Our pick of the 10 greatest premier-class multi-rider dogfights of all time
his was Wayne Rainey’s greatest race, the one in which he had an out-of-body experience. For most of the 21 laps it was a breath-taking four-way battle royal, American rivals Wayne Rainey (Marlboro Yamaha YZR500) and Kevin Schwantz (Lucky Strike Suzuki RGV500) fighting tooth and nail with the faster Rothmans Honda NSR500s of Daryl Beattie and Shinichi Itoh.
Itoh’s NSR was the fastest of them all, the local hero motoring into the lead along Suzuka’s fast back straight again and again, only for the others to climb all over him in the corners.
At one point Rainey was fourth and looked like he was done. But then he began a Herculean comeback, spinning his friendlier Dunlops out of the corners and making passes that sometimes made his Michelin rivals look silly.
A backmarker cost Itoh his chance and nearly did for Schwantz who unleashed an astonishingly brave (mad?) attack at the final chicane which took him past Beattie and almost Rainey too. Rainey complemented his rivals for “clean, safe riding” and later added, “It was like I was looking down at myself going into the fast right before the hairpin, laughing and giggling. I was thinking: This is not meant to be this much fun.”
Words: Mat Oxley