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.
Rainey and Misano: 25 years on
This weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix marks a sad anniversary – a quarter of a century since one of the sport’s all-time greats ended his career
I don’t remember where I was when I heard that Elvis Presley had died, or when John Lennon was shot, but I do remember where I was when Wayne Rainey suffered his career-ending accident, 25 years ago.
At the time I was writing press releases for Marlboro Team Roberts and Chesterfield Aprilia, so I was sat in the Marlboro media bus behind the Team Roberts pit at Misano, writing a release celebrating Jean-Phillipe Ruggia’s 250cc win on his factory Aprilia, while watching the 500cc race unfold.
The duel for the 500 crown had rarely been hotter – there was a real tension in the air as ancient rivals Rainey and Kevin Schwantz prepared with their teams for the final championship push. Rainey, who was gunning for a fourth straight title, had retaken the points lead from Schwantz with a dominant victory at the previous Grand Prix in the Czech Republic. Schwantz had held a comfortable points lead until the preceding British Grand Prix, where he was skittled by a falling Mick Doohan, and Brno, where he slumped to fifth, due to chassis and grip problems. There were three races left – Misano, Laguna Seca and Jarama – and just 11 points between them.
Both men were riding injured, which was nothing unusual in what was one of the nastiest eras of Grand Prix racing. Rainey had crushed several vertebrae when he crashed at Donington five weeks earlier. His back was so bad that Team Roberts had employed a back specialist to look after him at subsequent races. Schwantz was riding with an injured right hand, also sustained at Donington, which was so bad that he had to rest the hand while racing, using his left hand to open the throttle along Misano’s back straight.
Rainey out-qualified Schwantz at Misano but neither was in great shape. Not only were both struggling with injuries, they also had bike issues, although each tried to convince his rival that he was as strong as he’d ever been and that his motorcycle was better than it had ever been.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.