Wayne Rainey: The Renaissance Man for MotoAmerica

The MotoAmerica project is in its third year but what is the current state of Road Racing in the United States? At the opening round of the 2017 season we sought out the opinion of some of the biggest names in the paddock

The third year of the MotoAmerica championship has seen it continue to grow but how close is the series to prospering?

Within the paddock there is plenty of optimism that the series is on the verge of a true breakthrough as it seeks a return to the golden era of road racing in the United States. Three years ago, Wayne Rainey talked about looking to provide a stable platform for the championship and one that could offer growth potential. With a strong TV deal in place and manufacturer interest returning to the series - Suzuki and Honda have increased their involvement for 2017 - Rainey has now set his sights on a higher goal: making the US a destination for top riders around the world. Last year saw former Moto2 world champion Toni Elias move to America in search of another challenge and an opportunity to win races.

“Of course with me being here and having been a part of the family of MotoGP it helps us,” said Rainey. “The MotoGP paddock knows Toni and he grew up in that paddock but for whatever reason he left. I don’t know too much about the situation towards the end of his career. What I do know however is that he came to me at Indianapolis in 2014 and said 'I need to find some stability because I'm riding for different teams every weekend. Do you think there’s a chance to find a seat in MotoAmerica?'

Opportunity knocks

“At the time there wasn't but I said, you never know what will happen, though. As it was, last year Jake Lewis got injured, and Toni was lying on the couch and his phone’s not ringing from other championships. Suddenly his phone rang and it happened to be with an offer of a full factory US manufacturer Superbike team, Yoshimura Suzuki. So I think Toni probably thought this was an opportunity that he wasn't going to let slide. I think that he’s probably never ridden better because of this opportunity.

“I don’t think he gets recognized for what he did, especially in the Grand Prix paddock, but I understand that. I had some success over there and I probably thought the same way, but there’s all these other championships throughout the world that new talent’s going to come from somewhere. So if Toni’s strong in our championship and we’ve got some riders putting it on Toni, it makes people take a look at those riders in our series.”

As the Elias story illustrates one of the biggest attractions of MotoAmerica is still undoubtedly Rainey but that's only part of the story. Within the paddock the work that has been done is truly being appreciated because for the first time in years Road Racing in the United States is back on the map.

Back to life

“This series was on life support and they were pulling the plug” was one of the most popular statements within the paddock when asked about how the series has grown under Rainey's stewardship. The triple world champion felt a debt of honor in taking on the running of the championship but he's far from a figurehead. He's as motivated to make MotoAmerica relevant and popular again as he was when he was racing.

“This job kind of found me because it wasn't something I was looking to do,” admitted Rainey. “Honestly, if somebody would have said, we’ll give you a billion dollars, will you go fix it? I would have said no. I just wasn’t interested. But because of circumstances I was working on the spec motorcycle with my partners and it got me back in to the industry.

“It got me thinking about as I started to investigate to see that there was the US championship was hurting. There was less interest in US riders. I thought, wow, everything that I’ve got came from my upbringing through the US championship and now I see nobody’s talking about it, nobody’s going through it. Somebody pretty high up in another organization said the Americans are too far behind now. They’ll never catch up. That’s probably what motivated me the most.”

Tough challenges make for great motivation

That motivation has been combined with Rainey's famous work ethic but even so the challenge facing the MotoAmerica team was immense. Paul Carruthers, communications manager for the series, offered an insight into what it has taken to get racing back on its feet in the US.

“Honestly, I don’t know that this series would have worked with anybody else,” said Carruthers when asked about Rainey's involvement on a day to day basis. “Not only does Wayne bring the credibility to the series but he’s got an incredible work ethic. Once he decides he wants something, he sets out to do it. To him, this series is just like trying to win another world championship.

“He wants this to be successful and he works as hard as he possibly can to make that happen. Sometimes we all get a little impatient about our progress but when you think about we’re only starting our third year. The changes that I can remember from when I last covered Road Racing [as editor of Cycle News] until now are just night and day.

“When MotoAmerica started the paddock wasn’t a very fun place to work any more. Everybody was kind of dour and down. In the last year there were only five races and the television package wasn't good. When MotoAmerica came in, Wayne knew that to do that we had to start building the series back up to the point where people wanted to race in it and factories wanted to take part in it again. I think initially we did a good job of stabilizing the series and getting everybody in the paddock happy again, working on the rules.”

