MotoAmerica: Wayne Rainey Talks Electronics

“I would love to unplug all that stuff!”

Wayne Rainey action shot

Motorcycle electronic countermeasures were in their infancy when Wayne Rainey won his first 500cc Grand Prix world title in 1990. At Donington Park that year, Team Roberts outfitted Rainey's Yamaha YZR500 with a rudimentary ignition retard using a switch borrowed, no lie, from Rainey's motorhome.

According to Rainey, the intention was to "knock the edge off" the two-stroke's steep torque curve exiting Donington's first-gear Melbourne hairpin. Unfortunately, the fix didn't work as well as hoped; Rainey finished second that day to Kevin Schwantz. (The switch is still on the bike; visit the Petersen Automotive Museum to see for yourself.)

Now, of course, the digital revolution is in full swing and has spread to all corners of the sport. During a recent interview, I asked Rainey about the role of electronics as they relate to his new US series, the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Motorcycle Road Racing Championship.

Rainey admitted he is awed by the sophisticated nature of MotoGP electronics. “What those bikes do is amazing,” he said. “Absolutely incredible. I think a lot of it is unnecessary but, man, it sure helps the lap time.”

Not every team can afford the latest software or most experienced engineers to master those electronics. “Trying to build our series,” he said, “we want OEMs involved and they want to develop that and help the safety aspect of the bike, but there’s got to be compromise from them and from us.

“I would love to unplug all that stuff, let the riders have a good day and let the fans go nuts. I understand that, where we’re at in this modern age of technology, there’s a place for it. But I think the rider always has to have more control. He’s got to be telling the bike what to do instead of reacting to what he knows it is going to do.”