After seeing local hero Wayne Gardner take victory for the first two years of the Australian Grand Prix in 1989 and 1990 at Phillip Island, hopes were high for another home victory when the series switched to a new venue at Eastern Creek on the outskirts of Sydney in 1991.

Not only was Gardner still in his prime, but a new young star was emerging in the shape of Mick Doohan, taking the challenge to Yamaha's reigning World Champion Wayne Rainey.

Despite starting from pole position, Rainey was ranked by some locals as an outsider for victory at Eastern Creek - including the race organisers - yet he romped home with a 2.5secs advantage over Doohan, with his Yamaha colleague John Kocinski completing the podium in third place.

"Probably my favourite story about any of my trophies was the one I won at Eastern Creek in 1991," smiled Rainey. "They moved the race there after two years at Phillip Island, which had both been won by Wayne Gardner, and it seemed the race organisers thought an Australian would win again.

"The trophy was this incredible 1850s America's Cup-style thing, which was worth a fortune, but they had only insured it to stay in Australia! They obviously didn't count on me winning the race but on the Sunday night it was on its way back to the USA with me!"

Throughout his career Rainey experienced a love-hate relationship with Australian fans and riders alike, with Gardner and Doohan two of his fiercest rivals. However, the Californian insists that the mutual respect that always existed between them still lasts to this day.

"The Australians always got behind their grand prix riders and I really respected that. In fact, I was probably more popular myself in Australia than I was in the US because of the interest in motorcycle racing and the excellent coverage it was given on the television.

"They had some of the best tracks and the best fans in the world so it was always a great pleasure to race in Australia," concluded the triple world champion.


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