Stable rules make for happy racers

Those rules are now a mirror of the WorldSBK specification and that is something that will also help the series going forward. Last year Cameron Beaubier raced on the world stage at Donington Park in place of Sylvain Guintoli. On face value the Yamaha R1 should have been similar to his MotoAmerica machine, but the regulations were so different that he had to learn the bike from the ground up. With the regulations now matching WorldSBK it should mean that if a rider gets an opportunity such as that they wouldn't be fighting as much of an uphill battle.

“I’m part of the manufacturers’ group, and we always discussed for many years different rules,” explained Pat Alexander of Suzuki North America. “But really the group didn’t do much. A lot of times the decision was the rule the organizers wanted, and unless it was really a problem for the manufacturer there would be no change. Now, they talk to us. They gave us their idea of what they wanted as a plan to go forward with this series and we endorsed it.

“I think that Yamaha and Suzuki are looking for what’s best for the industry and the rules are part of that. Going to the WorldSBK rules is another part of MotoAmerica’s scheme. In the past with the regulations being for lesser specification people would see our guys getting trounced by the WorldSBK. With that being the case, why would you watch it? If we can be closer to them, then I think that also adds to the flavor of our series.”

Getting it right

Drafting the regulations, in conjunction with the FIM's Technical Director Scott Smart, was a big challenge. The cost of running the higher specification was one that had to be weighed against the potential it would offer in the future. With STK1000 bikes lining up alongside the Superbikes it seems that a good balance has been found.

“The way the rules are, being on the same level as WorldSBK helps drive development of the bikes,” said Rainey. “There’s some things manufacturers can now do to really open up the performance of that bike. Yamaha has had their bike for a few years now but suddenly there's new areas to start working on. Competition breeds excellence and that’s what racing is all about. With Suzuki they are at the start of their new bike and will be looking at a championship that's competitive. They’ve got a good target to work on with Yamaha and it's a similar story for Honda. We’ll see what happens from here going forward.”

Constant progress

Moving forward and moving upwards is one of the themes for numerous riders in the paddock. Roger Lee Hayden brings with him a famous name but also a lot of talent. Thanks to the factory support Suzuki are now receiving the Kentucky native is finally on a full works Superbike. While his aims have changed as a result of having a brand new 2017 Suzuki GSXR1000 at his disposal most of his good feeling comes from the feeling of being in the championship at the right time to see it explode once again.

“MotoAmerica and racing in America is back on people’s map,” commented Hayden. “I think that having Toni here helped with that, but we've also had Claudio Corti, a former MotoGP rider here, and now Sylvain Barrier wanting to find a ride in MotoAmerica. I think three years ago there was no chance of riders such as them looking to come here. I think it just shows where the championship is at.

“Also from a manufacturer perspective having Suzuki bring a brand new bike, a full works bike here when they could showcase it in WorldSBK if they wanted to or in BSB. It's very positive that they chose MotoAmerica to showcase their new bike. I think that says a lot about the series and where we are at.

“Of course I wish that we could race at Laguna against the WorldSBK guys but we run Dunlop tires and they run Pirelli so that makes it impossible. It would be cool though to race against them and show what our level is here. Last year, when I read the rumor about the TransAm races I was getting all excited. I think it would be cool because all the British people could talk about how the Americans were going to get their ass kicked and we could show what we could do.

“I'm a big sports fan and having that element in racing would be cool. I want to go and see where we stack up, see where our series is at. Cameron went over to Europe and did a great job last year at Donington considering it was tires and a bike he'd never ridden before.”

America loves racing again

There's an appetite for road racing once again in the United States. Whereas in 2014 it seemed the series was engulfed by an appetite for self-destruction, now the series is growing again. The competitive fire that burns in a racer doesn't take long to come to surface once there's positive steps being made. MotoAmerica has made those initial steps and now they need to use that momentum to move onto the next stage of a revival.

“One of my main focuses was just building the brand initially,” explained Carruthers. “Now our focus this year is getting more spectators at the races. A lot of that falls on me, obviously, to build the brand, to get to the point where people are aware of it and aware that we’re coming to their town or whatever. I think we’re going to see some big progress in that area this year as well.

