"I miss the preparation of...
"I miss the preparation of the mind, getting mentally focused for the race on Sunday," recalls three-time 500cc World Champion Wayne Rainey. Here he concentrates on prerace strategy before the '90 Japanese GP.
When three-time 500cc World Champion Wayne Rainey's brilliant career ended in 1993 he jumped into team management, forming a Yamaha satellite team the following year-too soon, he would later admit. He managed the team through 1998 and later raced go-karts. But it was no substitute for being at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. And it wasn't the physical sensation of racing, the speed or the absolute exhaustion from exertion.
"I guess I miss the preparation of the mind, getting mentally focused for the race on Sunday," he says. "I really miss that." Spencer concurs: "I liked the preparation." And Mick Doohan, who along with Kevin Schwantz and Rainey defined one of the greatest generations of racing, agrees. "I think that's what it was all about. Riding a bike was just what you did. It was a lot of fun. But when you look back, you took a lot of things for granted when you were doing that. Some of the things were a pain in the ass like anything in any life. But you look back on it and it was all good and you wouldn't have done anything different."
"I liked going on the starting line and ready to race the guys that I needed to beat and looking forward to being able to exert myself in a way that gave me everything," Rainey recalls. "I loved the competition of pushing myself and trying to go out there and be the fast guy no matter what situation we were in. It was the feeling you could get by riding the bike at a certain limit that you could not find in life anywhere else. That was such a satisfying feeling. And once you did that and you had success and you could win-and you could do it week in and week out-that was something that, obviously, it's something that's very difficult for me to explain, because I haven't had to think about it for such a long time.
"Riding a bike was just what...
"Riding a bike was just what you did. It was a lot of fun," remembers multitime World Champion Mick Doohan, shown here chatting with fellow multitime World Champion Wayne Rainey. "But when you look back, you took a lot of things for granted when you were doing that."
"Once in a while I'll just be driving down the road and I'll have a feeling or a memory of a race, and I can go right to that moment and I'll really miss it at that point," Rainey continues. "But it's something that doesn't happen much to me anymore as it once did. I think every year it's probably a bit less. There was a feeling I could get on the bike that I could get nowhere else that was more of a personal thing with the performance you could get out of yourself. And you always didn't know what the outcome was going to be. You didn't know what was going to happen. And making it happen as it was going on. It was a great thing."
As consumed as Rainey was by racing, his public demeanor didn't greatly suffer. He might have seemed distant, but it was only because he was thinking of the next session, the next race, the next test. Not so for Doohan. The Australian, who was cautiously quiet when he arrived in Grand Prix racing, became increasingly prickly as his career progressed. In the time since he was forced to retire following a horrific crash at Jerez in 1999 the five-time 500cc World Champion has mellowed. Journalists who once feared his wrath now find him approachable and, as always, knowledgeable.
"When you're doing it, it's all-consuming; you don't think about anything else," Doo-han says. "You don't think there's anything outside of it. But the more you're away from it, it's a bit like life in general, isn't it?