American MotoGP star Colin Edwards participated in a Red Bull Indianapolis GP teleconference Thursday, June 16 after a stirring third-place finish Sunday, June 12 at the Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone.
It was the first podium finish since July 2009 for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Edwards, 37, from Houston. But the sensational result also came just eight days after Edwards had 13 screws and a titanium plate placed into his collarbone, which was broken in five places during a practice crash Friday, June 3 at the Grand Prix of Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Edwards also suffered torn rib muscles in the crash.
Edwards will join fellow American MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies in the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 26-28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
MODERATOR: You’ve had some really epic rides in your career. The second place in the torrential rain two years ago at Donington. The battle with Troy Bayliss in World Superbike at Imola in 2002 and a lot of other ones. But where does the ride last Sunday at Silverstone rank in your career, not only in terms of performance but in terms of memories, especially due to the physical limitations you had.
EDWARDS: I would have to say probably my most memorable race would have to be the second race at Imola in 2002, winning the (World Superbike) championship. Fresh memory, as far as Silverstone is concerned, it’s right up there. Maybe trailing just behind it. But that is definitely two of my achievement highlights, let’s say, that I look at.
MODERATOR: Realistically, I know you said the collarbone felt OK, that Dr. Mir did a great job putting it back together again. The problem was the ribs. But when you were sitting there on the grid, or even after qualifying, did it ever enter your mind, “Holy Christ, I’m going to finish third in this race.”
EDWARDS: No, honestly. The first day I think I was four or five seconds off the pace. Just timid. Just feeling timid. I was on a pain killer that I wasn’t real happy with. I just kind of felt like a space cadet on Friday. So on Saturday I said, no painkillers. Take some ibuprofen and get my head right and then just work with the pain and deal with it. We didn’t do that many laps. If you asked me did I think I was going to finish on the podium that weekend, that probably would have been a resounding no, not a possibility.
MODERATOR: Just a quick change of subject before I open it up to the media panel. I know you’re aware that IMS is right now almost done with repaving the infield section of the road course from Turn 5 through 16. That’s kind of the original section. What’s your reaction to that news, and how will affect the racing, riding and setup challenges for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 26-28?
EDWARDS: I think it’s fantastic. We had a couple of issues there in the past with some different pavements and a couple of big spots here and there. To know that IMS is making the effort to repave it, that says a lot. I’m excited to get there and try it out.
Q: How is the health at this point?
EDWARDS: Ribs are still hurting like hell, to be honest. The collarbone, I’m not doing anything too strenuous. I did jump in the pool the other day with the kids. And just that moving around just seemed to irritate the ribs a little bit more. I’m just trying to stay loose but not trying to overexert myself. Just trying to take it easy.
Q: So you’re not just magically going to show up at Assen and be perfect, though.
EDWARDS: No. I doubt I’ll be perfect at Assen. The collarbone, the shoulder strength is great. I just don’t really have any core strength at the moment. I pretty much separated the muscle off my right rib cage. That just takes time, takes time to heal. I’m assuming that’s going to be a lot better at Assen. But 100 percent? I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Q: As Paul noted, repaving a portion of the Speedway is underway. In your view, was the repave necessary?
EDWARDS: That’s a tricky question. We all have to race on the same thing. So I don’t think it’s, let’s say, unfair for all of us to go out there on whatever the pavement is. Is it going to be nicer? Hell, yeah. Of course. Is it going to be more of a pleasure to go race there? Of course. Setup is going to be a heck of a lot easier. You’re not going to have to set up for a few of the fast corners and then just survive the rest of the track. You can pretty much set up for the whole track once you repave it. That’s one good advantage to it.
Q: Do you have a contract for 2012, and has Yamaha asked you for your input on the 1000?
EDWARDS: I’ve got a contract. My wife still wants to be married in 2012. I’m pretty excited about that (Laughter). As far as racing motorcycles, no, I don’t a contract at the moment. Obviously in talks and negotiations. As far as Yamaha is concerned, it’s just a matter of signing a piece of paper and making sure I’m not riding anything else before I jump on the 1000 and test it.
Q: How much pain were you in in the race, and what were the conditions like from inside the helmet in all that rain?
