Continuing our recent conversation with Wayne Raineywho, by the way, just celebrated his 44th birthday this past Saturdayhe talked about the bike he rode to his first AMA Superbike Championship back in 1983, and he also told us a little bit about one of his current racing-related passions: shifter karts.
Soup: Wayne, it's admittedly like comparing apples to oranges, but with Rossi beating the Hondas this year, it reminded me of back in 1983 when you beat the Honda V-fours on that old two-valve, air-cooled Kawasaki and won the AMA Superbike Championship.
Rainey: Oh, yeah. That was one of my favorite Championships.
Editor's Note: In 1983--riding for Muzzy Kawasaki--Wayne Rainey accomplished one of the most stunning feats in the history of AMA Superbike when he won the championship on an aging Kawasaki Gpz750 that was, technologically at least, no match for Honda. Rainey and Rob Muzzy were competing against Honda's brand-new liquid-cooled, V-four-powered VF750. And, despite Honda's considerable efforts, Wayne stood on the Superbike podium an incredible 11 out of the 14 times that season. He won six races on the way to the championship and showed a smoothness and consistency that became his trademark throughout his career.
Soup: That bike is still on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum.
Rainey: You know, I've tried hard to get that bike away from them. I've even told them that I would loan them my Grand Prix bike for five years if they'd give me that bike, but they won't release it... they won't even sell it. They don't seem to want to part with that Kawasaki, so I've got to try a different way.
Soup: You know, the recent news about Christopher Reeve got me to thinking about all the good work he did to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries. All your fans around the world just keep hoping that, as a result of more neurological research and breakthroughs, we'll get to see you walk again.
Thanks for saying that. You know, if God wants me to walk, then that's the only way that I'm going to walk in my lifetime.
The spinal cord is so complicated. It's more complicated than finding a cure for cancer. And, I'm in a situation where that's just the way it is. That's just the way it's going to be. But, to tell you the truth, the easiest thing about being a paraplegic is not walking. That's the easiest thing. If I only lost the use of my legs, it would be no problem at all. But, I don't have balance and I don't have feeling. Those things have all...changed dramatically. Like I said, not walking is the easiest part.
Soup: You and Eddie Lawson sure have a lot of fun racing shifter karts. How's that going?
Rainey: You know, Eddie does mid-23-second lap times around Laguna Seca. That's a second to a second-and-a-half quicker than any bike's been around there. The corner speeds and the braking distances are far superior to being on a motorcycle. The top speed on a motorcycle at Laguna is about 132, and I think a Yamaha 250cc V-twin shifter kart goes about 145 to 150 there. We've got a lot of downforce that slows us down on the straightaways, but the corner speeds are tremendously high. Because of my situation, you know, I don't do it to win because, the way I have to do it, there's really no way to win. I can go to a certain lap time, and that's about it. I'm not going to gain a whole bunch. I'm not going to do 23's like Eddie does. But, if I can do a 26 or even a low 27, I'd be very happy. But, if I don't, I'm not upset about it.
I know my limitations, and I understand the situation that I'm in. I do like to challenge myself, though, and I like to try to go a little bit quicker than the lap I did before. So, that's what I likeputting a helmet on, and going out and trying to challenge myself.
Soup: Plus, you get a lot of bonding in with your father, right?
Rainey: Yeah, I've got my Dad there, and I do a lot of it because of him. Because he enjoys it so much. I try to let him enjoy it, anyway.
Soup: The thing is, you've got to get your Dad to stop working so hard on Eddie's kart. He's going fast enough.
Rainey: Yeah, that's the problem (laughs).
[Read the first Rainey Interview installment