Tag Archives: Wayne Rainey

Rubbing Elbows With GP Heroes at Laguna Seca Raceway

The following feature was originally published in the September issue of Rider and tells the story of a young aspiring motojournalist in the early 1990s rubbing elbows with his heroes – Grand Prix world champions such as Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, John Kocinski, and Mick Doohan – at the famous Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey County, California.

Laguna Seca
Wayne “Mr. Clean” Rainey and the author, Glen “Baby Face” Weaver, who forgot to remove his freebie Honda cap before posing with Yamaha’s World Champion rider. Photo by Eugene Leydiker.

It was that shriek. Something wicked this way comes.

On a foggy spring morning in 1989, my teenage self eagerly pressed against a spectator fence overlooking the Turn 1 summit at Laguna Seca Raceway, and I could hear and feel the wickedness approaching. Wayne Rainey was winding up his beast.

Related Story: Wayne Rainey: Ep 16 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

This was the era of absolute lunacy on brutally unforgiving analog 2-strokes. Before programmable powerbands, quickshifters, or even fuel injection, Grand Prix motorcycles dared riders to tame them by feel alone.

Soaring torque outputs with old-school carburetors. Tires struggling to provide enough side grip. Simply surviving on a 500cc GP bike required exquisite throttle timing with adroit pressure on the controls. And as Americans raised the ante, success demanded peak physical conditioning to precisely wrestle one’s mount into submission for an hourlong race.

Laguna Seca
Even with four world championships, Eddie Lawson still had to push his own bike back to the pits after the plug chop.

Easily the most mesmerizing show on Earth. 

I soaked it all up for three glorious days. There was Rainey’s howling two-wheeled drift over that hill at 150 mph. Shrieking engines and the rich smell of exhaust heavy with 2-stroke oil. Warm coastal sunshine after the fog burns off. The delightful exhaustion and feeling of brotherhood being among the cavalcade of streetbikes rumbling away from the track each evening.

Laguna Seca
Wayne Rainey sweeps into Turn 9 at Laguna Seca during the 1991 U.S. Grand Prix. Photo by Eugene Leydiker.

Of course, I wanted even more. I wanted to get as close as possible to these superstars, the fastest men on the planet. Could a wide-eyed young fan like me slip behind the scenes into the rarefied air of international racing drama?

Starting Line

My personal motorcycling adventures had begun nearby just a couple of years earlier. Attending college in Santa Cruz had fortuitously put me at basecamp to some of the most wonderfully twisty asphalt on the West Coast, including State Highways 9, 35, and 84 near Alice’s Restaurant.

Real racers and wannabes sliced through these legendary routes, especially on Sunday mornings. For the most part the roads were smooth, banked, and lightly traveled – ideal for carving it up with weapons of dramatic lean angles and extreme acceleration.

Summer work had afforded me a hopped-up Honda 600 Hurricane in sexy charcoal gray and red. I fell in love with this rocket, and we became inseparable, exploring this sport-riding playground every chance we got. Exposure to racing taught me to approach those fabulous curves as combinations to smooth out the sequences and find a flow.

Laguna Seca
Full of unearned confidence after acquiring a very fast bike, the author poses in Seaside, California, at 18 years of age. Photo by Sandra Weaver.

A stretch of Highway 84 running west from Sky Londa quickly became my favorite. The pavement was older, but its long constant-radius sweepers allowed me to settle in at high tilt and enjoy the roller-coaster ride.

No matter the destination, zipping up my leathers and mounting the throaty Hurricane made me feel like a superhero. I often rode up to campus late at night just to take in the twinkling lights below. I became Batman, brooding atop Gotham City.

Laguna Seca
The author admits it was only luck that saved him from fines and crashes during his early sport-riding years. Photo by Ben Pobst.

But how does one go from hero to immortal? How could I get close to those racing gods?

My buddy Eugene had enrolled down south at UC San Diego. During a visit, he showed me his school’s notorious satire rag, The Koala. On a lark, their goofball writers had managed to secure an interview with one of the San Diego Padres.

Then it hit me. If those college kids could access MLB players, perhaps we could pull the same trick at Laguna Seca. It seemed a long shot, but Santa Cruz did have a rudimentary student-run newspaper called The Redwood Review. I convinced the sports editor to submit media requests for us on their crude letterhead.

Word came back – we had qualified as local press. We would soon be rubbing elbows with world champions!

And so, on April 19, 1991, trying to play it cool, Eugene and I eased through the first security checkpoint. No fans allowed – just teams, officials, and reporters. It was like being dropped into one of the highlight videos I’d been recording on ESPN.

Laguna Seca
The author looks over his shoulder, certain he will be busted at any moment by paddock security. Photo by Eugene Leydiker.

Laguna Seca Paddock Pass

Racers were easily spotted getting ready for practice or debriefing with mechanics afterward. Between sessions, a few took refuge in motorhomes, but most strolled around to chat with one another or bask in the California sun.

As the action began, Eugene and I split up to maximize our all-access photography credentials. In certain corners, like the top of the world-famous Corkscrew, Laguna’s terrain allowed me to perch almost near enough to touch the riders’ leathers as they swept by. The bikes were so shiny, their engines spoke of such daring, and that acrid exhaust filled my nostrils. Best parade ever.

