MotoGP, Lawson: "It took you a year to learn how to ride the 500s"

"Even if you were Schwantz, Rainey, Gardner or Doohan. We had a 3000 rpm power band and no electronics. I like watching MotoGP, it's a good show, but not the investigations and track limits. Racing is racing."


He retired at the age of 33, after winning four world titles in 500, the most titled American rider ever, with 31 Grand Prix victories, 2 AMA Superbike championships, 2 AMA 250 championships, 2 victories in the Daytona 200 miles and a success at the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours to his name.

A champion, a true ace on two wheels: Eddie Lawson. After his retirement, which came about after his last, historic, victory with the Cagiva 500 in Hungary in 1992, which he celebrated at the entrance to the press room with his classic modesty imbued with irony "but what am I still doing here?" Eddie 'Awesome' Lawson disappeared from the international radar. He continued to race, a bit in cars, with super karts, but just for pleasure. We never heard him say anything, comment, talk about this or that. 'Steady Eddie' quite simply disappeared.

Eddie was one of those men who simply didn’t race bikes... he was a racer. The right aggression, zero interest in the surrounding world.

We met up with him again at Laguna Seca, the year he prepared one of his super karts with a Yamaha 250 engine for a demo run with Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts. He had the slowest smile to appear in the whole Circus, the quickest to disappear. A man of few words, but well pondered  ones. Lawson has always had a great fascination for the true enthusiasts, but he was not fully understood by mere fans.

In these days we stumbled upon a recent interview with him, which appeared on the MotoStarr YouTube channel. Eighty-four subscribers. And it was like finding a dusty diamond on the ground. It was enough to take it in hand to see it shine.

We report a few parts of it. The first question he was asked was about earnings. And immediately his irony emerged…

Lawson: We made nothing compared to the guys now, but it’s all relative

"It's funny because Kel (Carruthers Ed.) he said back in my day we didn’t make nothing compared to what you guys are making today. Now I look back and we’re saying exactly the same thing, we made nothing compared to the guys now, but it's all relative, I mean we got good money for what we were doing at the time, but now it’s a jump-change to what they are making today”.

Passionate about motors and sports, Lawson has a hard time saying what he does.

Lawson: I always watch MotoGP but we never had any of the investigations or track limits like today, racing is racing

“It’s funny because I'm flat out all day doing something, but if you asked me what I did… I would probably tell you I have no idea. I always watch MotoGP, it's a good show, I enjoy it. Today they kind of follow F1 which is a shame, they have too many investigations, if somebody bumps someone, if somebody went over track limits, we never had any of that. It’s called racing and sometimes people would run into each other and knock somebody down but that’s what happens. I wish there was less of that, but the show is good”.

Often we hear riders commenting on the various eras, as to whether or not the Grands Prix were better then or today.

Lawson: I don’t think I would have liked to race in the 70s. Now people say ‘Wow, those 500s must have been a handful

“I’m really happy when I got to race when I did, the 500s was just a fun time, a unique time because everything before, with the MVs they sounded great, but I don’t think I’d want to ride at that time. Now everything with all the electronics, traction control and all the different things they have, I’m really happy that I did. People come up to me and say ‘Wow’ those 500s must have been a handful to ride, and they were, it was a 3000 rpm power band. It was just you and your mechanic, no telemetry, just you the rider”.

Today even the small teams have more than twenty technicians.

Lawson: You came in and it was just you and your mechanic, no telemetry, just you the rider.

"Yes, crazy money, you just have a whole crew for electronics. The rider comes in, they open a laptop and punch in how much horsepower, how much they are going to take away, how much wheelspin, wheelie control. It’s just like this, that’s how they fix the bike. In my day it was completely different, I don’t know if it was for better or worse, but it takes a lot of money and manpower now”.

Nevertheless, as Eddie said, the show is a good one. All the riders are very close.

Lawson: I don’t care if you were Schwantz, Rainey, Gardner, Doohan, we all literally took a year to learn how to ride a 500.

"Right, in those days it was really difficult to come from a superbike or 250 into a 500. To ride a 500 was difficult, a few guys made it, but most didn’t. Today I think you could come from Moto3 to ride a MotoGP bike. I think you could come from anywhere and be close, but the cream always rises to the top. Those few fast guys are always there. It’s easy to get close… but back in my day it was tough! It took a year to learn how to ride a 500, I don’t care if you were Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Gardner, Doohan, we all literally took a year to learn how to ride a 500. Today I think you could do it in a practice session.”

(To be continued)


Related articles