Randy Mamola's induction as a MotoGP Legend last month at Circuit of The Americas came one year after fellow American, 2000 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr., was similarly honored at what is now the series' lone US stop in Austin, Texas. Unlike Roberts Jr. and the more than two dozen other riders who preceded him, however, Mamola never won a world title, though he was second in the 500cc championship four times—1980, '81, '84, and '87—having won 13 races and scored 57 podiums across three decades.

“This is the first time we have nominated somebody who hasn’t been a world champion,” Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta acknowledged, adding, “Randy has been here all these years participating in the championship and later on collaborating with us on many problems. He is a real legend of MotoGP, and we are proud to nominate him here in America in front of a big number of American champions, all of them MotoGP Legends.”

Roberts Jr., as well his father, three-time 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts, three-time 500cc World Champion Wayne Rainey, and 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz also attended the ceremony.

Randy Mamola, MotoGP, Suzuki
“Jeremy Burgess’ first victory wasn’t with Valentino Rossi; it was with me back in 1980,” said Randy Mamola, talking about the nine-time world champion's former engineer. “Warren Willing, Mike Sinclair, Burgess… If you think of the character of those guys, how much fun they were, that’s what made me this way.”Gold & Goose

Mamola was in California, not Spain, where he lives, when he got the news. “I received a call from [Dorna Communications Director] Ignacio [Sagnier] about 4 in the morning,” he recalled. “Ignacio said, ‘The directors have decided to make you a legend.’ It was a huge shock, but it’s a great honor.” Fighting back tears, he added, “I’m one of the best riders who ever raced a motorcycle. I’m one of the best riders who has ever thrown a leg over a screaming 500. And I did it with four different brands on the podium.”

American MotoGP Legends (in alphabetical order):

  • Nicky Hayden
  • Eddie Lawson
  • Randy Mamola
  • Wayne Rainey
  • Kenny Roberts
  • Kenny Roberts Jr.
  • Kevin Schwantz
  • Freddie Spencer

The 58-year-old Mamola is perhaps even better known for his contributions outside racing with Riders for Health, which he co-founded with Barry and Andrea Coleman, and Two Wheels For Life, which grew out of RfH and later became Dorna's official charity. Toward the end of an emotional question-and-answer session peppered with equal parts laughter and tears, Mamola's 20-something son, Dakota, hijacked the microphone and cracked, "You being a legend now, will that change anything in the household?"

Randy Mamola, MotoGP
Mamola's three seasons with Cagiva were memorable for different reasons. "In 1988, the bike was probably 25 or 30 kph down on top speed," he said. "So I became a showman—stoppies, wheelies, and things like that—because I knew I couldn’t win." Mamola is nevertheless regarded as one of the best, having beaten such GP greats as Kenny Roberts and the "always underestimated" Eddie Lawson.Dorna

After the chuckles and clapping died down, Mamola turned away from his son toward the audience. "After Ignacio called me, when Dakota woke up, I told him, 'You're looking at a legend.' I kind of whispered it. And he said, 'What?' I repeated, 'You're looking at a legend.' I later talked to Jeremy Appleton from Alpinestars, who has a British background. I said, 'Is there any way I could get "sir" out of that?' " Then the clown prince of Grand Prix racing got serious. "I have a great family," Mamola said, "and all of you in this room are part of it."

Highlights From Randy Mamola’s MotoGP Legends Acceptance Speech

  • "The yellow set of leathers you see with the number 80, that number came from Kenny [Roberts]. I was dirt-tracking as a 13-year-old, and Buster Roberts, Kenny's father, saw me at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. He told Jim Doyle, who was Kenny's manager, 'This is a new kid who is going to take off and run.' Jim was a pilot for Pan American, so he had ways of speaking with people. He met with Terry Tiernan, vice president of Yamaha, and we signed a two-year deal. I was the youngest ever to ride for a factory."

  • "My dog was named Rex after Rex Beauchamp, who won the San Jose Mile in 1975. I stood in a corner and watched those guys flick those Harleys. It was super spectacular. Dirt-tracking back then was huge. We all came from a dirt-track background. Kenny was a mentor, but two years before I had Kenny sign an autograph; he was AMA Grand National champion. I looked up to a lot of people, and Kenny was one of those people. We were all supposed to be dirt-trackers. Kenny had taken a right-hand turn, a turn for the better for Americans because a lot of us followed him."