Laguna Seca
Mick Doohan drops his Honda NSR500 into the Corkscrew, where photographers could get very close. Photo by the author

Then I started worrying about my amateur appearance. Would youth and lack of serious camera gear betray me? I tried to relax and learn from the professionals. I carefully observed how they chose angles and timing, hoping for something extraordinary. In the days before digital, we exposed lots of film and hoped for the best.

Eugene and I reconnected often at the main media tent to relish the busy scene made more interesting by international flavor. A variety of languages could be overheard as journalists from around the globe covered this sole American round of the World Championship.

As we devoured complimentary box lunches, high-quality press kits filled with glossy photos began appearing like party gift bags. Hats, notebooks, and other promotional swag abounded. I greedily grabbed one of everything and, like a shameless tourist, donned a garish pink Honda cap.

Heat of Battle

The story on track was looking familiar as Rainey dominated practice. He masterfully prepared his Yamaha to run fastest on the capricious cold tires and full fuel load that spooked others at race start. Rainey’s plan was to break away early to dispirit the competition. Make them give up hope.

Four-time world champion Eddie Lawson often employed psychological warfare from the other direction, running quickest at the end of events while rivals suffered fatigue and waning traction. Unfortunately, Lawson was off the pace in a development year for his Italian Cagiva team. Suzuki’s ever jovial Kevin Schwantz struggled all weekend in search of rear-end grip.

Laguna Seca
Kevin Schwantz guides his Suzuki into an extreme lean angle through the double-apex Turn 2 at Laguna Seca. Photo by the author.

The factory Honda squad always had a chance with their demon of power-sliding at the controls. Australian Mick Doohan enjoyed leveraging his distinctive sideways body position to get the NSR500 spinning and howling, but we wondered if his tire could endure that abuse on such a tight circuit.

Laguna Seca
Mick Doohan, his girlfriend, and 250cc ace Luca Cadalora await the start of a press conference. Photo by the author.

Prospects for a challenge at the front likely fell to Rainey’s new teammate, John Kocinski.

Kocinski had undeniable natural talent and ample mental fortitude thanks to his successful 250 title campaign the previous season. Both Californians were pupils of Grand Prix maverick Kenny Roberts, training together at Roberts’ famed Modesto ranch, where riding 100cc bikes flat-track style kept everyone sharp.

Kocinski’s colorful character added to the intrigue. “Little John” liked expensive men’s fashion, and his fastidious nature even drew ribbing from team boss Roberts. When a Spanish rider bought Kocinski’s used motorhome, he complained the curtains had shrunk from over-laundering.

At Saturday’s headlining press conference, Kocinski made things clear. “Don’t bet against me,” he said with a seriousness characteristic of champions. “I’m going out there tomorrow to prove I’m king of this place.”

Laguna Seca
John Kocinski allows the front wheel of his YZR500 to loft as he transitions his body for the next turn. Photo by the author.

Eugene and I had arrived early for prime seats at the press conference, still in disbelief that we were about to address these titans. Alas, dreams of investigative glory quickly dissipated. My mind went blank under the pressure. I managed only tepid, conservative questions met by bland, professional answers, especially from Honda’s Wayne Gardner, who seemed to regard the assembly with a casual disdain.

Then a reporter behind me asked Gardner about his two consecutive crashes in Turn 6, and the mood suddenly became much livelier.

“You gotta be a real dick to ask a question like that,” Gardner mused. He turned to fellow Australian and teammate Doohan to back him up. “Don’t you have to be a real dick to ask that?”

Doohan smiled nervously. The reporter was now beet red, wishing he were somewhere else. After a bit more grumbling, Gardner furnished a terse reply about staying focused. As the press corps continued to murmur, I recalled watching videos of Gardner riding post-race victory laps, giving the universal “piss off” gesture to his competitors.

It’s Better to Burnout Than Fade Away

There was one more event on the afternoon schedule: a public burnout contest. With no idea what to expect from this hooliganism, I certainly wasn’t going to miss it.

Many of these bikes bore witness to their owners’ mania. Customizations included wheelie bars, ear-splitting pipes, and of course, massive rear tires. Not their first rodeo. Even more entertaining were those dressed in mischievous attire. My favorite was the Grim Reaper on a classic Kawasaki.

Laguna Seca
The Grim Reaper lights up his Kawasaki during Saturday night’s trackside burnout contest. Photo by the author.

The most skillful burnouts included working up through the gears and spinning sideways, painting a full circle onto the concrete. Roasting the rubber until it popped brought a roar from the large crowd.

Other photographers hung back against the grandstand fence, but I had learned something about angles. I strolled out near the marshals to frame contestants against the boisterous audience. A perfect backdrop. One of the workers handed me a beer as I snapped a few choice pictures. Life was good.

Laguna Seca
Spectators and photographers watch as a rider on a Kawasaki with a wheelie bar does a burnout. Photo by the author.

We took in Monterey’s vibe after dark. Normally quiet and conservative – known for golf, seafood, and sanitized-for-your-convenience tourism – the city was transformed into a scene from The Wild One as thousands of bikes streamed in from across the country.

We’re not just talking crotch rockets. There were just as many hell-raisers on Harleys and other raucous low-riders. Downtown Alvarado Street became an impromptu dragstrip where all the rowdies could be seen and heard well into the night.

