Monday Conversation: Grant Langston

As I pointed out in my most recent column in Racer X, Grant Langston is an asset to the sport, and although we should all hope he’s racing again someday soon, his involvement is integral to the sport, as people like him are hard to come by. Yamaha apparently knows this as well, as despite Langston’s inability to race, they have kept him on the payroll to help in every other way he possibly can, from testing to mentoring their younger riders and doing PR work for the company. In short, Yamaha seems to know a good thing when they see it, and they weren’t about to let Langston run off. (Really, what other guy could turn a three-question interview into well over 1000 words of text?) Ultimately, though, Langston wants to race again, if given the opportunity. He should know more in the next few weeks about how his eye is healing from the cancerous tumor that grew behind it, and the radiation treatment needed to get rid of it. Regardless, though, Langston isn’t going anywhere, and at last week’s Yamaha team introductions at the Yamaha headquarters in Cypress, California, we talked to Langston about his changed role at Big Blue.

  • Grant Langston (left) standing with Yamaha Racing boss Keith McCarty (right) at last Friday's Yamaha team intro in Cypress, California.
Racer X: What is your deal with Yamaha now that you aren’t racing?

Grant Langston: Basically, it is different. It’s funny that I have a contract which includes everything except racing, so it really is just sort of being a mentor, doing some public-relations, and just trying to promote Yamaha in the best way possible. They’re a great company and they’ve kept me on to help in a lot of areas. Hopefully, I’ll be doing some testing for them, going to some of the races, and doing a lot of the stuff that they would normally want their athletes to do, but their athletes are usually too busy racing. I get to do all of those things now. I’m not complaining. What I have going with them is really great. It keeps me in the sport and keeps me involved with the whole scene of just racing and motorcycles, and that’s what I love. I’d far rather be doing this than something else, and I’m just hoping that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and maybe I can get back out there. But if not, so be it. I would at least like to try a couple other things. I’m going to go out and do a road-race test with these guy soon, and maybe do a little bit of supermoto, and try and just see how I feel doing some of these other sports where maybe the eye thing is not as critical – which I think will be a big change. People don’t realize the difference between supercross and outdoor nationals – the tracks, the timing, the holes, the bumps, the ruts, the lighting – as opposed to going to a little local track down the street. It’s a big difference, and I can go to the little local track down the street and, you know, ride 80 percent and be okay and have fun, but in our sport, you can’t be 80% and not being able to see what’s coming at you. It’s dangerous enough as it is. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to take unnecessary risks.
So, you’re actually doing the jobs now for Yamaha that you used to try and get out of when you were racing for them...
Yeah, well, they say beggars can’t be choosers. I don’t have a problem with testing and stuff because I don’t ride that much now, so when I go out there, it’s fun. I feel like I’m kind of learning things all over again, so... When you’re testing and training and doing motos day-in and day-out, you’re like, “I want someone else to do my testing.” Now, I’m like, “Let me do the testing!” I get a factory bike to myself for the whole day. It’s fun. I don’t dislike doing those things. Actually, now, it’s kind of enjoyable, but it’s funny, you know? I guess sometimes maybe we can be a bit of prima donnas, where we’ve got everything laid out for us, and we’re like, “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do this. Get someone else to do that.” Now, when you take away that core ingredient, it’s like, “C’mon! I want to do all the other things!” I enjoy it. I don’t have any problem doing testing, doing interviews or public-relations... I kind of enjoy that. It’s just kind of a different chapter from growing up and just being a professional racer. It’s just about stepping out of my comfort zone and doing some of the other things that I think help to make a well-rounded person. You look at a lot of athletes that can do those things, and do them well, and there’s life after whatever sport they were in – whether it was football, or racing, or whatever it may be. I look at it like there’s got to be a life after racing, and I want to be involved with this sport because I love it, and I love being a part of Yamaha.

  • As a trophy, Langston (right) was presented a replica of his 2007 AMA National Championship-winning YZ450F. He said he is going to make it into a light fixture in his house.
If you do get to the point where your eye is better, and maybe good enough to race with, do you think this experience will change your outlook on racing and how you approach it?
Oh, absolutely. I believe everything in life happens for a reason, and sometimes we don’t understand why, or we’re upset about something that happens, but everything that’s ever happened to me, I’ve always looked back and said, “Oh, well, that helped me realize this, or taught me that,” so I look at this as just another step – another chapter. It’s giving me the chance to take time away from racing and do a lot of other things. I mean, I’ve been involved with so many different things lately, it’s crazy – I can’t even list them all. Some of it’s been fun, and some of it’s been a learning process, but all-in-all, it’s been good. At the same time, though, I’m a racer. I’m not racing right now because of a situation. It’s not by choice. So, in that aspect, I still feel like I would love to do it some more. I believe that I have a few good years in me if I was able to see correctly, but I don’t feel, mentally, that I am ready to walk away. But if I have to, I will, and I’ll take the next step, whatever that may be. Like I said, I’d love to give road-racing a shot – I’ve always been a huge road-race fan. I did some supermoto before and did fairly well at it. Who knows? Maybe at X Games, I can start practicing for some Step-Up. I think with one eye, you could do that. You don’t really need to see a whole lot, except a wall in front of you. You don’t even have to see the bar because they’ll tell you if it’s still up there! [Laughs] Whatever it may be – maybe the Best Whip contest! I can just watch it in an instant replay, so I don’t even have to see my own whip. There are other things I can do, and right now, I’m still involved, and I would love to be a pro racer again, and I feel like this time off has rejuvenated me, but I try not to let my hopes get up too much in case I can’t, because I don’t want to be too bummed out if it doesn’t work out. I’ve still got a lot of other great things on the go, and you can’t be bummed out about situations that are dealt to you. They say to take lemons and make lemonade, so that’s what I’m trying to do at this point.