MOTORCYCLE HERO - WAYNE RAINEY
THREE TIMES 500CC MOTORCYCLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AND DAYTONA 200 WINNER WAYNE RAINEY WAS APPRECIATED FOR HIS COOL RACING STYLE!
Born in October 1960, Wayne Rainey was a successful US motorcycle Grand Prix road racer in the 1980s and 1990s.
He started out in the AMA Grand National Championship which includes dirt track and road races, so requires a versatile and adaptable rider which he proved to be. His early promise as a novice meant that the was spotted and hired by Kawasaki to compete for them in the 1982 AMA Superbike Championship, alongside teammate and champion, Eddie Lawson. When Eddie Lawson moved over to the Grand Prix Circuit, Rainey took over from him as lead rider.
Following his success he moved to Kenny Roberts Yamaha racing in the 250cc Grand Prix World Championship. He didn't flourish though in this setting so in 1985 joined the Maclean Racing team in the US 250 and Formula 1 classes and then moved on to the American Honda team, racing superbikes and F1. It was during this superbike national championship, that his intense rivalry with Kevin Schwantz started as they fought each other for the title. Rainey was the victor in this instance but the die was cast for the two riders to struggle against each other for the prize from then on! Even though they were supposed to be teammates in the Transatlantic Match races their rivalry in fact continued!
In 1988, Rainey returned to Europe and joined team Roberts Yamaha riding a YZR500 but he was followed to Europe by his nemesis Schwantz who signed for 500cc Team Suzuki. The battle between the two of them served them both by pushing them to higher levels of competitiveness and probably spurring them both to push themselves further in their racing careers!
It was from 1990 to 1992 that Rainey really found his groove and won three consecutive crowns for Yamaha. Then in 1993 disaster struck! He was ahead in championship points and aiming for his fourth consecutive title when he crashed at Misano in the Italian Grand Prix. It was a very serious accident, he slid into the gravel trap and broke his spine leaving him paralysed for life. Schwantz won the race that day.
So Rainey was out of the game after a relatively short career, but used his experience as a racer and went on to become team manager for Marlboro Yamaha for several years. Kevin Schwantz who you might have expected to go on to great heights without his arch-rival, in actual fact retired after the 1995 race season. This seems to have been due to his own injuries and Rainey's terrible accident, which perhaps focused his mind on his mortality. These factors, plus the fact that his rival was no longer there for him to push against, seems to have taken the vim out of his racing.
Rainey didn't give up racing entirely though and raced a hand-controlled Superkart in the World Series in California – true grit!
He now has his place in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and owns the commercial rights to the Moto America AMA-sanctioned road racing.
Rainey lives in Monterey, California near the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca which has a corner named after him – an acute left-hander which follows the infamous Corkscrew – a fitting tribute to a brave racer.
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