Following a MotoAmerica presentation at this year’s AIMExpo in Columbus, Ohio, we were able to catch up with living motorcycle legend Wayne Rainey for a quick chat. Rainey, a three-time GP world champion and AMA Motorcycle and International Motorsports Hall of Famer, understands just as well as the rest of the motorcycle industry that engaging new riders at younger ages is mandatory in order to help drive the sport forward. Rainey became the president of the MotoAmerica series in 2015 and has worked tirelessly with sponsors, manufacturers, and promoters in order to build a community around motorcycle roadracing in America with the hopes of cultivating talent to take on the world.
With the theme of this year’s AIMExpo heavily surrounding the engagement of new riders, we asked Rainey how MotoAmerica’s championship is looking to expand its reach to these new riders and racers.
“Having the national championship is important in the industry in that we have new riders coming into it,” Rainey explains. “We need a competitive series. We started the KTM RC390 Cup series three years ago in MotoAmerica, and it worked really well. It did everything that we wanted it to do. As a matter of fact, the last race went down to the last turn, last lap. To see those kids riding the way they did, they looked so much different than they did a year ago. You can really see that it’s working. These guys are involved with everyone else, so they can go talk to their heroes and those who have been helping them out. It’s been a great environment, and now that we’ve opened up the class to other manufacturers, we should be able to get quite a few more riders here who weren’t able to get a bike to race before.”
It’s clear that, for Rainey, rebuilding the prestige of American roadracing is an ongoing battle and one that entails innovation and a huge effort to engage young racers.
“We’re going to focus a lot on marketing and promotion of new classes,” Rainey explains. “As it is now, we hear that there will be teams next year that will be fielding five bikes. So naturally, we expect it to be very competitive with a lot of different brands out there. There’s going to be a lot of kids out there, and there should be some great racing. We also raised the age cap a bit by three years to 25. Even after that, there’s the Twins class, so you can work on that bike probably more than any of the other classes.”
For racing fans who are waiting for, well, the next Wayne Rainey, this is all good news. In addition to cultivating the next generation of racers, however, Rainey’s efforts will also create the next generation of race fans. Give the masses a Colin Edwards, a Nicky Hayden, a Ben Bostrom, or a Ben Spies to rally behind, and they will follow him across the pond and get hooked on the proving ground of American roadracing in the process. The most recent heyday of AMA roadracing in the ’90s and early ’00s also coincided with a relative boom in sportbike sales. Coincidence?
In America, it’s the rare roadracing fan who isn’t a rider. Get them into racing, and they’ll get into riding as well.
The future of American roadracing is driven by passionate motorcyclists. We’ve got the passion; Rainey’s got the drive and the vision of one of America’s greatest world champions. If American racing is in his hands, we can all look forward to big things on the horizon.
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