If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re one stone-cold person. After 26 years, Wayne Rainey – three-time 500cc World Champion and current MotoAmerica President – got the chance to ride a motorcycle again. It’s his first time back on a motorcycle since his life-changing crash in Misano 1993 that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Not many of the kids racing World Superbike and MotoAmerica last weekend were born the first time I went to Laguna Seca in 1988 for the return of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in the USA. Eddie Lawson won that one. Wayne Rainey had taken pole position and finished fourth, ahead of Kevin Schwantz in fifth. Mike Baldwin finished tenth to make it 40% Americans in the top ten. Meanwhile in the 250s (what would be Moto2 today but much cooler because two-strokes), Arkansas’ own John Kocinski took the 250 pole, while fellow American Jimmy Filice took the storybook win in the race. Long story short, Americans from Kenny Roberts on dominated top-level road racing.
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, now in its ninth year, has become famous around the world for its incredible display of historic motorcycles. Held on the lush lawn of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel, California, the event included more than 350 lust-inducing vintage and custom motorcycles.
Any MO readers over the age of 40 probably have fond memories of watching Wayne Rainey make his magic happen on the best-looking 500cc Grand Prix bike ever built – the Marlboro Yamaha YZR500. His first championship year, 1990, was one of the most memorable seasons I can remember. I was 15 and still remember those late nights staying up to watch the races. By the time I was 16 I had an old blown-up RZ250FN and big plans to paint it up in Marlboro colors. I had the posters and the dreams to go with them!
No mention of Wayne Rainey is complete without the “three-time World Champion” prefix, but he was probably on his way to making it “four-time” when he crashed out of the lead that fateful day at Misano, ending his racing career at age 32 and along with it that whole illustrious era of U.S. Grand Prix domination. Many of us remember where we were when we heard the news, like 9/11 or even JFK. Ten years earlier, though, Rainey had won his first AMA Superbike championship on a Muzzy-tuned Kawasaki, and six years before that, the blue-eyed kid from Downey, California, had been racing the Kansas county fair circuit for $20 a win. Not a bad run, all in all. We had the privilege of asking WR a few inane questions at Yamaha’s recent 60th Anniversary celebration.
Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. celebrated its 60th anniversary with a special, employee-focused, three-food-truck event that included the induction of 10 racing legends onto its “Wall of Fame.” From L to R above, Rich Oliver, Wayne Rainey (Broc Glover hidden), Rick Burgett, Jason Raines, Mike Bell, ATV hero Bill Ballance, (Ty Davis hidden), and chief Yamanut Bob Hannah. Keith McCarty’s Yamaha’s Racing Director for Life, is at the right.
I hate being the nihilistic voice of MO, but when it comes to the state of American talent at world-level motorcycle road racing, we’re f*#ked. If the swirling rumors of Nicky Hayden’s departure from MotoGP come to pass, it’ll be the first time since 1977 America’s been absent from competing at the world’s highest level of two-wheel racing. Truly sad – especially considering the U.S. hosts two MotoGP rounds.
Wayne Rainey needs no introduction. As a two-time U.S. Superbike champ and three-time 500cc Grand Prix world champion, his record speaks for itself. One of the fiercest competitors ever to ride a Grand Prix motorcycle, Rainey’s talent, skill and speed have made him a legendary figure in motorcycle roadracing circles. With the crumbling status of American roadracing as of late, Rainey is looking to leverage his legendary status to help bring top U.S. talent back to the international racing scene. MotoAmerica is the name of the new AMA roadracing series, which looks to pick up the pieces the Daytona Motorsports Group left behind.
Paul Carruthers has always been a busy man, even since he was a kid. For the last 30 years at Cycle News (the last 21 of them as Editor), Carruthers was at just about every AMA National roadrace, usually with notebook and tape recorder in hand, and every Wednesday there Cycle News would be in your mailbox, packed with great race reports along with an information-dense news section up front that launched many a feature story.
I was excited as the next guy to hear about Wayne Rainey’s new organization, KRAVE, galloping to the rescue of American Roadracing (say, didn’t that used to be a magazine?), but it did get me reminiscing over what great times we had spectating over the years – even being able to participate a few times – and hoping Wayne and crew won’t be closing the barn door after the horses have all retired to Las Vegas or been incarcerated.
Most days, there are more than 2000 ads for motorcycles on the San Francisco-area Craigslist and probably a similarly large number advertised near any major population center. The odds of any one of these ads attracting much attention are pretty small. But when a certain for-sale ad appeared on the Sacramento list, it was different – very different.