Wayne Rainey will forever be remembered as one of Yamaha’s greatest stars in an era of the FIM World Championship Grand Prix where talent, technology and speed combined to create some of the most captivating seasons of racing seen in the sport. As a three time 500cc world champion between 1990 and 1992 Rainey’s mastery of steering the ferocious two-stroke machines and his unrelenting determination to always be the best mark him as one of the principal figures of a phase in which names like Lawson, Doohan, Gardner, Schwantz, Kocinski and Mamola entertained millions worldwide. Rainey would eventually rise to the very top of the road racing tree thanks to his exquisite motorcycle handling, dirt-track background and uncanny ability to steer the YZR500 with the rear wheel.
His beginnings in Grand Prix were a little more humble with a season in the 250cc class in 1984 where he took a podium in only his second appearance on the TZ250 but headed back to the USA the following year to grow in status among the burgeoning superbike scene. As AMA Superbike Champion and under the stewardship of Kenny Roberts in 1988 the Californian entered the 500cc class for his second ‘shot’ at the world championship and rode well to 3rd overall and to record his first victory, using new carbon brake technology at Donington Park in Great Britain. He was part of a memorable three way fight for the title in 1989 with Schwantz and Lawson before recording 35 podiums with 16 wins over the next three years to bring Yamaha to the forefront of the premier class in the new decade.
Rainey continued to develop the YZR500 and was poised to secure another crown in 1993 when he crashed while leading at Misano, only three rounds before the end of the series, and was paralysed from the chest down. 32 at the age of his forced retirement, Rainey completed all of his 95 Grands Prix with Yamaha and picked up a remarkable 65 trophies. After a brief period as Yamaha team manager he withdrew to his home on the Californian coast in Monterey, close to the Laguna Seca circuit and is a regular visitor to the U.S. Grand Prix and well as being a keen kart racer.
To find out more about Yamaha’s Racing history, you’re kindly invited to read through Yamaha’s dedicated anniversary website..