Paraplegic MotoGp star Rainey back to driving 30 years after accident
Way of life
Friday 01 July 2022
Some of my readers may know that I love riding motorcycles. For the record, I’ve been riding for 54 years and I’m still going strong. However, my story today isn’t so much about motorcycles as it is about the choices we make in our lives, especially after a life-threatening experience.
I have been a fan of MotoGp in its various alliterations since the mid 1960s and one of my favorite riders was Californian Wayne Rainey who won three consecutive 500cc class world championships with Yamaha between 1990 and 1992.
Rainey was embroiled in a bitter battle with compatriot Kevin Schwantz as he sought his fourth straight title in 1993. He was leading the championship by an 11-point margin over Schwantz and was leading the race when he suffered an accident ending to his career at the Italian Grand Prix at Misano.
He slid through the gravel pit at high speed, shattering his spine against the inclined surface designed for motor racing. The injury handed victory and ultimately the title to arch-rival Schwantz. Rainey’s injuries left him permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
Rainey turned to the Williams team’s quadriplegic owner, Frank Williams, for advice, and he decided to take a positive attitude towards his condition, later becoming Marlboro Yamaha’s team manager for a while. a few years.
After the 1995 season, Schwantz retired from the Grand Prix circuit, partly because of nagging injuries and partly because the loss of his great rival which had inflamed his competitive spirit had made him see his own life much more clearly. mortality.
Despite his disability, Rainey refused to give up racing and raced a hand-operated Superkart in the Northern California-based World Superkart Series.
Rainey lived in Monterey, California, in a house not far from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The nearby circuit named a corner in his honor, Rainey Curve, which is a sharp, medium-speed left-hander that follows the famous Corkscrew.
Rainey was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) named him a Grand Prix “Legend” in 2000. He was inducted into the International Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2007.
Beginning in 2014, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) transferred commercial rights to AMA-sanctioned road racing to Wayne Rainey and his partners.
The UK’s annual Goodwood Festival of Speed is perhaps the best place to see rare vintage racing machines and the stars of yesteryear driving the vehicles in which they gained their fame. The event being held this week saw Wayne Rainey ride his championship-winning Yamaha YZR500 from the 1992 season.
The Yamaha YZR500 is largely as it appeared in 1992 but with a few changes to accommodate Rainey. The shifter and rear brake controls moved all the way to the handlebars. A body extension was also added to the rear of the fuel tank to give additional upper body support. Wayne was followed up the hill at Goodwood by fellow champions Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz and Mick Doohan.
It’s easy to be transported back in time to see a Grand Prix two-stroke motorcycle from the 1990s. The distinctive engine buzz, streamlined fairings and simple yet vibrant livery are all reminiscent of that era.
More than anything else, the sight of Wayne Rainey back on the bike shifts the mood from nostalgic to heartwarming. Although Rainey never disappeared from the racing community after his life-changing accident, seeing him back in racing leathers alongside his contemporaries is something very special.
For me, it’s about the choices we make in life in the face of adversity. You can either take the easy route and give up, get negative, feel sorry for yourself, or take the bull by the horns and say, “I’m going to beat this thing and get the most out of my life.”
It takes courage and determination to take the toughest route, discipline, strength of character and a fighting spirit, as you are sure to face many more challenges on your journey to the top.
Wayne Rainey is a big inspiration to me as I went through a similar journey after my motorcycle accident in 2013.
Although I lost the use of my left arm in the accident, I refused to give up. This decision opened up a whole new world to me and that’s how I discovered my passion for writing. Thanks to my writing, I was able to reach many people and touch them in a special way.
I have found purpose in life and the past seven years have been the best years of my life. I still ride motorcycles.
Don’t let adversity get you down. Let adversity make you stronger.