RIP Sandy Rainey


The Rainey's – Sandy, Wayne, Ila, Renee, Rodney.

The Qatar weekend marked the passing of Sandy Rainey, the man who gave us one of the sport’s all-time greats.

Wayne Rainey’s first bike – a highly modified Honda step-thru – was built by his father, a very capable self-taught engineer who raced go-karts and bikes. He even had a homemade dyno in the garage, where he tuned Wayne’s second bike, a Suzuki 90, until it revved to 14,000rpm, almost double its original speed. Wayne raced several thousand dirt track races with his father at his side, before graduating to three 500 World Championship victories, via 250s and superbikes.

Sandy didn’t only help his eldest son to be one of the fastest racers, he also taught him to be polite, respectful and fun to be with. Wayne was never a spoiled racer brat.

I got to know Sandy a bit while writing propaganda for Marlboro Team Roberts during the 1990s. I got to know him a little bit more when I managed to convince ‘King’ Kenny Roberts to give up-and-coming Brit Jamie Robinson a one-off ride in his Spanish championship 250 team. Sandy was Jamie’s mechanic for the weekend.

We travelled to Calafat where Jamie put in some good lap times, until the team’s TZ250 seized on the way into a fifth-gear corner and spat him into the rocky runoff.

Robinson was battered but unbowed. Apart from sustaining the usual agonising kicking of a purling, high-speed crash he had a giant blood blister at the tip of one of his fingers. As the blood kept pumping the pressure increased and so did the pain. I suggested we take Jamie to the medical centre.

“Hell, no!” said Sandy. “We can fix that right here. Hey, Jamie, put you hand against the wall.”

Jamie did as he was told, then Sandy grabbed his Black and Decker drill, place it against Jamie’s throbbing fingernail and drilled through the nail until blood spurted out. There was a lot pain on Jamie’s face, but immediately the pressure reduced and he felt better.

While we mopped up the blood I suggested we take Jamie to the medical centre to get some antiseptic on the wound.

“No need for that!” grinned Sandy. “Hey Jamie, just stick the finger in that can of gasoline and you’ll be fine.”

Sandy was right, of course. Jamie did as he was told and he was fine. Then he went out, led the race and crashed again.

RIP Sandy Rainey: a lovely man and as hard as nails.

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