Earlier in December, the American Motorcycle Association named its 2015 Motorcyclist of the Year, presenting the award to Wayne Rainey. Rainey is a three-time world Grand Prix motorbike champion and two-time Superbike winner. After a crash in 1993 left him paralyzed, Rainey has moved seamlessly into the administration aspect of the sport. He is now the the president of MotoAmerica, one of the fastest-growing and most popular racing series' in the sport.
While the title Motorcyclist of the Year of the year implies awarding the person who performed the best on a bike, the AMA views it differently. The honor, which is voted on by the AMA's Board of Directors, instead goes to the person who had the largest impact on the motorcycle community over the past year. Given how well MotoAmerica did in 2015, its first year as an operating series, Rainey was viewed as a clear choice.
In a release announcing the honor, AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman explained that Rainey's ability to guide MotoAmerica into the position it's in separated him from other candidates.
"Wayne Rainey and his partners and employees at MotoAmerica demonstrated in 2015 that they had the knowledge, fortitude and collective wisdom to not only restore professional road racing in America to greatness, but to reinvigorate an industry and fan base that had been languishing for years," Dingman said. "That success is built firmly on the foundation of Wayne's character and perseverance to be successful at what so many before him have realized is one of racing's most challenging tasks. Where others failed, Wayne is succeeding, and his efforts transcend the sport itself in many ways."
Strong Start For MotoAmerica
Professional road racing has existed in the U.S.prior to 2015, but the sport never had the success or backing that MotoAmerica does. Looking for leadership for their new venture late last year, industry professionals turned to the KRAVE Group, a partnership headed by Rainey. Sanctioned by the AMA and FIM North America, the series hopes to improve the skill level and performance of American rides.
The debut season in 2015 was a great success. Rainey and MotoAmerica have revitalized road racing around the U.S. Races drew large crowds all across the country, at historic venues like the Road Atlanta, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
While nobody is ready to claim that one year of success is all that MotoAmerica needs to establish itself, the AMA's voters felt that the impact Rainey had over the past 12 months showed that the series is on the right track to long-term prosperity.
"One season alone does not make a successful race series," Dingman said. "But guided by Wayne's ideals of fairness and integrity, and his overarching goal of preparing U.S. riders to challenge for world titles, MotoAmerica is clearly on a path toward long-term success."
Building For The Future
Rainey accomplished a great deal as a rider and is hoping to match that legacy as the head of of MotoAmerica. He is also hoping to see the new series continue to grow. In September, the series announced its tentative 2016 schedule, hoping to again run nine events during the year as they did during their debut season.
When asked for his response to winning the award more than two decades after his devastating crash, Rainey told the AMA how appreciative to be named Rider of the Year, saying he couldn't have done it without the support team he has.
"I'm honored to be thought of in this way by the AMA," Rainey said. "When I raced I was able to win championships because I always had strong teams behind me. That's also the case now with MotoAmerica.
"Without the partners I have in Richard Varner, Chuck Askland and Terry Karges, what we've been able to achieve in our first year would not have been possible. We've been able to put together a solid team here at MotoAmerica and this award is as much as theirs as it is mine. I also want to thank the AMA for the help they have provided MotoAmerica this season and I'm looking forward to even bigger and better things in the coming years."