Laguna Seca Flag Drop

On Sunday, the time for fine-tuning was over. At the green flag, Schwantz and Rainey bumped while powering side-by-side over the hill, but by Turn 3, Rainey was in the zone, executing perfect lines in a razor-sharp dance of man and machine.

Laguna Seca
“Stormin’ Kevin Schwantzkopf” led Mick Doohan into Turn 5 during Sunday’s race but would fade to third at the checkered flag. Photo by Eugene Leydiker.

All eyes were on Kocinski carefully working his way into second place and a clear view of his teammate’s tailpipe by lap six. Rainey’s strategy would pay off once again, however. His imposing 4-second lead seemed to rattle Kocinski, who grabbed too much throttle out of Turn 2 and was slammed to the asphalt.

Laguna Seca
Kocinski runs to pick up his downed Yamaha after crashing at the exit of Turn 2 during the race. Photo by Eugene Leydiker.

He instantly sprang up and sprinted for his bike. Watching from the media center balcony, I started screaming into my voice recorder, and Eugene was perfectly placed below to get the money shot: a photo of Kocinski desperately trying to bend his Yamaha back into shape.

Laguna Seca
Kocinski desperately tries to bend his YZR500 back into shape after highsiding himself and his bike onto the asphalt. Photo by Eugene Leydiker.

Rainey sped away, and Doohan provided entertainment on his way to second place. Surely the weekend’s most astonishing sight was his Honda laying down 50-foot black streaks over Turn 1 at top speed, often with the front wheel simultaneously pawing the air. Gardner was decidedly less spectacular as he ran off course in Turn 6 for the third year in a row, though he stayed on two wheels this time.

Kocinski did not hang around to congratulate the winner. Infuriated by his mistake, he tried speeding away on the shoulder of Laguna’s exit road in his rental car. When stopped by police, Kocinski reportedly deployed the old “Do you know who the <bleep> I am?” gambit. This ended in his arrest. Three weeks later, a British reporter made the mistake of opening a Kocinski interview with: “I understand you had a run-in with the local constabulary?”

Laguna Seca
Champagne flows freely from the winner’s rostrum after the 500cc final. Photo by the author.

At the end of the weekend, we didn’t want to leave. This was now holy ground, a sprawling cathedral for what was fast becoming my religion. I’d even spent time with writer “Nasty” Nick Ienatsch, whose magazine articles had pulled me into the sport. Thrilled that Ienatsch was my first official interview, I listened raptly as he described privateer racing efforts on a 250 GP bike. Would this kick off my own journalism career?

Laguna Seca
Motojournalist Nick Ienatsch chats with family and friends next to his Del Amo Yamaha TZ250 prior to a practice session. Photo by the author.

My paper’s sports guy was enthusiastic for a big spread, but the editor cut our final layout down to one page. I pressed onward, eager to build on my momentum. I soon began writing for more appreciative audiences in larger publications.

But those are tales for another day. First and foremost, I remain a huge fan, especially of the guys who did it by feel alone.

The post Rubbing Elbows With GP Heroes at Laguna Seca Raceway first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Wayne Rainey 1993 Yamaha 0WF2 500 GP Racer

1993 Yamaha 0WF2 500 GP

With Phil Aynsley

Wayne Rainey began the 1993 season riding the new 0WF2. Apart from having a revised motor that produced an extra 10 hp over the previous year’s 0WE0’s 160hp, the major change was the adoption of a completely new chassis.

Wayne Rainey’s 1993 Yamaha 0WF2 500 GP Racer

The extruded alloy main frame members were designed to provide much greater rigidity with increased lateral torsion resistance. Rainey rode the bike for the first seven rounds of the season (up until the Dutch GP), and scored wins in Malaysia and Japan.

However he changed to the ROC framed bike seen here from round eight as the original frame proved to be too rigid, upsetting the handling of the bike. The French produced ROC chassis was based on his 1990 title winning 0WC1.

Wayne Rainey’s 1993 Yamaha 0WF2 500 GP Racer

Rainey won the European (Catalunya) and Czech GPs before his career ending crash at Misano later in the season. He finished the season in second position behind Kevin Schwantz.

Source: MCNews.com.au

Wayne Rainey: 30th Anniversary Of His 1991 Laguna Seca Win & How Things Are Today

A Short History On The Legendary Man

If you were a kid planted in front of the TV in the 1980s, basking in the glow of the cathode rays as they showed you a young rider rising quickly through the ranks of American Superbike racing, you have obviously heard of Wayne Rainey. You know the fierce battles, the smoothness and courage showed in his push to win, and the three back-to-back world championships in the Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC) of Superbikes, the predecessor to MotoGP.

For those not aware, Wayne Wesley Rainey, born in 1960, was what could generously be called a prodigy. By 1981, he was racing in the AMA Grand National Championship, and was ranked the 15th best dirt track racer in the USA. He changed over to 250cc road racing in 1982 and was picked up by Kawasaki for the AMA Superbike championship that year, partnering with the defending National Champion Eddie Lawson.

During the 1987 season, riding for American Honda in the AMA Superbike series, one of the most famous rivalries in all of superbike racing started. It was the year that Wayne Rainey met Kevin Schwantz. It was the year that they would both leap out in front of the field on the first few laps, and then race wheel to wheel for the entirety of the race, often separated by less than a second, and when one pulled out ahead, it was only a few seconds and they ate up tire life doing so.