“The motorcycle publishing business here is kind of gone down a little bit anyway so not a lot of people have the budget to send people to the races again. We’re starting to see that come back again now though and that’s a good thing. Already this year for example the teams have some PR guys where last year they didn’t. So we’ll start to get that ball rolling again who knows? You start getting those people back and the coverage grows from it.”

Racing is a business

Getting the media back on site and covering the series is a necessary step, and while many of the same faces in the paddock are the same as ten years ago there are opportunities that will open in the coming years. One of the biggest reasons for optimism according to Rainey is that MotoAmerica has been able to build important bridges with the likes of WorldSBK and MotoGP series promoter Dorna Sports to offer additional credibility to potential partners and sponsors.

Working on the business side of the series is obviously a key part of Rainey's responsibilities but the racer in him is still as obsessed with speed as ever. It's to that end that incorporating the WorldSBK regulations was important so that lap times can be as close as possible to the world championship.

“There was nothing we could do about the situation as it was when we started,” explained Rainey. “The series wasn’t happy and it wasn’t healthy. So with our relationship with Dorna we’ve been able to get some credibility back right away. We were in a hurry to do that but really we’re going this path similar to WorldSBK and I’m going to judge where we’re at when WorldSBK comes to Laguna Seca.

“That’s where I’ll see where we’re at. Last year we were down a little bit but we were on a completely different spec. This year we’re much, much closer. I’m pushing Dunlop to make sure our tires are good. So they’re developing a great product for us. I think we’ll get the respect I think that we deserve when if we can go and plug a guy in a WorldSBK race and he’s competitive.”

You have to crawl before you can walk, but MotoAmerica now seems to be in full blossom and the return to relevance of Road Racing in the United States is firmly underway.

Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.


Back to top


I think Wayne and his team have done a fabolous job in bringing MotoAmerica back to life. AMA was hard to follow, they would rarely broadcast races and when they did it seemed that it was this guy with his Webcam broadcasting live. 

BeIn sports does a great job on the TV coverage, almost as good as MotoGP in terms of # of cameras, angles, live coverage, etc. Also liked the fact that they added a few races for this year and the competition seems to be pretty good IMO. 

But where I feel that MotoAmerica still lacks is on the media coverage. It's hard to find news about what's going in, rider thoughts, etc. Their website is not very good, very few sites or folks post notes on Twitter, etc. 

We need more MotoMatters, Mat Oxley's and Simon Patterson's covering MotoAmerica!

MotoAmerica needs to figure out a way offer a subscription service similar to WSBK and MotoGP. Currently, you can only watch online if you have a cable subscription which includes BeIN Sports. I pay for both the WSBK and MotoGP subscription packages but I don't have cable, so I can't follow MotoAmerica. They are leaving money on the table and making it harder for would-be fans to follow the series. I would absolutely pay for a subscription to watch the races if one were offered, but it's not. I'm in the US, I love motorcycle racing, I personally race, I'm buddies with guys who race a few MotoAmerica rounds... but MotoAmerica is totally off my radar because I don't have cable. More and more people are cutting the cord, I really hope MotoAmerica will find a way to let us follow and be fans of the series too.

Good point jfricke. What region do you live in? What tracks have you most interested? See any young talent of note? How are your club grids doing? Is the 300ss filling? Here in Portland, Oregon our primary track is very high speed and open and a Ninja 300 on it is underwhelming. 30hp and 375lbs...more fun on a kart track? With 60 lbs shaved off?

I could enjoy carving up Laguna Seca on an RC390. Even the Middleweight bike scared the crap out of me T1-T2 before the runoff change, made things interesting. Thunderhill and Willow Springs look fun for West Coasters. Up here we have The Ridge, a newer track folks are enjoying.

We should also consider here that it is 3,000 miles (4800km) from coast to coast in the USA. London to Barcelona is 1500km's. Travel for the whole Spanish series calendar may be less than one trip across our country.

