In June 2022, living MotoGP legend Wayne Rainey made his first-ever appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. While Goodwood events often feature racing champions and heroes of years gone by, Rainey also rode his 1992 championship-winning Yamaha YZR500 at the event, alongside fellow racing legends (and contemporary competitors) Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz, and Mick Doohan.
While it was undoubtedly a treat for all the racing fans that either came to Goodwood or else have watched videos from the event since that time, it also came as an extremely pleasant surprise to Rainey himself. As he explains in this video, he never expected to be riding his 1992 championship-winning bike ever again. Although the machine had been living out its life in a museum, Yamaha worked to make it happen, as part of a project that took about three years to complete.
Here, Rainey talks about both the experience and the practical details of making this moment possible. When he’s on the bike, he says, all he can really feel is the handlebars due to his paraplegia. So, if he was going to ride that bike (or any bike) again, he needed hand-operated button controls to shift. Although he doesn’t get deeply into the technical details, he explains that Yamaha made it so that operating the clutch lever lets him shift. It took some getting used to, but it was an undeniably exciting and special thrill to get out on that bike again.
Some other considerations include mountain bike-style pedal clips to hold his boots in place on the pegs, ensuring that his legs stayed right where they needed to on the bike. There’s also a special tank pad that both provides support, and also allows him a little more feeling and input into what the bike is doing and how it’s moving where he wants it to move.
Racers at that level were, of course, used to having a dedicated pit crew and technical staff around them—so in some ways, the Goodwood appearance wasn’t as drastic a change as we might think. As Rainey relates in this video, the crew would get the bike positioned (much like a crew before a race) to go out. The biggest difference was the guy holding the bike steady up front. Once Rainey was ready to go, he’d nod to the guy, and then he’d open the throttle and the guy would step out of the way so Rainey could ride away.