Waine Rainey in 1989, racing at Hockenheim
Waine Rainey in 1989, racing at Hockenheim

Both moved up to the GPWC in the new 500cc class in 1988, with Wayne rejoining Team Roberts Yamaha who he had a one-season stint with in the mid-80s, and Kevin going to the factory Suzuki team. Their rivalry also came with them, with the two fighting wheel to wheel in the first 500cc race at the British Grand Prix at Donington Park, which Wayne won. The two also took part in the inaugural Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, with Team Roberts winning that event.

1989 saw continued success for Wayne, as he achieved a podium at every race, sometimes beating out names like Mick Doohan, Roger Burnett, and teammate Kevin Magee. In 1990, Wayne finally found the perfect form, the perfect setup, the perfect sponsors, and the perfect team to back him (by staying with Team Roberts Yamaha). Riding the legendary 1990 Yamaha YZR500, he won the 500cc GPWC title. And did so again in 1991, including winning the round in front of his hometown Monterey crowd at Laguna Seca. He continued in his championship stride and despite a resurgent Kevin Schwantz pushing him to his limits, won the title for the third time on the trot in 1992.

However, that surge from Kevin would come back to bite both in the 1993 season. Wayne was getting pressured hard by Kevin, and was leading by only 11 points in the championship, making each race win and podium count.

At the Italian Grand Prix at Misano, the same circuit that would later be named after the late Marco Simoncelli, Wayne was leading the race when he lost the bike, slid out into a lowside, and critically hit the curbing at the side of the track, which tossed him end over end into a gravel trap. When it had all come to a stop, he tried to get up, but found that he could only really move his arms, and his legs weren’t responding. By hitting that curbing and landing at an awkward angle, he had severed his spinal cord.

Sitting Down With The Legend

I want to start off this section by once again thanking Mr. Wayne Rainey, during the leadup to the MotoAmerica Laguna Seca weekend, for putting aside time in his busy schedule to have what I would label as a Powersports fan’s dream interview. I personally have watched all forms of racing from Formula 1 to International FIA GT, the old GT1 endurance races, Le Mans, you name it, I was–and always will be–a fan of it.

Note: Content has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Wayne Rainey at the Czech GP in 1990
The 1990 Czech GP, where Wayne Rainey secured his first Grand Prix World Superbike title.

Simon Bertram: Mr. Rainey, firstly, let me thank you for setting aside the time to have this interview. It’s a bit of a dream come true for me!

Wayne Rainey: No problem at all, happy to help.

SB: While it was 30 years ago, something I’ve always wondered about was what sticks with a champion after they retire or are forced to retire from sports. What do you recall from your Laguna Seca win in 1991?

WR: Wow, that’s a bit of a hard question to answer, because as you said, it was 30 years ago. I don’t remember every turn, every lap, but what I do have are awesome memories. The bike was great, perfectly tuned to the track and my rhythm. Of course, it was also my home crowd, so feeling that energy was amazing.

Wayne Rainey racing at Laguna Seca in 1991
Wayne Rainey jumped the top of the corkscrew at Laguna Seca during his legendary 1991 United States GP at Laguna Seca win.

It was one of my most special races. These were the days of riders that rode monsters, bikes that had no traction control, no anti-lock brakes, nothing other than rider skill. And being able to hear the roar of the crowd cheering, even over the sound of the bike, made it special. As one of the few American stops that the Grand Prix made in the United States, it was super important to me to win that race, in front of family and friends, in front of my hometown crowd.

You know that feeling you get when you nail a corner on a bike just right or flow through a technical section of a track perfectly? That was the feeling I had in my chest as I crossed the finish line first.

SB: I have had that feeling, actually, the first time I took a corner on my own bike on the road where it just felt perfect, that little buzz in the chest of “yeah, I’m doing this!”

Now, as you mentioned that Laguna Seca is your home track and, rightly so, very special, are there any other tracks that you raced on that hold special memories for you? Best battles, perfect laps, the like…

WR: Well, I took every race track as its own challenge, and I love the challenge of every racetrack. But, there were a few that were very special to me, and not in the way that most people would think.

I spoke with someone earlier today about the race at Assen, Holland, in ‘91. I ended up getting second place to Kevin Schwantz, I still think about it to this day.

About a third of the way in, it started to rain. Back then, they stopped the race instead of having a spare bike setup with wet tires. In those days, you would carry the time ahead or behind the rider in front and behind, and Kevin was leading me by about half a second. So, when we restarted the race, he already had a half a second lead on me, so that meant by the end of the race, not only did I have to beat Kevin, but I had to beat him by half a second.

Wayne Rainey battling with Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan and John Kocinski in 1991
Mick Doohan (3), Kevin Schwantz (34), Wayne Rainey (1), and John Kocinski (19) battling hard in 1991

I had pulled out a good lead on Kevin through the race, but at the start of the last lap, my pit board said “+0.0 SCHWANTZ L1.” I had to gain that half a second back, and put together a lap that was honestly probably the best lap of my entire career. I pulled over a second on him going into the last turn.

