“I thought it was awesome,” says world champion Kevin Schwantz of seeing his rival Wayne Rainey back on a motorcycle.
Rainey hadn’t ridden a two-wheeler since his crash at Misano in 1993, one that left him a paraplegic. The rivalry between Schwantz and Rainey, which began in AMA Superbike racing in the late 1980s was fought on and off the track–mostly on–was one for the ages. There was nothing left for tomorrow, it was all the talent, capability and ambition they had, tested every time they met. If there wasn’t video of their races the recounts sounded like mythology. How deep did it go? How deep can you dig? How deep is forever? Did they hate each other? No, of course not. Well, yes, yes, they did. Okay, let’s just say that there was and there remains mutual respect.
“I saw that he rode at Buttonwillow,” continued Schwantz. “I’ve seen other paraplegics with motorcycles modified so that they can ride a two-wheeler so I wasn’t surprised that they had built him something; but for sure it was great for me to see his name on the back of his leathers and him getting out there.”
Schwantz and Rainey will forever be defined by what happened between them on the track, that they met on Sunday afternoons and said may the best man win. There wasn’t much whinging about being afraid (neither one would ever admit that, much less in public) when the other raised their tactics to another level. It was an instinctual need to beat the other.
So what does Schwantz, a rider who spent his career staring into the eyes of Wayne Rainey, see coming next? He answers quickly.
“I can tell you what comes next: now he’s going to want to do it a lot more often. He’ll be like, ‘Hey guys, hold me up, push me off … I’m going riding …”