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Old 08-12-2015, 11:00 PM   #1
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Wayne Rainey: “…the riders are...a bit ‘plastic’. We need more rivalries…”

Three-time 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Wayne Rainey feels pretty good about the job that the MotoAmerica racing series has done so far, but like always, he's not about to rest on his laurels anytime soon.

At 54, Wayne Rainey still possesses the necessary inspiration and commitment to write significant pages in the book of motorcycle racing, both in the United States and the world. He first did it as a rider, winning three consecutive world titles in the 500cc category (from 1990 to 1992), then as a team manager, and now as president of MotoAmerica. These days, his mission is to revitalize a movement from where—in a period spanning the ‘80s and ‘90s—most of the major protagonists in the world stage came from. An arguably laborious task, given that the last American rider titles in MotoGP and WSBK date back to 2006 and 2009 respectively; but Rainey is tackling it with his usual mix of pragmatism and enthusiasm.

“During my first nine months as president of MotoAmerica, we managed to stabilize some of the biggest issues the championship was facing,” said Rainey. “First, we changed the technical regulations, moving closer to WSBK. The decision didn't help Yamaha and Suzuki, which are our major OEMs, but eventually they bought into our philosophy, which is that we need more competition. Now, both Honda and Kawasaki have signaled their intention to get involved again in the near future. Also, we revitalized the Stock 1000 category, in which Aprilia and Ducati are particularly active.”

Rainey's focus on constructors is paralleled with an effort to grow new talent. “First, we wanted to restart a pipeline, attracting young riders with their families,” he added. “We signed a deal with KTM to run the RC390 Cup with stock bikes and sealed engines. For the first time, it is a sanctioned amateur class, open to kids from 14 to 22. Also, it is much cheaper than minicross. It immediately became very popular, and we already have 35 riders on the grid and very close races.”

While this initiative is tailored towards the future, Rainey also has to concentrate on the present. To this end, paddock chatter in Laguna Seca hinted at a possibility for Cameron Beaubier to move to WSBK with Yamaha. “People mistakenly think that American riders went 'soft' because it's been years since a U.S. rider won a world title,” he observed. “But (the issue is that) an American rider who goes to the world stage is expected to get on the podium right away. Maybe Cameron is that guy—I'm big fan of his, I believe he has a huge amount of natural talent and raw speed—but I think that he needs to dominate this championship first.”

We need more rivalries, more riders who don't like each other and are not afraid to say it (in public).Speaking of the world stage, Rainey placed an emphasis on two key aspects that, in his mind, should inform MotoAmerica as well. “Dorna did a great job with the show,” he analyzed. “The sport is recognized all over the place. Also, it efficiently supported local championships, especially in Spain and Italy, generating a lot of media attention and growing a big talent pool. We want to do the same. Also, and this applies to both MotoGP and WBSK, the competition is more balanced. Back in my days, the privateers were so far off. Now, anyone can be competitive, but the riders still make a difference and, of course, the best ones end up on the fastest bikes.”

Some say, however, that the up-and-coming generations lack major characters. “When I was racing, none of us wanted to show any weaknesses,” Rainey recounted. “With the helmet on, you had to be brutal to show your opponents how far you'd be willing to go to win. Now, everyone seems to get along more, and the way the riders are presented to the public is a bit 'plastic.' We need more rivalries, more riders who don't like each other and are not afraid to say it (in public).”

To this end, Rainey touched upon the recent duels between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. “I think it's a great rivalry,” he said. “They're both naturally aggressive, and Marc pushed Valentino to reset his mind and adjust his style. In the past few years, Rossi looked like he had lost some will, maybe because he's been doing it for so long. Now, he really seems to have fun on the bike, and he's ready to fight every Sunday. He's got a good chance to win the title. It'll go down between him and Lorenzo, in the Yamaha pits, and it will be interesting to see Lin Jarvis' job (laughs).”

Given his experience, Rainey could indeed be hired as a consultant. However, his schedule is already full.

Related stories:
Video: Wayne Rainey describes MotoAmerica's intent
Rainey, Schwantz, Lawson, Doohan - Racing in the "Golden Era"

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