The cold glare is uncommon now in GP racing. Today, seemingly, every finish or in class victory (top independent team!) is celebrated, but when three-time world champion Wayne Rainey raced in Grand Prix, he wasn’t there for a meaningless award or ‘first loser’ trophy.
If you’d told Rainey in 1988 that he would have a long and glorious GP career, that he would be celebrated the world over and have crowds cheer his attendance, that swarms of autograph seekers would wait outside his motorhome, but he would never win a race, then Rainey would have left Europe and racing. He’d have probably returned to America and picked up his tool belt—Rainey was a carpenter on and off during his formative years—or started a business with his father or brother. Rainey wasn’t in Grand Prix to make up the numbers, or to be a rolling billboard for his sponsors.
The 1992 Spanish Grand Prix of Jerez was a race where Rainey was trounced by Michael Doohan’s factory Honda by nearly 20 seconds. His reaction, pictured above in a photograph by Nathaniel Mendell, to “getting beat” was classic Rainey. He would be in better cheer at a funeral, I bet.
It was Rainey’s friend and sometime rival Eddie Lawson who, after he stopped racing and retired, explained that for a top level rider there is no podium middle ground. If you win, Lawson said, then you’re happy until the next race and all is well. If you get beat … well, then “everybody’s gotta die.”