MotoGP, Randy Mamola, Dorna, Circuit of The Americas
Mamola poses with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and 500cc World Champions Wayne Rainey, Kenny Roberts, and Kenny Roberts Jr. at Circuit of The Americas. “This is a great championship,” Mamola said, reflecting on the current series. “We worked on the safety years ago with helmets, leathers, and so forth. That was pioneered by what we did.”Dorna
  • "My first Grand Prix in 1979 in Caracas, Venezuela, was very special. I was racing for Bimota—a 250cc and a 350cc. It was bloody hot, just like a desert, and I couldn't believe this was Grand Prix racing. My first 500cc GP was in Assen. That first year, I only did eight races in the 500cc class. I had two podiums; I am still the youngest-ever finisher in the 500cc class at 19 years old. That got me the ride with Suzuki."

  • "I rode for Suzuki in 1980, '81, '82, and '83. In 1980, I finished second in the world championship, straight up with Kenny, who, to this day, I still think is the greatest rider I have ever competed against. But I also beat him in 1981. I got second again. Somebody else beat me to it; that was Marco Luccinelli, who was inducted last year."

  • "Suzuki decided to stop racing at the end of 1983 when four Americans—Freddie Spencer, Kenny, myself, and Eddie Lawson—took those first four positions. I didn't have a job, everything was taken. I knew a Honda engineer by the name of [Youichi] Oguma, and I asked him if I could use the Honda three-cylinder for the match-race series and for Laguna Seca. He said yes. I won five out of the six match races at Donington Park in England. I missed the first two races in the '84 championship, but I still finished second."

  • "The first year I rode for Kenny was something very special. Kenny was way ahead of his time in everything he did in racing. I was racing for Rothmans, he said, 'We're starting a team. It's going to be with Lucky Strike.' We got it going, and I finished third in the championship the first year and second to Wayne Gardner in 1987. I left there, leaving the door open for Wayne [Rainey], who went on to win three world titles."

  • "When I went to Cagiva, we had a lot of breakdowns. I did the best that I could. The reason why you see the lovely picture smoking the tire in Brazil is because that is the kind of grip we had even with no horsepower. When I got the podium [at Spa-Francorchamps in 1988] it was something special. The unique thing about my career is, I stood on the podium in three different decades, the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, in the 500cc class. This is unheard of."

  • "I raced for Kenny again in 1992, the Budweiser team. Then he wanted me to be the test rider for Wayne. Kenny was way ahead of his time. He invented the two-seat bike in 1994. Warren Willing said, 'Build a two-seat bike.' In 1996, I think we did one lap for two people at the Barcelona Grand Prix. At that time, Carmelo said, 'I don't think it will work.' I've taken more than 6,000 people over 18 years, 16 with Ducati."

  • "All of this came about because of my mother and father, who are 92 and 88. They've been married 68 years. My parents deserved to be here, but I'm so happy they're alive. My father always told me, 'I'll kick your butt if you ever think you walk above anybody.' And that's why my feet are firm on the ground, and they always have been."

  • "My father always said, 'Be grateful for what you have.' Since I was 16, I've had a therapy room for crippled children in my hometown of Santa Clara. Barry Coleman and I went to Somalia before the civil war. We now reach over 15 million people using motorcycles. I have to thank Dorna because it accepted Two Wheels For Life—which supports Riders for Health—as its official charity. The African people are not looking for a handout. They are looking for a hand and the help they need."

Randy Mamola, MotoGP, Circuit of The Americas
Mamola is the 27th Grand Prix rider to be honored as a MotoGP Legend. He joins fellow Americans Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Kenny Roberts Jr., and the late Nicky Hayden.Dorna
  • "Besides my family, besides my friends, the motorcycle is the hero in my life. It has given me and these champions the passport to travel this world, to represent their country, brands, and sponsors in a sport that is one of the greatest things people can watch or be a part of in this world. I always wanted someone to think highly of a motorcycle because, in some areas of this world, we are not felt that way. It was a great way take a motorcycle and use it to save people's lives, and we're doing that now."

  • "Nicky [Hayden] was special. I remember Gary Howard from International Racers calling me when Nicky was 16 years old. He was riding at Laguna Seca. 'Could you go and have a look?' It was a dream come true to find one of those nuggets of gold. It was a great loss, and I love how the family continues to stay involved."

  • "When Wayne got hurt, I was a test rider. I didn't know how to react. None of us did. I wrote Wayne a letter. Three or four pages. The basis was, 'I sure am glad you're still here. You might not be able to walk, but, by God, I can talk to you. I can shake you. I can hug you.' And we can't do that with Nicky. Wayne and I never really talked about it. But we were a family. Even though we didn't live in the same house. Even though we didn't race for the same manufacturers. We were a family. And that's what this championship is about."