Colin Edwards, a Houston native nicknamed "The Texas Tornado," will offer candid insight before every MotoGP event in 2008 about the characteristics of the upcoming circuit, his tactics and possible motorcycle setup for the weekend, the personalities and rivalries of the exciting world of MotoGP, and personal anecdotes about the region where each event takes place in "Tornado Warning."
Two-time World Superbike champion Edwards, 34, is in his sixth year of MotoGP competition, riding this season for Yamaha Tech 3. His next race is the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday, July 20 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
The colorful Edwards will compete in the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Sept. 12-14 at IMS along with fellow American MotoGP stars Nicky Hayden, John Hopkins and Ben Spies, and MotoGP superstars Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
That was an interesting race at the Sachsenring, to say the least. You were happy with your setup coming off the trailer, and then there was the accident during the race Sunday. Describe your weekend.
Well, the weekend as a whole looked pretty good. I looked like my pace was probably, race pace on race tires, it looked like I was fighting for a podium, second, third, fourth, somewhere in that region. We actually crashed Friday. It's a tricky game, this racing, I'll tell you. The front tire they brought, we abuse the front a lot at Sachsenring because you're turning a lot and you're plowing the front a lot, putting a lot of weight on it. The front tire they brought was basically the same type of construction that I normally use but a lot of different rubber, a lot harder. And we are running a lot of temperature, which is pretty normal for Sachsenring. We got out there, and I was doing some good laps, and the next thing you know, coming into the last corner, braking just like I did the lap before and went to throw it in, and the next thing you know, my handlebars are on the ground. I was like, "What the hell is going on?" I just slid off the track. I didn't even hurt anything whatsoever. It's just racing, man. Just when you think you got it all sorted out, your ass is on the ground, and you're like, "Man, what did I do wrong?" Qualifying went good. Ended up third, got on the front row, and the next thing you know is Sunday, and it (poured) down rain. I was pretty happy, actually. I woke up Sunday morning, and it was raining. I thought, "Cool, at least we'll get some wet time before we actually go out for the race," because we hadn't had a wet session so far. Sure enough, the 125s go out and the 250s go out. By the time we go out, there's a dry line; the whole track is a dry line. We put rain tires on. Go out two laps, rain tires are completely wasted. It's just dry, completely dry. So we didn't get any wet time to test. Two Michelin's, let's say, to go with their excuse of no track time, they're absolutely correct: There was no track time. At the end of the day, it's just a gamble. You go out in the race, and it's just a gamble. We went on a race tire more toward the hard side, let's say hard-medium-ish, because you've got so many left, left, left, left, and you just burn the hell out of the left side of the tire in the dry. The natural thinking is that it's obviously going to do the same thing in the rain. It was kind of a harder tire that we put on the rear, and we had the softest front. The softest front we have anyways is still probably in a harder range that we're now finding out. Our front tire, you can do 90 laps on it in the rain, and it looks perfect. Long story short, we go out, and it never worked. I got a decent start, got out there, and I was like, "It is frickin' dangerous." That's what I was thinking. Normal scenario A is that front tire and rear tire work as you go out, and there's two things that happen when you go into a corner. First, you build load. You build load, which let's say in car racing, is like g-force. You're building the load on the tire. Once that load becomes too much and you start feeding some throttle, then it kind of spins and moves, and the tire moves. As it moves, then the traction control basically covers your ass. Once the rear tire is traveling at a speed greater than X amount than the front tire, then your traction control kicks in, and it helps you out. Problem being, we couldn't even get there. You couldn't even to the traction control part because the tire was so hard. If it did step out, it wasn't going to step out 2 or 3 inches. It was going to step out 2 feet.
That's not something you can learn on the warm-up lap.
If it was that easy to learn it on the warm-up lap, I don't know who that guy is. He's got some skills. It's impossible to learn it on the warm-up lap.
Did you know right away after the start that it wasn't working?
Yeah. I got a good start, went through and then Turn 1, 2, 3, 4. Coming out of 4, I followed the guy in front of me and went from right and just flipped it over left, and the thing stepped out and almost spit me there. I thought, "Oh, (shoot)." I knew there was no temperature in the front, obviously. As soon as you go out in the rain, it doesn't matter if you put tire warmers on. But we got to go do a warm-up lap and then sit there for a minute, and the tire just cools down. I thought, "OK, I'll just spend a little time building up some temperature in the tire to get it work," and it never happened, really. It never happened at all. I got going, and it was probably the most dangerous race I've ever ridden in my entire life. This business is very risk-reward related. You get a lot of risk, you get a lot of reward. If you don't take that much risk, then you don't get a lot of reward type thing, you know? I was just way, way out of balance. Every corner, every lap, you were just taking so much risk, and at the end of the day, the best I would have finished was fifth. So your reward wasn't worth (crap). You understand what I'm saying. The risk-reward part of it was way out of balance. In situations like that, you basically do what you did the lap before. You survive the lap before, so you say, "OK, I'll do the same thing." But you know what? That corner there and this corner there, I broke a little bit earlier, so I might try and squeeze a little bit more out of it. And that's basically all you do; that's all you're doing the whole time. You're just squeezing a little more here, a little more there, just trying to get the lap times to come down a little bit.