As I flicked it in there on the brakes, I pushed the front out. I couldn’t risk it so close to the end, so I straightened it up, went straight off the track, over the gravel trap, and as I moved to get back on track, I had to put my left foot down to lean away from a grass hedge that divided the pit road from the racetrack.

As soon as I was back on the track, I started to accelerate. I could see the start/finish line, and Schwantz passed me right as we both crossed the line. So, after all that, he still barely beat me. What I really remember, however, is that even after doing all that, Kevin got the lap record on that lap, which lasted for another, if I remember, 10 years, until they changed the track.

Misano Circuit track diagram
The 1991 layout for Misano World Circuit, very different from today’s track. Notably, in 1991, the track was run counterclockwise, instead of the clockwise layout in 2021.

SB: What other tracks hold special memories for you?

Another track I remember is Misano, the same track where I raced my last race, on the Adriatic Coast in Italy. It was a track that I could race the 500 much like I raced flat track back in the States, and had a series of four left-hand turns (Turns 3 to 6 in the above image) that you started out in second gear, short-shift to third, it opens up, shift to fourth, you lean it in… you could make one big arc out of the four of them.

In 1990, I was leading the race, Mick Doohan was in second. I forget how much of a lead I had, but in getting so far ahead, I chunked my rear tire. Back then, you never came in to change a tire but Mick had caught me and passed me, and I decided to pull into the pits. My team came over all nonchalant like “oh, the bike is broken?” to which I reply: “I need another rear tire!”  They say “What?!” And I go “GIVE. ME. ANOTHER. REAR. TIRE! I’m going back out!” So they grabbed John Kocinski’s spare wheel, changed out the sprocket, and threw it on my bike.

As I was exiting pit road, Mick was now lapping me. I got the tire warmed up, chased Mick down, and caught him, but I needed to catch him more than once. In the end, I crossed the line in 9th place. That was another racetrack (and another race) that I didn’t win, but it’s a memory that I’ll always keep.

SB: It’s well documented that you and Kevin Schwanz had a fierce rivalry in the 1987 American Superbike championship. Do you think that having that type of rider pushing you to be your best, race after race, effectively made you into the champion you were to become?

WR: I can tell you that the rivalry was real, and yes, Kevin pushed me in a way that no other rider did. It was possibly because there was a bit of a dislike for each other, but it wasn’t a feeling of hatred.

Wayne Rainey racing Kevin Schwantz at the 1993 Suzuka GP
Wayne Rainey (1) and Kevin Schwantz (34) racing hard at the 1993 Suzuka GP

I really didn’t realize how much the rivalry meant to me, really, until I stopped racing. When I had time afterward to reflect back, and to see what happened to him after my retirement. The thing that was special about Kevin was that I could focus on three or four other guys (Mick Doohan, Eddie Lawson, John Kocinski) and not focus as much on Kevin. Or, I could focus just on Kevin if it was just us two racing each other, and that took care of the rest of the field that was behind him.

We both raced each other like we wanted to win, we both wanted to beat each other like no one else out there. It’s been almost 30 years now since we last raced each other, and we’re still not great friends, but there is that respect for each other.

SB: Rainey Curve at Laguna Seca: I’ve driven it many times in sim racing, and it’s always a real pain to set up for, having to recover from left to right across the track right after the corkscrew… What do you think of having one of the most deceptively difficult corners on the track named after you?

WR: You touched on it almost perfectly there, because on a bike, when you come out of the bottom of the corkscrew, everything wants to push towards the outside of the corner. Your bike wants to go that way, the hill is canted that way, and you have to really put in the effort to bring it back over to the right.

What was important on the bikes, especially back then, was to get to the right enough so that when you braked and leaned, you got on the clean line. Brake a moment too late, you’re out wide, on the dust and sand, and it’s really tricky to pull the bike back to the racing line, and you miss the apex. Brake too early or lean too hard, and you clip the apex early, again sending you out wide into the slippery stuff.

Wayne Rainey racing in 1989
Wayne Rainey racing in 1989

But when you got it just right, the bike would hook up like you wouldn’t believe, and you could disappear down the track. It’s one of those curves that has no margin for error, you need to get it right every time, or it could literally lose you the race. Of course, I’m very honored to have that corner named after me, and whenever MotoAmerica comes back to Laguna Seca, I’ll sometimes go out in the wheelchair in the morning and sweep the corner clean.

SB: Do you remember any words of wisdom that Frank Williams said to you that any young up-and-coming racer should hear? His team is as legendary in Formula 1 as your three championships on the trot are to American superbike racers, and the next generation is always the one that will carry the torch of motorsports forwards.

WR: To make what he said to me make sense, you need to realize how much the crash at Misano affected me. I was 33 years old, at the top of my chosen profession, with a lovely wife, newborn kid, and then suddenly I had no movement below my chest. In a word, it was devastating.

And that’s not to skip the fact that from the moment I was taken to the Misano medical center to getting out of rehab in California was 12 weeks. 6 weeks in a cast that made me miserable, and then 6 weeks learning how to effectively live again. It got pretty dark in those days, and then Frank came over from England to visit.

