The American Motorcyclist Association got it right this past year when they announced their 2015 Motorcyclist of the Year would be the one and only Wayne Rainey. Rainey, now an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend, (Legends are previous inductees– Rainey was inducted in 1999, who are elevated to “Legend” status by virtue of their extraordinary contributions to the motorcycling community) three-time world champion, two-time AMA Superbike champion and currently the president of MotoAmerica, has almost single handedly been responsible for the revamping of pro road racing in America with an eye toward grooming riders for the world stage.
If you do not know who Wayne is and are wondering why he is pictured here in a wheelchair, the history lesson goes like this: Wayne was well on his way to his fourth-consecutive GP title in 1993 as he was leading the championship points and leading the race itself when he suffered a career-ending crash at the Italian Grand Prix in Misano. He slid into the gravel trap at high speed, breaking his spine against the raked surface designed as a safety feature for car racing. Rainey’s injuries rendered him permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
Said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman, “Wayne Rainey and his partners and employees at MotoAmerica demonstrated in 2015 that they had the knowledge, fortitude and collective wisdom to not only restore professional road racing in America to greatness, but to reinvigorate an industry and fan base that had been languishing for years. That success is built firmly on the foundation of Wayne’s character and perseverance to be successful at what so many before him have realized is one of racing’s most challenging tasks. Where others failed, Wayne is succeeding, and his efforts transcend the sport itself in many ways.”
MotoAmerica took the reins of professional road racing in late 2014. That’s when a deal was struck between and among MotoAmerica, Daytona Motorsports Group and the AMA that enabled MotoAmerica to take over commercial and promotional responsibility for professional road racing in America and restored the AMA as the sanctioning body for professional road racing. Last year MotoAmerica operated the first season of its professional road racing series, sanctioned by the AMA and FIM North America. The MotoAmerica series, the new home of the AMA Superbike Championship, built a strong platform and set professional road racing in America on a new path for success.
“One season alone does not make a successful race series,” Dingman said. “But guided by Wayne’s ideals of fairness and integrity, and his overarching goal of preparing U.S. riders to challenge for world titles, MotoAmerica is clearly on a path toward long-term success.”
I attended the last MotoAmerica race of the 2015 season in Millville, NJ last year thanks to a gracious invitation from BMW Motorcycles and I can tell you that Wayne and his team do a first rate job organizing these events. Attendance was strong and the vibe was incredibly positive. Here is a picture of my son Nick and his friend Andrew as the KTM Cup series racers made their way around the track in the background.
This year the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship will open at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas Friday through Sunday April 8-10. Click www.motoamerica.com to learn more.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Guciardo/AMA