MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Lawson, Rainey and Doohan: giants of their era
I blame it on Kenny Roberts, but it would’ve happened anyway. When ‘King’ Kenny arrived in Europe in the late 1970s he upped the ante: he rode harder, trained harder and thought more about his racing than anyone else.
The arrival of bike racing’s all-American pro had an instant effect: it blew cigarette-smoking, girl-chasing Barry Sheene into the weeds. The longer-term consequence was the careers of Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Mick Doohan.
These men were the foundation of modern racing, because they took the sport forever beyond the point where cocaine-snorting hedonists and gym-shy child prodigies could win glory at the very top. They were also the giants of their era, winning 12 500cc world championships over a 15-year period: Lawson four, Rainey three, Doohan five.
Lawson and Rainey created themselves in Roberts’ likeness: Lawson was Roberts’ understudy in his rookie Grand Prix season, Rainey was his successor, brought to Europe to front Roberts’ new Grand Prix team. Doohan modelled himself on all three Californians and then took it to the next level, narrowing his focus still further: thinking, working, riding harder.
All three had identical backgrounds: dirt track followed by superbikes, which in those days were big, unwieldy things, not the road-going MotoGP bikes that rule superbike racing today.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.