Sandy Rainey 1941-2016
Sandy Rainey 1941 – 2016
As we travel through life, we meet many people, some we remember fondly, others we can’t wait to forget. Sandy Rainey was one of those people who’s infectious energy and one of a kind character touched me so deeply that I looked forward to every meeting or conversation.
It was deeply saddening to learn of his passing this week, at 74 years old, Sandy had lead a colorful life, a rider, racer, husband, father, mechanic, into engines, motorbikes, flat-track, road racing, karts and construction, and that’s just what I knew about.
I first met Sandy in 1994, he was my chief mechanic at a Spanish Championship race in Calafat, thanks to Mat Oxley persuading Kenny Roberts to give me a chance, I stood in for the injured rider Sete Gibernau in the Malboro Yamaha Team Roberts Spanish Championship Team.
Sandy worked on the Yamaha TZ250 with great care, his experience and knowledge made the bike I was riding more competitive than any machine I had ever ridden and his warm and forever smiling face, distinctive laughter and passion for his work, made me feel secure in a rather daunting atmosphere, as up until that point in my racing, I’d just been riding a bike that my Dad had prepared and we’d worked out of a small van on a very limited budget.
All weekend Sandy looked after me, we had some highs and lows and for me, some unforgettable funny moments, like Sandy saying “For a moment there I thought we were going to eat Steak tonight, instead its beans and weenies”, after I crashed out of a podium position with a few laps to go, and also Sandy drilling a small hole in my finger nail on race morning to relieve the blood pressure from under my finger nail caused by a crash earlier in the weekend, and then sticking it in petrol so it didn’t get infected, ha ha, great memories.
For me it was a overwhelming, I was just a 19 year old kid from a small farm in Yorkshire, England who had only ever dreamed of being a motorbike racer, my heroes were Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene, Eddie Lawson, Randy Mamola, Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz, and the next thing I was riding for the most famous team in the world.
During the race weekend I was to meet Kenny, Randy and after the race on Sunday, I met Wayne. It was insane, I mean honestly, unbelievable. I remember someone in the team saying that Wayne Rainey might be coming to the race on Sunday and I was excited to even hear it, let alone see him. To eventually meet Wayne was fantastic and I was very star struck. It was only after meeting Wayne I was to learn that the mechanic who had taken me by the hand and led me through the biggest weekend of my life, given me confidence when I had none, picked me up from the gravel on two occasions, rebuilt me a complete bike after I wrecked a TZ, built a completely new engine on Saturday night/Sunday morning out of spare parts and whom had worked his nuts off all weekend for me, was Wayne Rainey’s Dad!
What! I couldn’t believe it, after learning of this I ran up to Sandy and said “Sandy, I can’t believe you are Wayne Rainey’s Dad”, with a smile and a stern reply, Sandy said “No Jamie boy, I am not Wayne Rainey’s Dad, Wayne Rainey is my son”.
Up until that weekend, the only guy in my corner had been my Dad, no one else, just my Dad and I. We worked on the bike, drove to races all over England and Europe, all chasing a dream of mine.
The weekend standing in at Team Roberts was totally different, my Dad came with me to the race but just watched from the sidelines, this time I worked with Sandy.
Incredibly, despite this huge team and intimidating environment, it soon felt no different, Sandy cared about me and the bike in the same way my Dad did, but he also had more experience to build a race winning machine and suddenly I was able to keep getting faster and get closer to the front. It was a weekend I’ll never forget and with everything we went through in just a very short time, Sandy remained one of my favorite people of all time.
It was always a pleasure to meet or chat to Sandy, he always left me with a smile, a warm feeling inside and asked about me and my family every time I spoke to him. His crackled California accent was distinctive and one of a kind, I always looked forward catching up and hearing about what he was up to, it seemed he never stopped and kept very busy all his life.
When I first came over to California in 2008, I got back in-touch with Sandy and we met up at his workshop where we chatted about some of his racing memories and he showed me around. Each poster, trophy, number plate and engine part had a fantastic story behind them, ones which made Sandy’s face light up with joy as he proudly told me story after story, first about his own racing, then Wayne’s career and other riders he had been closely involved with, like Bubba Shobert and Eddie Lawson.
Sandy’s skill at getting full potential out of every machine he worked on was feared by factory teams, to have Sandy in your corner was a special thing.
I’ll always look back on my memories with Sandy with fondness and a smile, and while life goes on, there is a special person missing.
Much love and best wishes to Sandy’s family, friends and everyone who liked him, for me, Sandy was a great guy.
Rest in Peace my friend.