Star struck

Classic Racer - - PADDOCK GOSSIP - Malc Wheeler

Sit­ting on the leather sofa across the room from us is Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith. Along­side them in his chair is Wayne Rainey, with his scrap­books on his knee, flick­ing through the pages of his racing life. Rossi is an­i­mated, as only an Ital­ian can be, and young Bradley, at that point in his ca­reer a young Yamaha hope for the fu­ture is silent, with his eyes full of ad­mi­ra­tion. We, Mrs W and I, walk past two of Wayne’s World Cham­pi­onship win­ning Yamaha’s and a Jorge Lorenzo ti­tle-win­ning M1yamaha which grace his tro­phy-laden man cave, and through the kitchen head­ing for the late af­ter­noon Cal­i­for­nian sun­shine. This is Wayne and Shae Rainey’s beau­ti­ful home high in the hills above the La­guna Seca race track. The kitchen is buzzing with laugh­ter as Colin Ed­wards shares one of his ex­ple­tive­laden jokes with a mix­ture of other racing leg­ends and Grand Prix me­chan­ics. A wounded Cal Crutchlow, with both his hands wrapped in ban­dages from yet an­other huge crash, is clearly en­joy­ing some­thing to take his mind off the pain he is go­ing to suf­fer in 30 laps of the tough La­guna Seca track dur­ing Sun­day’s race. Stand­ing near the beau­ti­ful swim­ming pool we talk about dogs to Sandy Rainey, Wayne’s now sadly de­ceased fa­ther. We are com­par­ing notes about the age-old dog chases squir­rel sit­u­a­tion, when a guy around my age wan­ders over, and with a friendly grin in­tro­duces him­self. “Hi, I’m Kenny Roberts, where are you guys from?” We ex­plain how we know Shae and Wayne and how we came to get an in­vite to their an­nual pre-mo­togp party. Once he reg­is­ters our English accents he is in­stantly shar­ing mem­o­ries of his favourite races in the UK and how good all his UK team me­chan­ics were. Name drop­ping? Not at all! Dur­ing my long life around mo­tor­cy­cle racing, and lat­terly as the for­mer ed­i­tor of Clas­sic Racer and the man re­spon­si­ble for sourc­ing the guests of hon­our for the Stafford shows, I have met some gen­uine leg­ends. Lunch with Ed­die Law­son, who couldn’t be­lieve peo­ple still re­mem­bered ‘this old fart’; din­ner with John Surtees, elo­quent and hum­ble; a few beers with Croz, full of hi­lar­i­ous one-lin­ers; more dog sto­ries with Kevin Sch­wantz, or just lis­ten­ing, in si­lence, to the small­est de­tail that Fred­die Spencer could re­mem­ber about bike set up 30 years pre­vi­ously. And you know the one thing all these peo­ple re­ally have in com­mon? They are just or­di­nary hu­man be­ings, just like you and I, which is what makes our sport so very spe­cial.

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