Indomitable spirit in a broken body; BOOK OF THE WEEK

Wayne Rainey: His own story By Michael Scott (Haynes, hardback pounds 17.99)
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The Independent Online
Last season, as he breezed, seemingly insuperable, towards a third successive 500cc Grand Prix world championship, Michael Doohan declared that he found racing "boring". That winning without a serious challenge was unfulfilling.

Who could blame him? Motorcycling's greats of the past decade - Eddie Lawson, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Gardner and Wayne Rainey, the riders who had posed a formidable challenge - were no longer racing. All bar Rainey had made their own decision to quit, while the amiable Californian, like Doohan a three-times world champion and arguably the most talented motorcycle racer of them all, had his retirement thrust on him in the most horrible and permanent manner.

An ugly, cartwheeling fall at Misano in the third from final race of the 1993 season severed Rainey's spine. The sport's dominant figure, Rainey was left a paraplegic, his life as a racer as broken as his back.

Rainey, however, is clearly a man of indomitable spirit. Taking inspiration from the wheel-chair bound Frank Williams, the owner of the successful Formula One team, Rainey now runs his own GP racing team.

Michael Scott's revealing book not only encompasses with chilling detail the crash at the Italian Grand Prix and Rainey's heroic rehabilitation, but also his rise from America's dirt track circuit to motorcycling's world championship circus.

Scott, the editor of Motorcourse since 1990 and until recently a columnist with Bike, clearly knows his stuff. The intrigue, back biting and complex personalities in GP racing are laid bare with revealing honesty. Scott does not shirk from showing the less palatable aspects of the sport.

The picture that emerges of Rainey is of a likeable, complex, driven man with a supreme talent for riding motorcycles at warp-factor speeds. And winning. For that was the essence that spurred Rainey to greater risks and ultimately his untimely retirement. Not that winning his first world title gave him much satisfaction.

"When I crossed the line and I was world champion, I had this burst of emotion. I felt really great, for about two tenths of a second. Then it was gone. It left me feeling really disappointed. It meant so much more to me emotionally losing the title in Sweden [the previous season] when I crashed than I did winning it."

What gave the Rainey era its real edge over the current one-man show was his intense rivalry with the tall, laconic Texan, Schwantz.

"He [Schwantz] was the only guy I'd deliberately run into throughout my racing career, and he was the only guy who ever deliberately ran into me. We raced so hard that we didn't know there were people watching us. It was just me and him on the track."

Intense indeed. Schwantz's own retirement was itself a reaction to Rainey's: without his rival there was no point in racing any more and so he walked away. If only Doohan had such competition.

- Andrew Martin