EDWARDS: Honestly, the race, there was a flash thought that I had probably about two or three laps in. I got a good start, and I ran it deep a couple of places and went through some big puddles and didn’t actually crash. All that really did was kind of gain me more confidence. It looked a little tricky out there. Once I kind of got in there, the pain wasn’t bad. Being in the rain, you’ve got to move a lot slower, a lot more smooth, a lot more just gradually coming into a corner and then the next one. The only pain really comes when the checkered flag drops. You kind of relax and breathe, and it’s probably harder to make that cool-down lap than it was the whole race. As far as inside the helmet, all you’re thinking is just trying to hit the same lines, hit the same 2 inches everywhere, don’t drift offline here or there and hit a puddle and crash with three or four laps to go. I had Nicky kind of breathing down my back, and I had to up my pace a little bit. But I thought, “If I just stay on the same line, I’ll be good.” And it all worked out.
Q: You keep talking about core strength. Racing in the rain requires a lot of core strength, doesn’t it?
EDWARDS: Yeah, it does. I notice it. To the spectator, he might not be able to notice it. But I watched the race over, and I could see my body language on the bike. I just wasn’t moving as much as I normally would, not getting my ass over as far as I normally would. But I just couldn’t, really. I just really didn’t have the strength to. As far as sitting on the bike and twisting the throttle and believing I could do it, then that’s a different thing. Pain, for those who have done any kind of sport, pain pretty much goes out the window when that adrenaline starts flowing and the shield comes down.
Q: You’re back to your status as being the best satellite team rider, as you were in ’09. 10 wasn’t so good. Can you give us an idea of what machinery level you’ve had the last couple of years compared to the works Yamahas?
EDWARDS: It was pretty well known last year that we were on, more or less, a chassis from ’07, ’08. We had that chassis for three years, with no real improvements. At the same time, we had some engine troubles last year. We had quite a big flat spot, mid-range area, which wasn’t helping things. As far as the factory guys, there was a humongous gap last year. We knew that. I thought Ben (Spies) did an absolutely fabulous job doing what he did last year. This year, we are probably closer than we’ve been since I’ve been on the satellite team. Sure, I don’t know what engine they have. Sure, their engine is going to be something a little bit different, or smoother or better or more powerful or whatever. Chassis, I think we’re pretty much right on par with them. It’s just little differences here and there. Electrics, sure, they might have something a little different than us. But at least we’re in the realm, at least, this year. Last year we were just nowhere close.
Q: You gave us some wonderful, colorful quotes at the weekend about what your wife said to you. What did she really say to you about racing in your condition, and then what did she say when you finished on the rostrum?
EDWARDS: That was probably a private conversation (Laughter). No, honestly, whenever I crashed at Barcelona, I changed all my tickets, and I was coming home. And she was like any nurturing wife or mother would. “Come home, honey, I’ll take care of you. This stupid motorcycle racing.” The typical lashing that you would get. And then when I called her the next day after surgery, I was like: “Well, changed them flights back. I’m staying. I’m racing.” Obviously, she thinks I’m crazy, anyways. She’s been with me for 20 years; she knows I’m crazy. It was just kind of that unspoken words of, “What is the point? Why don’t you just come home? We’ll take care of you. What’s the point of going out there and pushing yourself and maybe doing more damage?” At the end of the day, I pretty much told her: “Well, I’m in Europe, and there just happens to be a motorcycle race on next weekend. I want to go ride.” I think she looks at me a little bit different now, honestly, even around the house. I think she thinks she married a real man instead of some kid from high school.
Q: You look at the last couple of years, and you look at what you did racing eight days after surgery to repair a fractured bone. You look at what Valentino did last year, riding five or six weeks after breaking his femur. Dani’s come back from broken collarbones. Bautista back from breaking his femur. I broke my arm two years ago in my mid-40s, and sometimes it still hurts. You guys are getting back on the bike a week, two, three, four, five weeks after serious injuries. What is it about the mentality of motorcycle racers that just allows you guys to overcome the pain and these injuries?
