What’s he do­ing now?

25 years af­ter his last world ti­tle, GP rac­ing’s most driven cham­pion is re­viv­ing Amer­i­can rac­ing Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - News - By Mat Ox­ley MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

In 1983 Wayne Rainey won the US Su­per­bike se­ries and was im­me­di­ately re­warded with a Grand Prix ride the fol­low­ing year. The same hap­pened to many other Amer­i­can su­per­bike rid­ers of that era; from Fred­die Spencer and Ed­die Law­son to Kevin Schwantz and Bubba Shobert.

Sadly, the US Su­per­bike cham­pi­onship’s days as a global force are long gone and for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons. Al­most a decade ago the se­ries came close to to­tal col­lapse, due to the global eco­nomic cri­sis and in­ept man­age­ment by the Day­tona Mo­tor­sport Group.

In 2015 the KRAVE Group took over the se­ries, re­named it Mo­toamer­ica and in­stalled Rainey as the front man. Over three decades af­ter this de­par­ture, the Cal­i­for­nian was back in US Su­per­bikes, this time on the other side of the pit wall. A lot had hap­pened to Rainey dur­ing the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod: from 1990 to 1992 he won three straight 500cc world cham­pi­onships, in 1993 he was paral­ysed from the chest down in a crash at Misano and from 1994 to 1997 he ran a fac­tory Yamaha GP team from his wheel­chair.

Mo­toamer­ica is Rainey’s first in­volve­ment in rac­ing since he quit team man­age­ment due to ill-health in the late 1990s. His new job is a big one: to re­build the USA as a force in mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing.

“The US se­ries was pretty banged up when we took over,” says Rainey. “There was a lot of stuff that had hap­pened that af­fected it badly, so we’re tak­ing what we’ve got and try­ing to make it bet­ter ev­ery year.”

The cham­pi­onship was in­deed a mess. Sev­eral fac­tory teams had got so fed up with DMG that they quit en­tirely, rob­bing the se­ries of its head­line teams and rid­ers. DMG also ran into se­ri­ous trou­ble with a lack of TV cov­er­age (with as­so­ci­ated loss of spon­sor­ship), botched tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions and a dwin­dling fan base, so Rainey and KRAVE have a lot of work on their hands

Work­ing from a wheel­chair is never go­ing to be easy, es­pe­cially when there’s a lot of travel in­volved. Rainey is lucky to have wife Shae at his side, mak­ing his life as easy as it can be.

“When I tackle some­thing I go all in on it be­cause that’s my na­ture, but I still try to en­joy what I’m do­ing, not make it just a busi­ness thing,” adds the 56-year-old. “Shae nor­mally comes to the races and some­times we get to do a bit of tourist stuff to­gether. Af­ter the last race we flew to Florida for Bubba’s son’s wed­ding, then we drove 1400

‘His new job is a big one: to re­build the USA as a force in mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing’

miles to the next race.”

Last year Rainey cel­e­brated his son Rex’s mar­riage but he’s not a grand­fa­ther yet. Rex works for Disney TV in Los An­ge­les.

“Phys­i­cally, I’m hang­ing in there. I’m go­ing to be 57 this year, so I don’t move around as easy as I did just 10 years ago. It’s all part of get­ting old.

“I said I’d put three to five years into this pro­gramme. Now we’re half­way through year three. The thing is that you have to be pa­tient, be­cause this kind of thing isn’t go­ing to hap­pen overnight. There’s a plan and it’s go­ing to take time. It’s easy to get im­pa­tient and there’s some frus­tra­tion, but that’s the same in any job.”

Rainey’s main fo­cus has been get­ting the fac­tory teams to re­turn, open­ing up the cham­pi­onship to for­eign rid­ers, rewrit­ing the tech­ni­cal rules and turn­ing Mo­toamer­ica rounds into events, not just race meet­ings.

“Nowa­days there are so many other things try­ing to get peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. We’ve got to build our races as events, so there’s more to do when peo­ple come to the cir­cuit other than just watch races. This year the rac­ing is very com­pet­i­tive and very ex­cit­ing, with good fights all the way to the che­quered flag.”

So far Mo­toamer­ica has brought one top for­eigner into the se­ries: for­mer Motogp win­ner and Moto2 world cham­pion Toni Elias who is cur­rently lead­ing the points chase. The idea, of

course, is to use in­ter­na­tional tal­ent to raise the level of rac­ing.

“This is Toni’s re­demp­tion, so he’s rid­ing very strong. I don’t think he has ever rid­den bet­ter than he’s rid­ing this year, which is bring­ing the best out of his team-mate Roger Hay­den at Yoshimura Suzuki.

“We wanted to get as many fac­tory teams in­volved again, so our rules are now pretty much the same as World Su­per­bikes on en­gine, chas­sis, sus­pen­sion and elec­tron­ics; the only dif­fer­ence is that our rid­ers have to run a stan­dard gear­box.”

Of course, re­build­ing the cham­pi­onship is only one part of Rainey’s job, the other is to build a new gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can rid­ers who can take on the world. Cur­rently there isn’t a sin­gle Amer­i­can on the Motogp grid and, since Nicky Hay­den’s death, no full-time Amer­i­can on the WSB grid, which would’ve been un­think­able a decade or two ago.

“There’s a hunger to see who will be the next Amer­i­can guy on a world cham­pi­onship grid. That’s all part of hav­ing a com­pet­i­tive cham­pi­onship that the man­u­fac­tur­ers, the rid­ers and the fans want to be a part of.”

So who im­presses Rainey right now? “Cameron Beaubier is im­press­ing me more this year – he’s push­ing Toni for the cham­pi­onship.”

Beaubier is 24 years old but he’s al­ready been a GP rider. He con­tested the 2009 125cc world cham­pi­onship at the ten­der age of 16, but was prob­a­bly too young to com­pete at that level and went home. Last year he had a one-off WSB ride at Don­ing­ton, sub­bing for the in­jured Syl­vain Guin­toli.

“If you’ve got the tal­ent, no mat­ter where you’re from, some­body’s go­ing to spot you and you can get there,” adds Rainey. “The is­sue in the US isn’t just at na­tional level, club rac­ing has also waned. We try to show peo­ple what’s pos­si­ble by hav­ing a min­i­moto track some­where in the pad­dock at Mo­toamer­ica rounds, so that fam­i­lies can see kids rac­ing and ask ques­tions.

“I’m play­ing a role I’ve never played be­fore; it’s in­ter­est­ing to be on the other side, be­ing on the man­age­ment side, with noth­ing to do with the out­come of the rac­ing, but in­stead work­ing on the fund­ing, the plan­ning and all that stuff. Hope­fully we’re go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence…”

‘Phys­i­cally, I’m hang­ing in there’ WAYNE RAINEY

Rainey was one of the most driven rac­ers of his era and now he’s re­viv­ing Amer­i­can rac­ing

Two-time Mo­toamer­ica cham­pion Cameron Beaubier

Rainey’s bat­tles with Kevin Schwantz came to de­fine the era

Young, home-grown tal­ent is a key part of Rainey’s strat­egy

The Amer­i­can trio of Law­son, Schwantz and Rainey dom­i­nated Don­ing­ton 1989

Rainey ex­plains to Schwantz how his to­bacco is bet­ter Af­ter his ac­ci­dent Rainey man­aged Norick Abe and Colin Ed­wards Rainey wres­tles his way to his first Su­per­bike win on a Z1000 that he later de­scribed as ‘a beast’

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