Former MotoGP champion Wayne Rainey has been paralyzed from the chest down, since a tragic crash during the 1993 Italian Grand Prix. And yet, he was able to get back on the bike at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, riding his 1992 championship-winning Yamaha YZR500.
Yamaha modified the controls, so Rainey could operate the bike with just his hands. To do so, shift controls were moved to the left handlebar: press a red button for upshifts and pull in the clutch lever for downshifts. A small black lever was also added to the left handlebar, to operate the rear brake. A bodywork extension at the back of the fuel tank was added, to give Rainey's lower body extra support, as were straps to keep him in place and a chest pad, to allow him to feel the bike's movements.
Rainey was an absolute dominant force in early '90s MotoGP, winning the championship three years in a row with Yamaha, during a time when MotoGP bikes were difficult and unpredictable. Rainey's team principal during those championship years was another former MotoGP champion Kenny Roberts, who joined Rainey at his ride, thirty years later, on the iconic hill at Goodwood, making the moment even more emotional.
The ride at Goodwood was Rainey's first time back on a bike since his crash. His son Rex was only ten months old when Rainey was injured in Misano, Italy. So when Rex helped his dad onto his old Yamaha and watched him take off at Goodwood, it was actually the first time he ever saw Rainey ride.
Praise goes to Rainey's courage to get back on the bike and kudos to Yamaha for pulling the YZR500 out of its museum to modify it for this event. Even if you aren't a MotoGP fan, this is an incredibly emotional, heartwarming, and human story. Seeing Rainey get back on his bike, after nearly three decades, in front of a crowd, at one of the most iconic motorsport events in the world, was uplifting to say the very least.