The only known photograph of Carrithers ahead of any world champion is not what it seems.
Editor's note: Suzuki didn't fly Kevin Schwantz all the way to Australia just because motorcycle journalists and cocktail waitresses still hang on his every word. Schwantz came along because few mortals can stay in the same zip code with him on a racetrack. And since Number 34 started his 1993 500cc Grand Prix world championship season with a pole and a win at Eastern Creek, he knows this one better than most.
If my bike was working well, Eastern Creek was fun. It's a technically challenging track. You can't go into a corner, shut the throttle and wait for [the bike] to come back inside. You need a 500 that will turn with the throttle on.
Coming down the front straight on an '05 GSX-R1000, I use most of fifth gear. Heading into the first turn, a couple of bumps help me remember when to peel the bike in. You can turn way too early there and kill your momentum, so I stay on the gas a little longer, use a little more brake, downshift once and turn it. Aim past the apex and start driving from the inside of the track. That's difficult because One is so fast and intimidating.
After that, I stay in fourth until just past the 200 marker before braking for Two. The GSX-R's new slipper clutch means you don't really have to blip the throttle, but I do it anyway. I use second gear through the double-apex left. The ideal situation is to get in a little faster than necessary--Two is almost square across the center--toward the first point of the curb and let the bike run out toward the second point on the exit. I run tight--toward the left edge of the track--so I can drive down into the inside of Turn Three on the gas and carry that speed over the hill. Otherwise, Three turns into an even bigger right-hander, and it's hard to carry enough momentum.
There are a couple of sharp bumps heading down into Turn Four, where you're hard on the brakes. Once that curb on the inside of the track ends, I want both wheels on the edge of the track and my knee hung out over the grass. Then I can drive down into Five and late-apex it for a good drive over the hill into that little right/left of Turn Six. Use all the track in Five; that right is huge. Turn Seven is a little bit more of a corner that way. Unless it helps me jump something I don't want to run over, I don't like using the curbs or the paint. Never have.
I use a different line through Turn Seven, the tight left-hander that aims over the next hill. I try to get the bike around the center of the corner turned. Then I can stand it up and get a good drive to the top of that hill instead of staying on the edge of the tire and worrying about how much throttle I'm using. I want the throttle open as soon as I can for as long as I can, but the entrance to that fast downhill Turn Eight is blind. Rush up the hill without knowing exactly where you are and you'll roll off the throttle. That really unsettles this bike. That hill--Turn Eight--was the single scariest spot here for me on a 500. Then I'm back toward the inside of the track and on the brakes for Turn Nine, the horseshoe right.
I let the bike run a little going into Turn Nine, a 180-degree right--stop it, stay inside and wait to get back in the throttle. There's no need to go in wide and carry a bunch of speed. This GSX-R let me do almost everything my '93 GP bike let me do. Especially if you run wide and need to get back inside with a ton of load on the front end. Where the '04 model didn't like changing direction on the brakes, the new one is just fine, and that's with the standard Bridgestones.
Out of Nine I'm still in second gear--and have been since Turn Two. Use up third gear into that next right-hander [Turn 10]. This bike responds well enough to loading the front end that a smooth downshift--before I touched the brakes--helped get it back to the left down through Turn 11. Once it's turned for 11, let the bike run toward the outside. That lets you shape Turn 12 the way you need to for a perfect run down the front straight. MC