That MUST present a barrier to entry in both time and finances

I live in Texas. I sprint a 600 and ride a 300 in ultra lightweight endurance in CMRA. The grids are pretty healthy I think, usually 20-30 bikes on the grid in my sprints and 30-something teams in the small bike classes. We have 10 rounds a year, Saturday's have a few small bike sprints followed by either ULWE or big bike endurance, Sundays have (i think) 21 sprint races. There are plenty of fast riders and maybe 2-3 "genuinely fast" guys.

We have a handful of tracks here ranging from fairly technical (MSRH) to high speed/open (TWS), the only characteristic they all share is they are bumpy as hell. We have COTA, which is a fairly fun and confidence inspiring track, but it seems like even that surface is getting bumpy now. I prefer the more technical tracks. I'm better on the brakes than the throttle, so I'm less competitive on tracks lacking hard braking zones.

I agree about the geography playing a role in the US. There are races here where riders are driving 10+ hours each way just to run a few 6 lap races. As if entry fees and a couple sets of tires aren't expensive enough hauling a trailer that far burns a lot of gas... and that's just for club races that no one is paying any attention to. Just showing up to each round at the national level would cost a pretty penny, especially if you hope to have a competitive package once you hit the track. Luckily for me I show no promise, so there's no itch to max out the credit cards traveling around the country just to be humiliated. I think the vast majority of racers feel/understand that there is no hope of anything coming of this. It a passion and a hobby, that's it. There are no scouts, no real sponsors, no factory reps... no defined path to moving to the next level for the riders that show that level of talent. For me that doesn't matter, but there are several kids out there racing. It would be really cool to see infrastructure to allow some of them to pursue racing to whatever level their passion and talent permits. It would be even more cool if MotoAmerica would offer a subscription service so I could watch those kids race. ;) 

Another cord-cutter here, and I'd definitely subscribe to an online service if they kept it halfway reasonable. I know the vids eventually show up on their site, but that's not really the same.

TV is NOT the answer. Online is. Old school motorcycle media (the magazines) is NOT the answer. Online is. From the Motomatters of the world to the new content masters, the online retailers (e.g. Revzilla), online media is all that matters. As much as I loved reading Carruthers' magazine stuff, he needs to leave that world behind. I watch every practice, qualifying and race for WSBK and MotoGP. MotoAmerica? Way too difficult to follow. I go to the races and buy way too much gear. I have 6 bikes, currently. I should be watching and following MotoAmerica like I did AMA racing and do WSBK and MotoGP. But I can't and don't. It can all be summed up in one word: endemic. When MotoAmerica figures out that its endemic marketing staff is what keeps it from broadening appeal to include even the general US motorcycling community, that will be the beginning of getting American motorcycle racing back where it belongs. Harsh? Yep. Sorry about that. But I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want this to succeed!

Plenty of Americans love their motorcycles and road racing. Not relative to other sports here, but the sheer numbers are there. We don't tend to give a shite about our own series of late (we get together to watch BSB!).There is plenty of insider info out there about the horrible handling of the series that occurred in the mid 2000's.

It was the economic crash of 2008-2010 ish that dealt us a knock all the way down to the grass roots level, regional grids dwindled - a bunch of us just hung up our leathers. It can't be overstated, the numbers are out there.

The series was already down on its knees after having been abandoned by the AMA. The economy dealt it a blow that put it on life support.

Ben Spies was the last of our Astronauts on the World stage. That has been quite some time. He arose in the context of a sustained heated rivalry with Mat Mladin. It was competition as intense as any, and the level of performance was VERY high. Without that? No Ben Spies.

We all know what happened when Spies hit WSBK. It was as beautiful a performance as can be witnessed. (No one knows what happened when he got on the Factory Yamaha in the GP, including him...another story).

We have a resuscitation of the American series well underway. It was neglected and has much ability to flourish with cultivation. The new organizers are doing it right. Much to appreciate.

Club grids are still quite small. We are quick and easy to lose and slow/tough to return. Agreed that it is important to have a few solid riders on good bikes there, and this is happening. Now we have some 300ss classes. Aside from the new R6 there is frighteningly little in the middleweights from Manu's which is...odd. Mladin-Spies was, again, Suzuki. Kawasaki has had a sustained presence here and a solid garage. Historically Honda has put a solid effort in, as Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards can attest.