Moments after Wayne Rainey's career engine crash
Immediately after his crash at Misano in 1993, asking the medical team why he couldn’t move. Image Courtesy of MotoGP Archives

It was like the curtains had been pulled back. Watching him get out of the car into his wheelchair, and he’s a quadripalegic with only minor movement in one hand, was a turning point. Racing requires a serious bit of ego, and watching him being helped into his chair with an air of dignity and confidence around him, and the way he carried himself despite his disability…

However, there was also a moment of honest truth that changed my whole outlook on life. Frank said to me, “You’re fucked. As soon as you realize that, you’ll start living again.” In the state I was in, I really didn’t understand what he meant. It was after a few months of getting used to my new routine that it dawned on me… although my body is broken, my mind is still there. Frank inspired me to keep going, making each day a push and a success.

SB: I personally watch MotoAmerica Superbike racing, and I have to say I am really happy with the direction it has been, and is continuing, to go. Do you see yourself remaining as one of the heads of the organization for the foreseeable future?

WR: (Wayne laughed for about 10 seconds here) Well, the whole story of how MotoAmerica has blown up always surprises me. By 2015, the AMA Racing association had messed up the rules, killed off classes, and made it very unattractive to manufacturers and sponsors alike. It was actually Dorna, the company that owns MotoGP, that asked me if I would be willing to step in and give the series one last injection of life before they wrote it off.

My partners and I took over and immediately threw out the current rule book. We took the basic rules of World SuperBike for the primary classes, but also proposed new and different classes. Superstock, superbike, minimoto, junior 600cc, all of those classes were expected. We also created the SuperTwins category.

MotoAmerica Superbikes racing at Road America in 2021
MotoAmerica Superbikes racing at Road America in 2021

We started out with 3 sanctioned races, no TV, and minimal attendance, and over 7 years we now have 10 sanctioned races, 5 racing classes and the fun classes I mentioned, and worldwide TV coverage. We also created the Hooligan class for supernakeds to race in, the King of the Baggers for bagger cruisers to be raced in, and we’re always looking at what people want to see.

Honestly, the real big draw for me was to revive a series that I myself had come through in my younger days to allow for Americans and Canadians both to have hometown heroes to cheer on, and for talent to be developed that might one day move up to the top tiers of racing, either in MotoGP or World Superbike.

SB: Anything you’d like to add before we wrap up today?

WR: In a strange way, this past year and a half has revitalized motorcycle riding, and racing, in North America. Everyone was feeling too cooped up, and by going out and learning to ride, since a bike is really a one-person vehicle, you could go out on a ride and still follow all the health guidelines. Track days, group rides, motorcycle clubs, it’s all really exciting

And with that interest in riding, we potentially have an entirely new generation of future champions getting their first real taste of what it’s like on two wheels. I am, in fact, much more excited about the future than I was in the past, and I don’t plan on retiring from running MotoAmerica anytime soon. I’ve pulled back because I am getting on a bit.  I’m 61, but with the people I know running things as they are, American superbike racing isn’t going anywhere but up.

SB: Once again, thank you so much for your time and insight.

WR: You’re quite welcome!

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Wayne Rainey: Ep. 16 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Episode 16 Wayne Rainey MotoAmerica

Our guest for Episode 16 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is Wayne Rainey, president of MotoAmerica and a motorcycle racing legend. Rainey is a 2-time AMA Superbike champion (1983, 1987) and 3-time Grand Prix World Champion (1990-1992) in the premier 500cc class. In 1999 he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, and in 2000 FIM named Rainey a Grand Prix Legend. Rainey is the president of MotoAmerica, which has managed and promoted the AMA Superbike series since 2015. We discuss Rainey’s racing career, MotoAmerica’s efforts to grow U.S. motorcycle racing, and MotoAmerica’s different classes, including Honos Superbike and Mission King of the Baggers. The GEICO MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest will be July 9-11 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Tickets are available online, and racing coverage can be streamed on MotoAmerica Live+ or watched on Fox Sports FS2 and MAVTV. Check out the MotoAmerica website for details.

You can listen to Episode 16 on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud, or via the Rider Magazine Insider webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends!

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The post Wayne Rainey: Ep. 16 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Wayne Rainey back on track after 26 years

Wayne Rainey says it “made me feel young again” to hop on a specially adapted Yamaha R1 recently after being sidelined for 26 years by a crash that left him paralysed from the waist down.

The three-time world champion and long-time sparring partner with five-time champ Mick Doohan was asked by Yamaha if he would like to take part in the Suzuka Sound of Engine event in Japan next weekend (15/16 November 2019).

Yamaha has prepared a special R1 with a hand-shifter, grippy saddle and clips to hold Wayne’s boots on the pegs.

Wayne tested the bike at California’s Willow Springs Circuit last week and couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

“I had a blast,” he says.

“It made me feel young again.”

Wayne Rainey’s fateful crash

Wayne, 32, was leading the 1993 Italian Grand Prix at Misano when he slid off the track into the gravel and was hit by his bike.

He broke his back, punctured a lung and was left paralysed from the middle of his chest down.

Wayne had not ridden since until his recent R1 test.

“It was an easy crash because it stepped out and I fell off the side of it,” later said of the crash.

“I was like sliding with the bike across the track but when I went off the track I hit a curb. It kind of set me up in the air then I landed in the gravel trap it had like speed bumps in it for the F1 cars and at that time that’s what we were using in motorcycles.”

