Motorcycling legends Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan and Kenny Roberts will return to the Goodwood Estate this summer, joining three-time World Champion Wayne Rainey in his emotional return to riding a race bike at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard.
Motorcycling royalty to join Wayne Rainey at 2022 Festival of Speed
It was announced in February that Rainey will ride his championship-winning Yamaha YZR500 for the first time in nearly 30 years at the 2022 Festival, and the news sent ripples across not only the two-wheeled community but all of motorsport in general. It also clearly caught the eye of some of Rainey’s contemporaries, because two of the riders he fought so hard against on track, as well as his former team boss (a world champion himself), will all be heading back to Goodwood purely to see Wayne’s comeback ride.
It’s difficult to talk about Wayne Rainey without mentioning Kevin Schwantz, the two intrinsically linked throughout their respective careers. A battle of two compatriots, Schwantz vs Rainey is as highly regarded in the world of Motorcycles as Prost vs Senna is in Formula 1. While they can now look back together and remember one of the golden eras of motorcycle grand prix racing, at the time you’d have been nervous if they were in the same room. The two came up through the ranks together, going back to the 1987 Superbike National championship on the other side of the pond. Their battle that year would spill over to the Transatlantic Trophy at Brands Hatch and Donington Park, before they both began their 500cc Grand Prix careers in 1988. Their intense rivalry lasted right the way through to Rainey’s final race, and it’s not lost on either rider just how important they’ve been to each other’s careers.
“To ride a 500cc Grand Prix bike alongside Wayne Rainey is something that has really underpinned my whole life,” said 1993 World Champion Schwantz. “To be able to have that experience again - it being so long since Wayne has been on his race bike - for me, is going to be unbelievable.”
Schwantz will not be the only former rival of Rainey eager to share a stretch of tarmac with him again, as five-time World Champion Mick Doohan will also make the trip down to West Sussex to be there in person for the emotional first ride. The Australian came incredibly close to beating Rainey to the title in both 1991 and 1992, and had it not been for a horrific leg injury halfway through the ‘92 season he may have done it, but instead ended up losing by just four points to the Yamaha man.
“It will be a very memorable moment to see Wayne back on two wheels”, said Australian Doohan, whose son now races in FIA Formula 2. “To have raced against him for several years, plus having got close to wrestling a title from him on a couple occasions, in the early 90’s, were very special memories in my career. He and I had a great rivalry, especially ’91 and ’92, unfortunately for me, Wayne came out on top. To be able to ride with him at the Festival of Speed is sensational and it will be a real spectacle to see him back on a bike.”
It’s not only Rainey’s on-track contemporaries returning to the Festival of Speed to lend their support, as former team-manager, and three-time World Champion in his own right, Kenny Roberts will also be in attendance. After a hugely successful career as a racer, including a hat-trick of titles between 1978 and 1980 atop a Yamaha YZR500, Roberts turned his attention to the other side of the pit wall from 1984, fielding a team in the 250cc category, and employing Rainey as one of his riders that year. The team moved up to 500cc in 1986, and in 1988, following a brief return to American racing, Rainey rejoined the Roberts Yamaha squad, going on to score his three world championships with the team from 1990 to 1992.
“After having spent most of my life traveling the world it takes a lot for me to want to leave the house these days,” said Roberts. “But having heard that Wayne Rainey will be riding his championship-winning 1992 YZR500 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, I just had to be there to witness this amazing occasion alongside Shae and Rex [Wayne’s wife and son]. Great credit has to go to Yamaha Motor Company and Lin Jarvis in particular for making this project fly and all the engineers back in Japan who have got the bike running and adapted for Wayne to ride.
“Wayne’s determination to make this all happen is no surprise. When he has something in his head that he wants to do, it’ll happen and it's testament to him that two of his greatest rivals, Kevin Schwantz and Mick Doohan will be present at the festival this year to live this dream with him. I can promise there will not be a dry-eye in the house. It’s gonna be some party.”
With so many of his contemporaries up and down the paddock desperate to be at Goodwood for a glimpse of what is likely to be one of the most emotional moments of the weekend, Rainey himself just can’t wait to get started.
“I never thought I’d have a chance to throw a leg over a Grand Prix bike again, and I certainly never thought I’d have an opportunity to share a track with Kenny, Mick and Kevin,” said Rainey. “This could only happen at the Festival of Speed. Obviously, Kenny played a major role in my racing career and my life so having him with us at Goodwood is going to make an incredible experience even more so. And many fans know Mick and Kevin were a couple of my greatest rivals during my Grand Prix career, and it means so much to me that they are making the trip to the Festival of Speed for what will be a very special time. We all share so many memories of competition, it will be fun to experience a new sense of camaraderie with them. This will be my first time at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and I can’t wait for June to get here.”
What made the Rainey/Doohan/Schwantz battles of the early 1990s all the more special was the fact they were all flying the flag for three different manufacturers; Rainey for Yamaha, Doohan for Honda and Schwantz for Suzuki. As always at the Festival of Speed, there will be a wide mix of Grand Prix bikes from all three manufacturers and many more taking to the hill across the weekend, and it’s a moment The Duke of Richmond himself is particularly looking forward to.
“Every year at the Festival of Speed we strive to create extraordinary experiences for our fans, and this year is no exception,” he said. “I could not be more delighted that Mick, Kenny and Kevin are able to join us at this year’s event as Wayne makes his Festival of Speed debut. Seeing them all together on the famous Goodwood Hill will be a momentous occasion and one which I am hugely looking forward to.”
Tickets for the Festival of Speed are still available from the Goodwood Ticket Office, but are selling fast so get in quick if you want to guarantee your spot at the side of the track for Rainey’s triumphant return.
Images courtesy of Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda.
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