EDWARDS: I have a great answer to that question. The reality of it is that we’re gladiators. I don’t really know what else to say besides that. The great movie, and anybody who knows anything about motorcycles, “On Any Sunday.” And when you watch that movie and you’ve got guys crashing and breaking their backs and breaking their arms and soaking the casts off in the bathtub so they can go race the next week, just crazy stuff. That’s just, I don’t know, that’s just the way we’re wired. I don’t know how else to put it. We’re gladiators. We want to go and get into the arena. We’re always there. We always want to do that.
Q: Is it pressure? You feel like, “Gosh, if I’m off the bike four or five rides that somebody else might take the spot,” or is this a mentality that permeates all the way down to entry-level racing? “We’re motorcycle riders, and this is how we roll.”
EDWARDS: It could be both. In ’97, I did four races and then got injured, and I was out the whole year. And sure enough, my ride was given to Noriyuki Haga. At the same time, that never entered my mind at Barcelona after I crashed and had surgery. It wasn’t like, “I’ve got to get back on the bike.” It was simply, I haven’t had an injury in 13 or 14 years that made me miss a race. I really just wanted to prove it to myself, too. I haven’t had to ride hurt, ever, in quite a while. I thought, “Let’s just do it and see what happens.”
Q: What’s your view of next season’s claiming rules option. Do you think, for example, that a Suter chassis with a BMW engine or a Moriwaki chassis with a Kawasaki engine could be competitive against a current or a future MotoGP prototype?
EDWARDS: Oh, man. You’re speaking Chinese to me now (Laughter). Man, I don’t know how to answer that. I really don’t know how to answer that. It really doesn’t matter who’s on the bikes. Generally, the factory bikes are at the pointy end of the field. Is it a possibility? Sure, anything is possible. The budgets have to be kind of large. Sure, the budget’s got to be large. And you’ve got to have a good rider. And you’ve got to have someone who knows what the hell their doing, especially when you bring in a new chassis or putting a different engine in a chassis, whatever it might be. You’ve got to have someone who knows what the hell they’re doing riding it, to be able to give you the correct information, as well. So it’s very easy to get wrong information translated, and then you end up going backward and doing circles and coming back to your original start position. That’s a real finicky fine line of, “Can it work?” Yes, it can. Sure. But things have to just happen in the right order.
Q: Do you think it’s a good move for the series, a good way to expand the field?
EDWARDS: Oh, absolutely. I think having 15 people start a motorcycle race is ridiculous. Especially in Grand Prix, and especially when you’ve got, what, 24 Formula One cars starting. I think 15 is not enough. That needs to definitely get up to the low to mid-20s, at a bare minimum.
Q: And you’re going to have to look elsewhere than the factories for these entries. So claiming rules seem logical to you?
EDWARDS: There’s a lot of money spent, and there’s a lot of engineering going on. Once you bring this claiming rule into effect, where somebody can just throw down some money and take your engine off you, that’s going to be tricky. I’m sure Honda don’t want to give all their secrets away, and neither do Yamaha or Ducati. That’s real tricky. I don’t know. I stay out of this political stuff; you know me. I just talk a bunch of bullshit and ride motorcycles (Laughter).
Q: Colin, could you give us a quick rundown of the strengths of the other bikes as you’ve seen them this season, please.
EDWARDS: Of all the bikes?
Q: Well, Ducati and Honda, specifically.
EDWARDS: OK. The biggest problem we have with the Honda is that initial touch of the throttle to shifting up through second, third, fourth gear. I can’t touch them. I can’t stay with them. It doesn’t matter if I’m behind Simoncelli or Stoner or Pedrosa, I can’t get anywhere close to them. It seems like they’re pulling bike lengths that you’re always trying to make up at the end of the straightaway on the brakes, and that becomes difficult after about two laps. The Ducati, on the other hand, I don’t really see a massive strength compared to our bike. Top speed, it seems like I can pass Valentino or Nicky, if I want to, on a straight if I’m right behind them. Exit of the corner, entry. Probably a weakness of the Ducati seems to be entry. Hard braking and getting the thing in comfortably seems to be one of their biggest issues. I know they’re playing around with different chassis or whatever now. But the Honda definitely looks like it has an advantage, I would say, 100 percent.