“Now all the sand traps are smooth but sometimes it takes a big incident to get something changed.”

Wayne’s Marlboro Team Roberts YZR500 was a constant challenger to Doohan on his Rothmans Honda NSR500.

Wayne Rainey
Wayne leads Mick in 1992 at Catalunya

“Mick and I had some good races and I respect him as a rider,” he once said.

“With Mick you know he’s never going to give up. That’s great in many ways, but it can also get you into trouble because you never back off. You have to be careful, but you have to win.”

Wayne won three consecutive 500cc World Championships between 1990 and 1992.

Despite not being able to ride since the crash, Wayne has remained a strong supporter of motorcycle racing and is President of the US-based MotoAmerica series.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Suzuka 8 Hour Winners List | Results | Roll of Honour

Suzuka 8 Hour Results

Suzuka 8 Hours History

While the 5.821km Suzuka circuit itself was opened in the September of 1962, the Suzuka 8 Hour first came about in 1978.

It quickly became the most important race for production based bikes in the world.

American duo Wes Cooley and Mike Baldwin won that inaugural duel on July 30, 1978, on a Yoshimura backed GS1000 Suzuki.

Australia planted its flag at Suzuka in 1979 when a Team Honda Australia squad consisting of Tony Hatton and Mick Cole rode a CB900 to victory.

New Zealand took their first top step on the rostrum the following year when Kiwi Graeme Crosby partnered with American Wes Cooley to win the race on a Yoshimura GS1000 Suzuki.

While the race was a Japanese affair largely contested between Nippon manufacturers, it was not untiul 1982 that Japanese riders themselves tasted the champagne. That year the race was reduced to six hours due to an incoming typhoon and standing atop the podium were Shigeo Iijima and Shinji Hagiwara.

Honda RVF Suzuka Hours
1985 Suzuka 8 Hour winning RVF750

Wayne Gardner won the first of his quartet of Suzuka 8 Hour victories in 1985 while sharing the riding duties on the RVF750 Honda with Masaki Tokuno.  Gardner went on to win again the next year, 1986, while partnered with Dominique Sarron.

1987 was the first time Yamaha took top honours and it came thanks to the talents of Kevin Magee, who became the fourth Australian to win a Suzuka 8 Hour. Magee won in partnership with German Martin Wimmer in 1987, the following year, 1988, the Horsham Hurricane’s victory was taken in conjunction with a then 28-year-old Wayne Rainey. The American also won his first 500cc GP race victory that year.

Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan won in 1991 on an RVF750 Honda.

Daryl Beattie then shared the victory podium with Gardner in 1992 on the Oki Honda Racing Team RVF750.

New Zealand’s Aaron Slight then won three on the trot with a different partner each time. The first victory in 1993 coming on a Kawasaki with Scott Russell, followed by two wins on the RC45, the first with Doug Polen and the second with Tadayuki Okada.

1993 also signalled the change from F1 or TT style motorcycles as the premier category at the Suzuka 8 Hour to ‘Superbikes’.

Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga put Yamaha back on top in 1996 before Honda then went on a ten-year winning streak that stretched all the way from 1997 through to 2006.

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Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards won the 2001 Suzuka 8 Hour

The first three of that decade long Honda winning streak were won on RC45s, the next four on VTR-SP twins, including Valentino Rossi’s 2001 victory with Colin Edwards on the Cabin Honda VTR-SP1, while the Fireblade took top honours in 2004/05/06.

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2006 – Suzuka 8 Hour – Takeshi Tsujimura

Yukio Kagayama and Kousuke Akiyoshi broke Suzuki’s 24-year drought in 2007.

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Yukio Kagayama – 2007 Suzuka 8 Hour

Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari put the Fireblade back on top in 2008.

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Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari – Suzuka 8 Hour – 2008

2009 saw the introduction of three-rider teams and another all-Japanese victory for Yoshimura Suzuki.

2012 Suzuka 8 Hour
2012 Suzuka 8 Hour winners Kousuke Akiyoshi, Tadayuki Okada and Jonathan Rea

2010 saw Honda’s Fireblade kicked off another winning streak that carried right through to 2014.

2013 Suzuka 8 Hour
2013 Suzuka 8 Hour winners Takumi Takahashi, Michael Van der Mark and Leon Haslam

Winners for Honda in this period included Leon Haslam, Takumi Takahashi, Jonathan Rea, Takaaki Nakagami, Tadayuki Okada and Michael Van der Mark.

2015 marked a new era of domination by the Yamaha Factory Racing Team and the YZF-R1M.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga
Katsuyuki Nakasuga – Suzuka 8 Hour – 2015

Japanese hotshot Katsuyuki Nakasuga has been part of all those victories while Pol Espargaro (2015/16) helped him to two, as did Alex Lowes (2016/17), while Bradley Smith (2015) and Michael Van der Mark (2017) played their parts in Yamaha’s recent string of success also.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pol Espargaro
Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pol Espargaro – 2015 Suzuka 8 Hour

In 2018, Nakasuga again partnered with Alex Lowes and Michael Van der Mark and the trio went on to claim Yamaha’s fourth successive victory.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael Van der Mark
Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael Van der Mark victorious at the 2017 Suzuka 8 Hour

Suzuka 8 Hour Most Successful Riders

Only five riders have taken four victories at the prestigious race. Wayne Gardner (1985-1986-1991-1992), Ryuichi Kiyonari (2005-2008-2010-2011), Shinichi Itoh (1997-1998-2006-2011), Katsuyuki Nakasuga (2015-2016-2017-2018), Michael Van der Mark (2013-2014-2017-2018).

