Wayne Rainey was an American born, Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. A triple world crown winner, he is an inspiration to motorcycle race fans and mobility impaired individuals all over the world. "Don't call me handicapped," he says. "I'm just a normal guy with a wife and a son who happens to not have use of his legs.”
Rainey was born in 1960 in Downey, California. He was the oldest child of a construction worker. His dad, Sandy raced go-karts and enjoyed rebuilding motorized vehicles for speed. Rainey’s dad built him a minibike at the age of six. He began racing at local dirt tracks at the age of nine. At the age of 16, his racing career took off in the AMA competition.
Rainey was ranked as the 15th dirt track racer in 1981. In 1982, he was hired by Kawasaki to compete in the AMA Superbike Championship and won the National Championship in 1983. Rainey developed a competitive rivalry with Kevin Schwantz as the two competed for the 1987 Superbike National Championship. Although Rainey triumphed over Schwantz, the two joined forces in the 1987 Trans-Atlantic Match Races. Rainey won the Suzuki 8-Hour Endurance Race in Japan in 1988. He was met with much success during the 1990, 1991 and 1992 racing seasons.
In 1991, Rainey crashed while testing for a race in Malaysia. Rainey underwent surgery due to a leg injury from the crash the following year. His left little finger had to be amputated later that year due to a second motorcycle accident. He also crashed at the German GP breaking his ribs. A major crash at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix in Misano ended Rainey’s racing career. He was traveling at high speed when the motorcycle slid into a gravel trap. Rainey’s spine was broken. The crash rendered him permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
Rainey is happily married to his wife, Shae. The couple has a son named Rex. Rainey competes in the World Superkart Series in California with a hand controlled kart despite his disability. Since the start of the 2015 racing season, Rainey and his business partners have organized the AMA Superbike race.
Rainey was named to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2000, the FIM designated him as a Grand Prix Legend. Perhaps his most prestigious award was the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Photo courtesy of 2011 USGP Laguna Wayne Rainey 1 as uploaded by Scott MDI at Flickr’s Creative Commons.