Paraplegic MotoGP Champion Wayne Rainey Rides Again at Goodwood

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Photo: Goodwood Road & Racing / YouTube

The Goodwood Festival of Speed might be the best place to see rare vintage racing machinery every year, but also the stars of yesterday at the controls of the vehicles where they gained their fame. For example, Nigel Mansell is going to drive the Williams FW14B this weekend to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his 1992 Formula One World Championship. Surprisingly, he will be joining his motorcycle racing counterpart from that season. Wayne Rainey rode his world championship-winning Yamaha YZR500 from the 1992 MotoGP season.

It’s surprising because Wayne Rainey has been paralyzed from the chest down since the 1993 Italian Grand Prix. Rainey had won three consecutive world championships between 1990 and 1992 with Marlboro Team Roberts. The American was on pace to win his fourth title in a row before a crash cut his season and career short. While leading the race in Misano, he low-sided his Yahama and slid into a gravel trap. The gravel somersaulted Rainey, severely fracturing his spine and leaving him paraplegic.

Paraplegic Wayne Rainey’s emotional return to motorcycle Grand Prix bike with Kenny Roberts

The Yamaha YZR500 is largely as it appeared in period but with a few modifications to accommodate Rainey. The shifter and rear brake controls were moved up to the handlebars. A bodywork extension was also added to the back of the fuel tank to give his body extra support. Rainey was followed up the Goodwood hill climb by three-time MotoGP champion Kenny Roberts, his team principal in the early 1990s.

It’s easy to be mentally transported back in time to seeing a 1990s two-stroke Grand Prix motorcycle. The distinctive buzz of the engine, the streamlined fairings and the simple yet vibrant livery are all indicative of the era. Wayne Rainey being back on the bike shifts the mood from nostalgic to heartwarming. While Rainey never vanished from the racing community after his life-altering crash, seeing him back in racing leathers along with his contemporaries is special.

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