Resident MotoGP junkie and photographer formidable Les Kalman sat down with renowned American racing ace Colin Edwards in Austin, TX at the Grand Prix of the Americas in April, his home race where he announced his retirement from road racing. In the interview, which is posted in two parts (watch for Part II next week), Kalman gets Edwards to talk about retirement, being flicked to the moon, and the struggles of being part of a CRT/Open team.
“Colin Edwards is one of the most sincere, grounded and honest racers I have met,” Kalman remarks. “He’s a great example and motivator of how to balance career and family.”
Inside Motorcycles: Regarding your retirement, did you think your career was going to be this long when you first got into it?
Colin Edwards: No, absolutely not. I knew when I got into it, when I started road racing, I had a real speed curve, from the AMA to 250s and 500s. I Went to Europe immediately. At that time it was 500 two-strokes that were the pinnacle. And I thought maybe by 32 or 33 (years old) — and I am quoted in print in interviews saying that — I’d be done at that time. My dad always said I was too smart to race motorcycles, just because they’re dangerous and there’s risk. I was a little more conservative (than most racers); I didn’t come to Grand Prix until I was 29, my first year was ’03, so I was like, Oh shit, I’ve only got 3 years!
Then I went to four-strokes. Then we had traction control, and guys obviously were not flicking ourselves to the moon (extreme highsiding) like it used to be in the 500 days. I mean, I just expected that when you come to Grand Prix, you’re gonna flick yourself to the moon and you’re going to break yourself up a little bit. I was willing to take that bet.
And then, once four-strokes came in and bikes were safer, they were shit. I started having problems, but started really enjoying it. I started looking at aspects like testing. At the beginning, in the early days, I was like, Oh God, I know how to ride a motorcycle… why are we going to test? But then I realized that I came into Grand Prix late. I felt my only advantage was to get the bike as best as I could possibly get it, and I was going to have to work at it. Then I started really enjoying the testing, trying to find that tenth or two tenths, that little extra bit.
At the end of 2011, the CRT (claiming rules team) thing came in, and I was out of Tech 3, and Giovani (Cuzari, NGM Forward team boss) came up and said, “I have a plan. I want to build something.” And I said, ‘You wanna build something? I’d like to build something too.” So we kinda went through that and we built something that is good and now its just time to… it’s time. I know it’s time!
IM: You were asked out there, was it a tough decision? I guess you are going be dealing with this at every race.
CE: Yeah it really wasn’t a tough decision. It was tough to say. That’s the weird thing; the decision wasn’t really that tough, the idea of thinking about it is not that bad, but to say it in front of everybody was tough. I got a little choked up myself. I was like, damn this is for real now. But it was the right decision.
IM: Where to from here? Are you going to take a break? Deal with the kids, family? Do you have something lined up? Are you going to return to MotoGP in any capacity?
CE: I don’t know. I do know that if I stayed home 365 days a year, my wife would divorce me after about a 150 of those days! I’ve got to do something. My drive is to be busy. Sitting around the pool drinking a Mai Tai, that’s cool for about two days. Then I get bored as shit. I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to have a passion, something to look forward to. I think everybody does, unless you’re really lazy.
Generally, people with my Type A or whatever personality, you’ve got to have something to drive you and, I don’t know, there are some things, some opportunities. It was kind of another big reason [to announce it in Texas], obviously Texas has my friends and family, so it was a good place to announce it, and I got a lot of support over the weekend. Give me the rest of the year. I’m in no rush, I’ll kinda just hang back and see what comes my way and bear with it.
IM: Thoughts on your final year? I know it’s still early in the season, but you already said that you’ve been struggling. Is it a constant struggle?
CE: Last year’s chassis, I really liked. I got along good with it. I could make changes. I knew what I could get by making those changes. I could get results. So the idea was obviously to put a Yamaha engine in that theory of chassis, in that same concept. But anyways, we would have something that Yamaha didn’t have.
As soon as I rode the bike, the first time I was like shit, I can’t turn it. I knew that I couldn’t turn. From the swingarm to the front axle, it just feels stiff. There’s no flex, there’s no nothing, no information. And I’m a front end-heavy kinda guy. I like to feel what’s going on in the front, and when there is just no information going on, I struggle. So we’re waiting on some material and if we can get this back to Plan A, what we wanted, then things will turn around. (Update: it doesn’t look like the team is back to Plan A quite yet. “Well shit!!! That didn’t go to plan at Mugello,” Edwards tweeted after Round 6 in Italy on June 1. The good? He actually finished the race. The bad? Difficulty with electronics, especially traction control, which was causing sliding. The new chassis is in, but much more work is required.)
Stay tuned for Part II of our interview with Colin Edwards next week.
— By Les Kalman