Is that what happened in the accident?
That's pretty much what happened. I knew somebody was behind me, and they were kind of staying there. So I thought: "Well, you know, I'll put my head down and just try and ease away. But don't do anything crazy." I was just nice and calm. I don't crash in races, period. I've crashed in two races this year, which is crazy. I just don't crash, you know?
Is it just me, or does it seem like there have been more crashes this year than in recent years? Hopper has been down a lot, Lorenzo has been down a lot, Valentino went down. Are guys going down more?
You're absolutely right, but everybody is just trying to squeeze that extra tenth. It's to that point. Casey (Stoner) has got everybody so strung out. He's making look us half-stupid at some times, being three-quarters of a second faster than everybody. As far as pride, that doesn't look good. Just to get on the front row or to try to get in the top five or get on the podium, man, you've got to squeeze so much out of it. It's normal. This is racing: This is what we do. But the level has just gotten even more and more and more and more. It just keeps getting higher and higher and higher.
How much do the cornering speeds of the 800 (cc bikes) compared to the 990 (cc bikes) play into that?
Yeah, there's a big difference there, as far as cornering speeds. You just don't have the power to get out of a small mistake. Whereas with the 990s, you could make a little, small mistake, squirt off the corner. What you lost going in, you gain going out, and it kind of evened itself out. Now, the gearing has to be spot-on because you don't have the bottom-end torque that you used to have. If you make a small mistake on the 800s, you're going to lose time. There's just no way around it. So you're always trying just to be as smooth as you can and just connect the dots, white line to white line. Just make it perfect. In the rain, it's just even more exaggerated. You're just trying to be as smooth as possible and run white line to white line, without touching the white line.
As an American rider racing on home soil, there are two ways of looking at it: More pressure, or do you look at it as, "This is home, this is a track I know, and there's less pressure because it's comfortable for me." What way is Laguna for you?
It's weird, you know. I've never thought as Laguna as pressure. I've got 40, 50 people coming from Texas and all over the country, coming to watch, stringing passes to. At the same time, I've always performed a lot better under pressure, even in my motocross days. And I don't know why. When I was 11, 12 years old, if there was something involved or there was a bigger prize than just a trophy, I always seemed to perform a lot better. Laguna, I would say the same. Maybe I just look at pressure differently. I just look at pressure as if there's just no option. Not pressure like, "Oh, my God, I've got to good; I've got all these people here." I look at it as like: "Well, there's no frickin' option now. I've got to kick some ass because they're watching." It's just a different mindset, I guess. As far as pressure sitting on the line, I've never been at a Laguna where I've felt any different on the starting grid than anywhere else. Once that red light comes on, you say: "OK, let's get a good start, and let's see what happens. That's all we can do."
How about off the track? You're a TV star now, with your track description gig on CBS at the Sachsenring.
That was pretty cool, man. I knew when I did it, I thought, "Well, that might come across pretty good." And then I watched it, and they actually cut it pretty good. I thought, "Yeah, that's all right." It's pretty hard, but at the same time I've got a lot of people I haven't seen since last year. And in '05 when I came here, there were a lot of people I haven't seen in a few years. Obviously, I used to race here in the States, and old mechanics and old friends and old crew chiefs and teams, and all that stuff. You're always catching up with those guys. It's a good event, though. I enjoy that. Hell, without family and friendship, you're nobody. I like kind of keeping those friendships and hanging out.
Make sure some of them come to Indy, too. All of them, in fact.
In reality, normally I have a lot more people going to Laguna, because obviously it was the only race (in the U.S.). The reality is, all the people who normally go to Laguna from my hometown here, they're skipping it this year. They're coming to Indy. I've got some folks up there in Pennsylvania that come. And they're saying: "We've got a race in our backyard. We're staying right here."
Laguna is such a unique track, with the Corkscrew. Is there anything else at Laguna that maybe doesn't occur at many other tracks?
One thing about Laguna, it's physical. To be honest with you, it's real physical. There's nowhere you can even pull a tear-off. You're just always cranking on the bike. Left-right, left-right, up-down, or holding station or turning. The 990s are a lot worse because those things, if you had a second, you were always trying to hold a wheelie down. We have the wheelie thing a bit better with the 800s. But it's still a pain in the ass. Physically, Laguna and Sachsenring, where we just came from, they're two of the most physical tracks because you don't have a second to do anything. Even the straightaways, you're going from left to right or right to left and setting up for what's coming up. You never have that 400 yards of straight road where you can reach up and grab a tear-off. It just doesn't happen.
At Indy, you'll be able to order take-out down the front straightaway …
Yeah, man. I need some Chinese!
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