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Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 9

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 9

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 9

1990-1992: Wayne Rainey takes another triple crown for Yamaha

Wayne Rainey and Yamaha ruled bike racing's premier class during one of its most intensely competitive eras. The former dirt track star and his YZR500 won the 1990, 1991 and 1992 500 World Championships against white-hot competition, defeating a posse of rock-hard fellow former-dirt trackers from the USA and Australia, legends like Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner and John Kocinski.

At the same time Rainey ushered in GP racing's modern era, taking commitment, professionalism and riding technique to new levels. He was helped in his endeavours by King Kenny Roberts' factory Yamaha squad, which brilliantly prepared his YZR500s. The YZR was at the cutting edge of racing technology – a 170 horsepower, 130kg two-stroke V4 with Deltabox aluminium chassis that could nudge 321kmh/200mph. Team Roberts Yamaha had a relentless enthusiasm for introducing new technology, so Rainey's outfit was the first to make serious use of data-logging, carbon brakes and so-called ‘upside-down' front forks.

Of course, despite rapidly advancing technology, the 500s of that era were fiery beasts which demanded a firm hand and a brave heart; as Roberts said at the time: "You've got to have the talent to ride these things out of control." Rainey was definitely the man for the job: big handfuls of throttle, big handfuls of opposite lock, and yet somehow his riding was stunningly smooth and unerringly accurate. As Rainey remembers: "The racing was fierce back then, the riding too, and if my rear tyre wasn't spinning, I didn't fell right."

Rainey raced his entire GP career with Yamaha, winning 24 500 GPs between 1988 and late 1993, when an accident left him paralysed from the chest down. He bravely moved into team management, fronting Yamaha's factory 500 effort for several years. During Rainey's title-winning era, Yamaha also broke new ground for the Japanese motorcycle industry, supplying YZR engines to less-well-off privateer racers to increase the quality of the 500 grids. As always, Yamaha was putting something back into the sport.

MotoGP, 2005

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