Grand Prix Champion Wayne Rainey | Icon

Fast. Feared. Fearless.

By Marc Cook, Photography by Motorcyclist Archives

Rainey came to prominence as a Grand Prix champion at the beginning of the decade, taking the 1990, 1991 and 1992 world titles. In fact, he was on track for a four-peat, with four wins and 214 points at the time of his career-ending crash at the Italian GP (in Misano) in September, 1993. He still finished the year second in points to some guy named Kevin Schwantz.

Rainey was able to ride the fearsome, 155-horsepower Yamaha YZR500 0WC1 effectively from a combination of sheer talent, unrelenting commitment and a background of both dirt-track and AMA Superbike (he won the 1983 title aboard a Kawasaki GPz750 and the 1987 title on a Honda VFR750). Also a Daytona 200 winner, Rainey spent the '84 season riding a Kenny Roberts TZR250 in Europe. The '86 and '87 AMA Superbike seasons witnessed some of the most hard-nosed racing you'll see between Rainey and Schwantz. Rainey's skills and self-confidence were sufficient to land him a seat with Team Roberts Yamaha in the premiere class for '88.

We’ll never know what kind of epic battles might have ensued with Rainey and coming-man Mick Doohan had the American not taken that fateful trip through the Misano sand trap. But for his signature tail-out riding style and unquenchable thirst for success, we salute Wayne Rainey as a true icon of the 1990s.

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