The DORNA involvement is of much interest. Jr Cup regional programs are bringing kids in. So glad that Rainey and Co can build a bridge.

Interesting that you mention American media. It was the Road Racing World's expertise and care that brought us the EMGO M4 Suzuki team and the likes of John Hopkins. Their presence is much smaller than it was. And what about folks like Muzzy bringing us green monsters to tame? Where are they? Many shops closed up ten yrs ago. This infrastructure is very slow to return.

Steve English is writing on none other than Motomatters about the American National Series?! Wonderful. Thanks! Great to see you here mate.

In the past we have seen good contingency money from maufacturers dictate what bikes we ran. Doug Polen in a van driving around chasing money is a good example. Can we see that again? First ANYONE needs to be able to see it, and the TV coverage is indeed important.

The next piece of the puzzle? A next phenom kid on a well supported Superbike to push and get pushed by Elias (and a few other top notch riders that find their way here...). The stage is being set. It has its own pull, nature abhors a vacuum.

I'm surprised you're not aware of why there are no new 600cc supersports hitting the market. I think in the last couple of years they have amounted for somewhere around 1-2%  of the total sales from the manufactuers and when you combine that with the new for 2017 European regulations involving safety & emmisions... they have about 1-2% incentive to invest in developing new models in that catagory.

Regarding MotoAmerica in general. I'm liking where it's heading and I hope it continues to grow and prosper. So great that they'll be back in Sonoma this year (wish it was still in May) but to me the big ask is still getting more factory's involved. Only then will it get close to it's former glory IMO. I still watch all the races though and even if there's only 3 to 4 bikes competing for win, I enjoy the racing. The supersport championship was very entertaining last year, granted weather helped a lot at a few rounds but I very much looked forward to it. 

I bought two in the recent past. And a 1000cc Superbike when ego got the best of me. We hated each other while sharing respect, very glad to see it go.
I know what you refer to.
Why do you think that is? What is the relative decline of Superbike sales?
Can you see a world without middleweights? What are you on?
I dream of a Triumph Daytona 850R. And may get to have one, with no class to put it in. Interesting this life, eh? Replete with irony.

I can't speak for the rest of the world but having spent the last 20 years working in the motorcycle buisness on the west coast of the USA, I'll just say that like it or not, the majority of motorcycle riders/buyers here are in it for the style, fashion, trendyness... and the current fashion du jour, as you can plainly see from the manufactuers response, is Retro #1 and Adventure #2.

Middleweights will always be around, just maybe not in pure supersport form i.e. you'll always have something like the Honda/Kawi/Yamaha parallel twins in multiple flavors etc. and of course the Suz SV's. All forms of motorsports are "generally" not as popular with newer genrations and so the win on Sunday, sell on Monday rule doesn't carry the weight it once did so yet another reason for the manufactuers to not want to spend the development costs on a low ROI model. 850cc is a good displacement... my ride happens to be a TDM. ;)


I don't think so but don't have lots of info. My team mate was in charge of just that for the series then, and it was contentious with rumors. Highly placed people I respect and won't name would come and literally yell at them with inane accusations like this.

Literally everyone criticized DMG and for very good reason. But timing and scoring was a good bunch doing the best they could. Until they got gutted out and tossed for some contracted (NASCAR?) dolts. After that (2010?) I know little.

I hope MotoAmerica does prosper in the future. Great to hear that Mr Wayne Rainey is involved. I was very pleased to find the MotoAmerica website after having difficulties following the AMA superbike championship. Then that wierd thing when the superbikes turned into 600s ??. but now it is better than it was, much easier to follow from Australia than it was when Mat Mladin was racing in AMA. ?1996 or so until? I do remember an interview with M.M. & the question "what about going back into Grand Prix racing" Mat's answer was something like Why would I want to take a pay cut in exchange for spending half of my life waiting around in international airports. M.M. said America was a much better lifestyle for a motorbike racer. He said one could fly to and from the circuits, park ones aircraft near the track, fly home straight after the presentation.

those where the days I guess.

I do hope MotoAmerica does prosper in the future. We need more than just Spanish & Italian riders in Gps & not just U.K. riders winning in WSBK. I would like to see the next, Wayne , Kevin, Ben, Scott Russell or steady Eddie real soon.

