Legends: Wayne Rainey
Driven might be the best one-word description of Wayne Rainey. Driven to beat arch-rival Kevin Schwantz and fellow Californian dirt tracker Eddie Lawson.
Driven to chase a fourth world crown and to push so hard on September 5, 1993 at Misano.
Rainey crashed in a poorly designed gravel trap and was paralysed. He was not quite 33 years old, with a record that already placed him among the greats – three world 500 championships, 24 victories and a total of 64 podiums from 83 starts, as well as 16 poles and 22 fastest laps.
This was in a golden 500 era, fighting Lawson, Michael Doohan, Wayne Gardner and Kevin Schwantz, on machines that could “bite”.
Eight men have won three consecutive premier-class crowns. Rainey achieved it while switching tyre brands from Michelin to Dunlop and back to Michelin.
Rainey’s US career was also impressive, with Superbike crowns in 1983 for Kawasaki and (riding a Honda) head-to-head against Schwantz in 1987.
In between, Rainey rode a season of 250 Grand Prix in 1984 on a Yamaha TZ250. He finished eighth in the championship and the European press dismissed him as a 500 contender in 1988.
Team owner Kenny Roberts knew better, having mentored Rainey for years. The King said he had fantastic throttle control and speed in the second half of the corner, coupled with unmatched professionalism.
Rainey had method. He was able to make a break at the start of races, because he tested as though it was the race – one warm-up lap and push, exploring the limits of front grip.
Rainey grew up with Team Roberts as it evolved from satellite to works Yamaha operation. He trusted and inspired the team. Tellingly, Yamaha did not win a championship between losing Rainey and hiring Valentino Rossi in 2004.
Moto GP 500cc Career results
1988 3rd place Yamaha YZR500
1989 2nd place Yamaha YZR500
1990 World Champion Yamaha YZR500
1991 World Champion Yamaha YZR500
1992 World Champion Yamaha YZR500
1993 2nd place Yamaha YZR500
by Don Cox
There is an interesting interview with Rainey here (bad vision, but good sound)