer on the swingarm just to see what it was like, play around with the front a little bit. Just some new little bits and get some backup, yes or no, compared to what the factory guys were thinking.
How did it feel?
It felt all right. I think some of the things we were going in the right direction, and probably some of the year we’ve kind of been handcuffed a little bit. It’s always easy in hindsight, isn’t it?
What happened on Tuesday of the test? I saw the team press release, and it said you woke up and were sick as hell.
Oh, God, man. One of my friends I play golf with, his wife, she’s had breast cancer forever. She’s just kind of got tired doing chemo; obviously it was just killing her. She said, “Screw it; I’m done with it.” And she’s only like 58 or 59. So she just said: “Screw it. I’m done. I don’t want any more chemo.” So obviously, she’s days away from just being 6 feet under. But that kind of, let’s say, thinking, “Screw it; I don’t want to do this anymore,” honestly, that’s what I felt like. I was laying up in bed, and I had both ends on full auto. And everything was just … it didn’t matter what I did. Hell, I’d drink a sip of water, and within a minute and a half, it was coming out the bottom end. I was like, “What is going on around here?” I was dehydrated as hell. Sore, all my joints. Everything was. I couldn’t even get out of my bed. The doctor was literally 100 yards out of my motor home. But I couldn’t even get out of bed to get to him to go get an IV in. I was like: “You’re going to have to come over here, man. I can’t move.” So, anyways, they plugged me full of IV’s. They took my blood pressure: It was 90 over 65, which is pretty damn low. Once he took my blood pressure, he was like: “Holy moly! Let’s get some fluids in you quickly.” I don’t know. I feel a little stopped up nasally, but I don’t think it was the flu. I think it was just some food poisoning. We went to have a little Chinese barbecue thing on Monday night. But man, it was gnarly. Seriously, I was like: “There is no way I can fly home tomorrow. There is no way I can possibly feel better.” And sure enough, I woke up Wednesday morning, and I thought, “Damn, I feel pretty good.” I don’t know, man. Some 24-hour, knock your ding-dong in the dirt, something bad, virus or food poisoning or whatever it was.
What are your thoughts about this season? Obviously, you must be pretty happy. You finished fifth, with four aliens in front of you.
I think any time you’re on a satellite team … You’re not going to be out there racing if you don’t want to win the World Championship. That’s the No. 1 goal. As you get into the season, you start realizing the reality of what is possible. And I think the reality of what was possible, we did it. We executed what we had to do to do that. Fairly happy. I can’t say I’m disappointed at all. There’s a couple of races where I lost some points or got taken out. But this is racing. This is what happens. It was a fairly good year. A consistent year.
What was your best race of the year?
The last race was good. I enjoyed that, knowing that you’re riding for something. The ultimatum is here: This is now or never.
That was better than the podium at Donington?
Well, Donington, like I said, it was just a bull(crap). That was 45 minutes of bull(crap). I don’t wish that on my worst enemy, that kind of race. I think the result was good, yes. The fact that I stayed on the bike? Yeah, there was a lot of luck involved with that. Did I ride good? Yeah, I rode good, but I was lucky at the same time. You can’t look at a race like that and say: “All right, I’m the best. I finished second.” Or Dovizioso won the race. Hell, he hasn’t done (crap) all year. It was one of those races. It was the best result, for sure. Best race? I don’t know. Qatar. Let’s say the first race and the last race. Those are the two that kind of stand out.
What is the race you’d like to forget?
I don’t know. Probably the hardest race of the year was Brno. We got the new, improved slow engine with the new rule that came in. I couldn’t pass a gnat flying next to me with that thing. That was hard. That was just hard to accept. You could draft some guys. You could out-brake some guys. You could get close enough to pass them. And then that race, riding your ass off just to watch them pull you five or six bike lengths on every short chute. That was bull(crap). I didn’t like that. That was probably the worst feeling because at that point it was like: “Oh, man, we’ve got to do this for the rest of the year. That sucks.”
Is there a trip to a race or a road trip that you recall being the best? The most fun race experience?
England is always fun. I just bring my family, and we have friends there. The result. Obviously, not the race itself, but the result was good. I got to share that with the family. That was probably my favorite memorable one.
Looking forward to 2010, it’s obvious you’re going to face more of a challenge from Ben Spies than you did with James Toseland this year. But it’s also obvious from what I saw and read from Valencia that you’re cool with that, you’re having a great time with Ben. Accurate?
That’s totally accurate. Ben and I, there’s never been any animosity. We’ve gone out camping together. Not two-gether. We had other friends, so we didn’t wake up with anything strange going on. We’ve hung out and rode bikes, motocross, stuff like that together. We’ve know each other for a while. He’s a good kid. I look forward to him continuing his career, as well. If I can help him out, great. If I’m the guy there to push him, great. If he beats me, I beat him, whichever. There’s still the four aliens that you’ve got to beat. Ben’s not the one, I don’t think, that’s on anybody’s list of “I got to beat that guy” at the moment. It’s the top four first.
You said after Valencia that you’d buy Ben anything he wanted because he beat Dovizioso, which helped you get fifth in the standings. Has he put in his order yet?
I kind of told him Sunday afternoon after everything kind of calmed down that there was a little bit of bonus money, obviously, and some other things involved in finishing fifth in the championship. So I kind of just hinted around that he had made me a bit of cash, and he was like, “All right! Well, (crap), beer for life.” I was like, “You got it. Whichever. I’m down with that.” That’s easy. I’ll send you a case a week for life.
What are your plans for the next few months? What do you have going for the offseason?
When we get off this phone, I’m going to go pick up my kid and we’re headed out. We’re going with my father-in-law. We’re going to do a little male bonding adventure. And then hang out. We’re just about to move into our new house. We did, actually, last night. Got off the plane, and then I was moving boxes, and then we slept in the new house. We’re kind of moved in over there. So yeah, that’s going to be pretty much the next part of our two months. We’ve got anniversary, wedding anniversary, kids’ birthdays, my wife’s birthday: Everything is all in this two months. Christmas. We’ve got everything. It doesn’t really stop in the offseason.