I think motorcycle racing is making a come back in the United States. Supercross still fills stadiums and the outdoor motocross nationals attract bigger crowds now than in decades. Even flat track is having a bit of a rennaisance. Here is a link to buy tickets for the Arizona Mile on May 13 in Phoenix. http://www.arizonamile.com/tickets.php If you try and find seats in any of the reserved seating sections you will find few available. That race is only in its second year and it is about to be sold out! Indian's new factory effort surely adds drama to that series, however. Meanwhile I have noticed that road racing club grids are getting healthy again too. Not like the late 90's or early 2000's, but certainly larger than 2010! This despite the extreme cost to compete these days and the lack of contingency money. The imminent demise of the 600 is a surely a headwind, but it will be replaced as soon as World Super's sorts out a support class attractive to the OEM's. I am pretty optimistic about the whole American motorcycle racing scene.

I'm on the same cord cutting train.  Haven't had cable for a few years but would absolutely pay for a videopass-like subscription to MotoAmerica.  

As for this article - thanks to its author and this website for posting it.  It was really nice to read and reassuring even, to hear the opinion of an insider-journo speak optimistically about the series and note its overall positive direction.  Cheers

Need to be a subscriber with a cable or satellite etc. provider to stream beIN that is. 

Speaking to the "cutting the cable" narrative. If only I could be interested in just MGP or just WSBK I would have done this a long time ago but alas I like all kinds of motorsports so I need my NBCSN, CBSSN, FS1, beIN etc. I have also been a DVR user for over a decade now and can't stand watching tv without one (what's a commercial?). Regardless I would love to be able to cut down on my bills and am always looking for options so I recently tried a 5 day free trial of the Playstation Vue service. I chose that because it offers all those channels I mentioned above and has a cloud based DVR feature. They don't carry FS2 or Velocity but for around $55/mo, I could live without those if the service stacked up.

So I chose a weekend with a Formula 1, Indycar, MotoGP & Supercross race for my trial and was able to compare back to back in real time the PS Vue vs my current DirecTV service. The Vue picture quality was excellent and the stream never paused to buffer. Adding favorite channels and setting up programs to be recorded to your "DVR" was easy as the tv guide they used is layed out very intuitively. That combined with the price is all great but I still didn't sign up for the service and here's why. Despite the great picture quality, the video still would have these very small but still perceptible little micro-pauses or stutters. Not very noticeable but once you did, you couldn't stop seeing it and I kept switching back the DTV video simply because because I had the option to do so. It also doesn't support digital surround sound. Not a huge strike but I do like watching movies as well as racing sometimes. But the biggest reason is the virtual DVR. It works as advertised but your recordings are only available for 28 days before being deleted (still not a deal breaker) but it will only record programs as they appear in the guide. That means you cannot set the recording times manually i.e.. having it start early or record an extra hour or two after the program was scheduled to finish. Needless to say this is vital for the motorsports viewer because you never know when the race really will be over and sure enough during my trial the SX race went about 20 minutes long and the Vue DVR stopped right in the middle of the race at it's scheduled finish time.

So yeah, if they would add that to the features I probably would switch over, all the other niggles would be tolerable for the cost savings, but not yet. So there you go, if the PS Vue service is available to you, that might be a nice option for anyone out there looking for a way to get beIN without a cable or satellite sub, especially if you like to watch more then just bike racing & live TV vs. recorded.

Just wanted to correct a mistake in that I forgot that the Vue service in fact DOES NOT carry CBSSN yet either, so no MXGP, PWC, Blancpan etc. either. fwiw. 

For the Cord Cutters, you can also watch online with a Sling TV pass.  I believe I read it is around $10 per month.  With that you can watch MotoGP, WSBK and MotoAmerica.

Get the slingtv world sports package. That will get you all of the motogp and moto America races. It costs 9.99/month and there is no subscription needed, cancel when season is over. You can stream live in HD via Apple TV or firestick or watch on your phone via app. You can also watch the race for up to a week after airing if you can't watch live. Iat the best option out there. 

SlingTv Only available in the U.S. so I won't be watching Toni the tiger Elias from Road Atlanta this weekend. well that is not helping attract a bigger audience from overseas.

I shall pop across to check out the MotoAmerica site for some news.