The three-time GP world champion wows the crowd at Goodwood

 

It’s no secret that Wayne Rainey is a hero to us here at Road Dirt. We’ve long admired the man for his dominance in the sport of motorcycle road racing in the late 80s to early 90s, his reinventing of himself following a debilitating crash back in 1993, and how he and his team have revived American road racing with the MotoAmerica series, now in its 8th season. We’ve had the privilege to chat with and interview him on several occasions, and Wayne is always friendly, approachable, candid and enjoyable to talk with.

Our respect and admiration for Wayne Rainey went through the roof over this past weekend when we learned of his amazing feat at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, held yearly in Sussex, England. The three-time 500cc Grand Prix world champion (1990-92) was reunited with his 1992 championship-winning YZR500, and in fact rode the historic machine multiple times around the famed Goodwood course over the festival weekend.

Wayne throttling his old fire-breathing two-stroke Yamaha YZR500 at Goodwood Festival of Speed, June 2022.

What makes this such an iconic moment, is the fact that Rainey was paralyzed from the chest down in that race crash at the ’93 Italian Grand Prix in Misano, and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. But in 2019, Wayne rode a motorcycle again for the first time since his crash, when Yamaha provided him with a modified YZF-R1 at Buttonwillow Raceway in California. Wayne rode again a month later in Japan’s “The Sound of Engine” at the famed Suzuka Raceway, with greats Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Japan’s own Takuma Aoki.

Watching him ride those two times brought tears to my eyes.

Now this year, Wayne rode his actual last championship-winning machine, pulled from a museum in Japan and adapted by Yamaha engineers so Wayne could shift gears via controls on the left handlebar. Strapped to the motorcycle, with attendants supporting the bike and rider at launch and recovery, Wayne throttled his beloved YZR500 around the world famous track at Goodwood to thunderous applause, accompanied by former race team boss Kenny Roberts, old rivals Kevin Schwantz and Mick Doohan, and retired MotoGP great Dani Pedrosa. The legendary Giacomo Agostini was even on hand to turn a few laps as well. It was an amazing occasion to watch.

The legends ride again (L-R): Kevin Schwantz (1), Mick Doohan (3), Kenny Roberts (99), and Wayne Rainey (1) out front.

Wayne rode his old motorcycle multiple times across the festival weekend, and mused about the experience afterward- “I was quite nervous about riding the YZR500. When I rode the R1 it was all quite straightforward as the bikes these days have so much electronics on them, but it’s a bit different with a 500cc Grand Prix bike! But to be honest, it felt like an old friend. It was always a challenge to race the bike at that level, fighting for race wins and championships, but being here 30 years later, being able to get on the bike and ride it up the hill in a nice, easy, gentle setting is fantastic. The bike was there for me back then and it’s there for me today, so I’m thrilled.”

“It felt like an old friend.”

Wayne further reflected, “I didn’t know what to expect, I couldn’t really go there as I had no idea what it would feel like. But when I put my helmet on and they started the bike, I was like, ‘It’s on.’ Being able to ride up the hill and through the corners, looking down and seeing that I was on my Grand Prix bike again after all those years felt like I was in a completely different world, and to do it alongside those guys, Kenny, Kevin and Mick, I could not have asked more than sharing this experience with them. A huge thank you to the Duke of Richmond for having me, and to Yamaha for taking the bike out of the museum and adapting it for me to ride.”

Two old friends and comrades in speed- “King Kenny” Roberts, and Wayne Rainey.

Wayne continues to prove that tragedy need not defeat you, that disability need not define you, and that you can overcome your circumstances and accomplish amazing things. Wayne is living proof.

Rob

*All photos by MotoAmerica

Here’s the MotoAmerica footage from the weekend-

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