Somehow we’re in the elevator at CoTA MotoGP, and as the doors close we hear familiar voices yelling to hold the door … Willy the Marine sticks his hand in the crevice just before they close. The system begins to pull the doors back open.
The doors re-open and there stands Kevin Schwantz’s parents and his manager Marnie Lincoln. They are pushing–Holy mother of God!– it’s Kevin’s 1993 RGv500 Grand Prix bike. The svelte GP racer is going to the third floor in order to be put on display in Kevin’s suite at the track. We make room for them, and it. Then we all stare down at the bike, but nobody takes their hands off it after slipping it inside the elevator.
The doors finally close. We are packed in the elevator. The elevator is running slow.
Jim Schwantz, Kevin’s father, mentions that former GP mechanic Hamish Jamieson recently rebuilt the RG500 engine and it’s basically ready to race. New cranks, seals, the carbs are jetted for Texas and the rubber is fresh.
My brain screams: the concrete floor leading to Schwantz’s suite has a slightly rough surface–good traction.
In mere moments a too-insane-for-real-life idea forms. The kind of idea and situation which seem like the scene from the film Vacation when Chevy Chase stumbles to the hotel pool in the middle of the night and finds Christie Brinkley swimming nude. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy.
“So it’ll run?” we, okay, I … ask Schwantz’s dad.
“Yep” he says, smiling.
“Let’s start it. We’ll bump it. Is there gas in it?” I crank the gas cap off and see fresh gas. “There’s gas in it,” I say to myself and everyone else in the elevator.” Let’s do this!
WE ARE NOT STARTING THE BIKE. WE ARE NOT STARTING THIS BIKE IN A HALLWAY. WE ARE NOT STARTING IT.
What?! I look around to see who is the author of these cruel, dream-fracturing words. I follow these evil sounds and their visible only to me contrails to their source. I am shocked and at the same time not shocked to see they come from a sweet and familiar face. The face of Shirley Schwantz, Kevin’s mother. She looks at me, already sick of my crap and it’s only Thursday, and says “No.”
We help them push the RGv into the suite, hang around a bit to see if Shirley might have to leave, allowing us to jump start the conversation and the bike, but she’s wise to our ways and she stands guard by the Suzuki. Willy the Marine and I take the elevator down.
The mood is somber. “Woulda been so cool to start that thing and hear it run,” I say in a might-as-well-be-dead-now tone of voice. Willy is a Marine so he just does the stoic thing.
At a later date, Kevin Schwantz invites us to dinner. After watching in glee as we try to eat/gag down raw fish he further invites us back to his new rock star-level new house overlooking Austin. The RGv500 sits in the foyer of his house. He’d just had it outside for some magazine photo shoot. It’s less than seven feet from the RGv to the large front door to his house.
I look the RGv500 over and it’s in–as I see it–ready to be started condition.
“It’d be so cool to hear this thing run. We should just push it outside and I’ll push and you can bump it and we’ll just warm it up,” I say. This is, potentially, even better than The Elevator Incident. If this happens I can say then that I bump-started Schwantz and his 500 back in the day. Tell the grandkids, tell the neighbors, tell anyone. “Open the doors,” I say.
What would Kevin Schwantz look like if Charles Manson came to his house and explained how he was going to destroy civilization by using the lyrics to an obscure Beatles song? I can’t tell you but I did see it with my own eyes when I finally looked at old 34 that day I tried to get him to let me start his 500.
Come on, he said, motioning me to follow him. After around 15 minutes in the basement I realize he brought me there to look at his collection of really expensive cars and not to get helmets and stuff so we could fire the RGv500 up.
In talking to Marnie, Kevin’s manager, I learn that I’m not the first to see Kevin’s 500 and then want to hear it run. Not even close. If he had to start that bike every time someone requested to hear that symphony of gas and pre-mix run he’d be rebuilding the engine every year. There are zero parts for the bike now.
The ’93 world champ did eventually have good news for me. A few weeks ago he sent me a film of his new to him Suzuki RG500 running. He’d bought it in Europe a few years ago and was home long enough in January to have it shipped to his house. He’s been out riding it a few times. Can I ride it, I asked him via text message?
“Maybe” he texted back.