Q: What about the Ducati? What about Valentino, what about Nicky, on the gas and in other situations?
EDWARDS: I wouldn’t say advantage or disadvantage. From the time of touching the throttle, the Ducati look at times that it can almost like hiccup. It has a little hiccup. I don’t know if it’s the engine or electronics. Everything will look smooth, and then the next thing you know, it will get a little huh-huh, like a little twitch. And guys got the feet off the footpegs, and that’s not very confidence-inspiring when it didn’t do that the lap before, if you know what I’m saying. As far as the Ducati, mainly it looks like entry for me. Whenever I’m behind those guys, it looks like entry is the biggest thing that they’re fighting confidence on.
Q: Has your son Hayes started riding at your boot camps, and how is he doing? How old is he again?
EDWARDS: He’s 5. Yeah, he’s a maniac. We do our Superpole lap out here, and he beats most of our students. Five years old on a PW50, and he’s doing one minute, 46 around here, and we’re only doing 1:32′s on our Superpole laps. He’s only 14 seconds slower than us on a much slower bike, so he’s doing good.
Q: Forgive me for asking this if this already has been asked, but what does the new paving at Indianapolis mean for you and how you’re going to approach the weekend considering you guys don’t get to test there?
EDWARDS: The way it used to be, you had so many different pavements. You had a couple of big bumps here and there. Maybe you had to set the bike up for one part of the track or the other part of the track. I think basically repaving, besides the fact that it’s just going to be fantastic to ride and a brand-new paved track, but you’re going to be able to set the bike up more for the entire track. That’s going to be the biggest improvement for us. We’re not going to have to fight a couple of corners just so we can set it up for over here. We’ll be able to set it up for the whole thing.
Q: What does it take to do a fast lap at Indianapolis?
EDWARDS: I think just about anywhere, you’ve got to take your brain out and hold on to your balls and just pin it. Not necessarily just at Indy. Indy is pretty special with Turn 1 coming in there. Late, deep braking into there, carrying your momentum around to Turn 2. That’s a place where you can gain a couple of tenths pretty easy if you hit it just perfect. The same with the back, the left, left, left, right-left, the last four or five corners. You can gain a lot of time there, as well. There are a couple of tricky sections on that track, but as long as you link it all together, that’s like any racetrack: That’s the key to getting a good lap time.
MODERATOR: The new surface that is going down between Turns 5 and 16 is the same as the surface in Turns 1 through 4, which is pretty much the same as the surface on the oval. The oval surface, front straightaway, is diamond-ground. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very consistent surface all the way around the entire distance of the racetrack.
Q: Is early, committed application of the throttle critical to getting heat into the Bridgestones?
EDWARDS: That’s a very analytical point of view that you have there. It’s so hard to go out there and commit to something that you have no feeling of. You’ve got to trust your electronics, and you’ve got to trust pretty much what the bike is telling you. I’m probably one of the slowest and always have been one of the slowest guys out of the pits on Bridgestones. I like to work my way over on the side, and once I can get there, you can pretty much hammer it out. That’s the key. Not getting, as I did in Barcelona, if you get crossed up going in, that’s when you’re going to get hurt. But once you start coming out, if you can bend it over and build up some heat, than that’s definitely the way to do it. Even Valentino had his problems last year with the cold tire. But he’s still one of the fastest guys out of the pit, and it makes me nervous just to watch. He goes into Turn 1 and Turn 2 and flicks it on the side, and I just sit there and I’m like, “Oooh, God.” I don’t know. It just doesn’t look safe. I know the tires. But once they get heated up, they’re fantastic. It’s just that first couple of lefts and couple rights that are a little bit timid.
Q: You said that (wife) Alyssia maybe looked at you a little differently after Silverstone. Do you think that’s possibly related to her seeing your YouTube performance with Julian (Ryder) from the stage at Silverstone?
EDWARDS: Yeah, she didn’t like that too much, either. I had to basically explain the fact that: “Honey, I’m a comedian. I was just looking for a laugh, if you know what I’m saying. I had no aspirations to do anything I was saying. It was just cracking a joke.” She knows I’m a ding-dong sometimes and say stupid shit. She knows me (Laughter).