Three-time motorcycling world champion and Yamaha hero Wayne Rainey admitted that he was 'overwhelmed' by the welcome he was shown when he was invited to the Japanese manufacturer's motor racing headquarters in Italy – following a return visit for the first time to the scene of his career-ending accident 18 years ago.
The legendary GP rider spent a day with employees of Yamaha Motor Racing, Yamaha Motor Italy and Yamaha Motor R&D Europe at the Yamaha Motor Racing base in Gerno di Lesmo close to Milan. The American officially opened the Wayne Rainey Boardroom at the facility before taking a tour of the site, where he was joined by current factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies, the trio taking time to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the many gathered employees.
Prior to that, Rainey had returned to Misano for the first time since his spine-breaking crash in the 1993 Italian Grand Prix there that left him paralysed from the chest down. He was warmly welcomed by the paddock before attending a special dinner of some 25 close friends from his racing past. Guests included riders, mechanics, journalists and others from the racing fraternity.
Ahead of last weekend's MotoGP outing around the same track, the 50-year-old took a special lap of the circuit by open-top car to a standing ovation from the thousands of fans present. He then witnessed defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo storm to victory, and was subsequently invited to take to the podium with the Spaniard. He accepted the manufacturers' trophy on behalf of the team to huge applause from the Misano crowd.
“It's been a great experience spending some time at the headquarters,” he enthused. “It's fascinating to get an insight into what happens away from the track and what it takes to run a successful modern team. I've been overwhelmed with the positive reception from all the people here.
“It was also a wonderful weekend at Misano. Yamaha welcomed me so warmly and it was very special for [his wife] Shae and I to meet up with so many old friends and familiar faces. I'm honoured to be part of the Yamaha family and will be back again!”
“2011 is a very important year for us, celebrating Yamaha's 50th anniversary of Grand Prix racing,” added Yamaha Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis. “The weekend's activity was truly unique. Wayne is not only one of the greatest Grand Prix riders in our racing history, but also one of the most respected Yamaha riders. To have him and his wife Shae make the trip to join us at Misano and at Yamaha Motor Racing Headquarters was something we will treasure. It has been a very special moment in our year.”
To watch an entertaining video of current Yamaha MotoGP stars Lorenzo, Spies, Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow travelling back in time (clothing and all!) with masters of yesteryear Rainey, Kenny Roberts Snr and Eddie Lawson, click here