The most successful rider at the Suzuka 8 Hour is Tohru Ukawa. The Japanese rider has five victories to his name (1997-1998-2000-2004-2005). All five were won on Honda machinery, two on the RC45, one on the VTR1000 and two more on Fireblades.

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2004 Suzuka 8 Hour – Tohru Ukawa

Suzuka 8 Hour Most Successful Manufacturers

Honda are the leading manufacturer with 27 wins. Next best is Yamaha with eight victories while Suzuki have five wins.

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Ryuichi Kiyonari – 2008 Suzuka 8 Hour

Kawasaki has only ever won the prestigious event once and that was some 25 years ago when Aaron Slight and Scott Russell piloted a ZXR750R to victory.

Suzuka 8 Hour Results

Roll of Honour

Source: MCNews.com.au

Wayne Rainey previews MotoAmerica 2019 | American Superbike

MotoAmerica President Wayne Rainey Talks 2019

MotoAmerica President Wayne Rainey is confident that the 2019 MotoAmerica Series will be the best yet – both on and off the track. Here he previews the season ahead for what is the American Superbike Championship, these days referred to as MotoAmerica.

For starters, we are very close to announcing a new television package for the 2019 season and we’re taking the production of the TV and digital package in house. It will be a lot of work, but it will give us complete control of what we’re doing and how our content looks, and it will be more accessible than it’s ever been. Since the very first announcement of MotoAmerica taking over the AMA Superbike Series in 2014, this is the biggest thing we’ve ever announced. It’s the next step and we can’t wait to tell you about it.

We are keeping our class structure the same for the coming season with Superbike, Supersport, Liqui Moly Junior Cup, Stock 1000 and Twins Cup back again. We’ve made a few small tweaks to some of the rules and those changes should make the classes even more competitive.

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Josh Herrin & Cameron Beaubier lead the Superbikes at NJMP in 2018

It’s also been good to see some of the rider announcements that have come out lately. Of course, the biggest one was the second Yoshimura Suzuki seat that went to Josh Herrin. Throw in the fact that we get to see two-time MotoAmerica Supersport Champion JD Beach in the Superbike class and you can see why our fans are chomping at the bit for us to get started. We are as well.

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Hayden Gillim, JD Beach – MotoAmerica 2018 Round 10 Alabama

Look at the Superbike grid and you’ll find defending champion Cameron Beaubier, his Monster Yamaha teammate Garrett Gerloff; the two Yoshimura Suzukis with Toni Elias and Herrin, the Westby Yamaha with Mathew Scholtz, the Estenson Racing/Attack Performance Yamaha ridden by Beach, the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki of Jake Lewis… and the list goes on. We also know more rider/team announcements are coming soon and it will be the strongest Superbike grid MotoAmerica has had in its five-year existence.

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MotoAmerica Supersport at Barber in 2018

Supersport will again be hard fought. Just when Hayden Gillim might have thought things would get easier with his friend Beach moving to Superbike, along comes word that PJ Jacobsen will be doing the series on a Celtic Racing/HSBK Yamaha. As is always the case with racing, there’s always someone who is going to step up and compete and those two likely won’t have it all their way. Also, it’s good to see some of the kids moving to Supersport with Cory Ventura making the jump from Liqui Moly Junior Cup to Supersport, and Sean Kelly set to make his MotoAmerica Supersport debut for the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team.

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Hayden Gillim, JD Beach – MotoAmerica 2018 Round 10 Alabama

We have already seen our entries to continue to grow in the two classes we introduced last year – Stock 1000 and Twins Cup – after seeing the success of those by the end of last year. In fact, we are already seeing a substantial increase in entries across all classes. Liqui Moly Junior Cup will be a slugfest as always and we’ll start the season with the parity that we saw by the end of last season with all the manufacturers having a chance to win.

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MotoAmerica 2018 Round Ten – Barber – JD Beach

While the racing portion of our weekend remains number one, we are continuing our efforts to make the MotoAmerica weekends about much more than just racing. And that means more entertainment for our fans, more things for them to do when they’re not watching what’s happening on track. Last year at Sonoma Raceway we worked hard to make that event family friendly and we included a carnival that proved to be extremely popular. So much so that we’ve decided to go with that at the majority of our races this season.

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JD Beach – MotoAmerica 2018 Round 9 New Jersey

To go with the extra family friendly activities, we’re also offering Free Fridays this year at most tracks. We will also offer a kids 16 and under for free with a paid adult ticket pricing at most of our venues. We’d love to have more families at our races so we’re going to make it as affordable as possible for families to attend.

It’s funny how at times the offseason seems to go quickly and at other times it tends to drag. We’ve been busy so time has gone quickly, but I still wish the racing started next week. I watch the countdown clock on our website and I eagerly await the start of the season at Road Atlanta the first weekend of April. I hope to see you all there.

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Supersport in wet conditions – MotoAmerica 2018 Round 9 New Jersey

Source: MCNews.com.au