#s 8 & 9 – Wayne Rainey & Kenny Roberts
Not only is “King” Kenny Roberts a three-time World Champion he has the honor of being the first American to win a motorcycle Grand Prix title. Known for applying the U.S. version of dirt track racing to pavement, Roberts wowed European racers and spectators alike with his rear wheel sliding/steering style. Roberts won the championship from 1978 through 1980 and began a decade’s-long American domination of GP champions.
Wayne Rainey was one of Robert’s proteges. Racing for Team Roberts, Rainey won three consecutive world GP titles in ’90, ’91 and ’92 and was on his way to a fourth with a points lead over Kevin Schwantz when tragedy occurred in Misano. Rainey crashed out of the race while leading, severing his spinal cord in the process and ending his motorcycle racing career. His passion for the sport has never waned and Grand Prix motorcycle racing endures at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca largely due to Rainey’s efforts.