Never has anybody deserved that ultimate accolade of being inducted a MotoGP Legend than Randy. The problem is finding enough space to tell you why because he ticks every box apart from one.
Randy will not thank me for reminding you he is the first non World Champion to join the exclusive club but in so many ways this makes his election even more special and richly deserved. His passionate dedication to the sport, rider’s safety and the Riders for Health charity, his ability to fight back from adversity, loyalty, stubbornness, a true family man and for being one of the funniest men I’ve ever met will do for a start.
The record books can’t tell the real story. Thirteen 500cc grands prix wins, more than World Champions Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini and Kenny Roberts Junior, brought him a heart-breaking runner – spot in the World Championship on four separate occasions. He was a brilliant grand prix rider who certainly ran out of luck at the wrong time and found himself racing in a golden era of rich talent especially from his very own homeland. From the moment the brash freckled faced Californian teenager arrived in Europe we knew we were in for fun and games on and off the track.
On the track I remember that first grand prix victory on a rare visit to Zolder in 1980 followed with a victory at the British Grand Prix. The much televised save of the Rothmans Honda in Italy and two brilliant wins in Assen. Off the track Randy was the undisputed World Champion leading the way in an era of paddock parties, wrecked hire cars and wild Sunday night celebrations before moving on to place your life and body on the line at the next race.
In 1987 we arrived at the party town of Goiania in Brazil where the outcome of the World Championship was to be decided. Randy had won in Japan, France and San Marino and still had a slim chances preventing Wayne Gardner taking the title. It was the first ever grand prix in Goiania and the night before the first day of practice the riders, sitting round the swimming pool, were asked to judge the Miss Brazilian Grand Prix competition. We were surprised not to see Randy on the judging panel but when a freckled faced ‘lady’ appeared on the catwalk dressed to the nines with a full face of make –up we realised why.
It was especially tough for Randy when he retired. No World Championship to celebrate and no rich rewards for his glittering career after some disastrous investments by others. He fought back in the same way he had ridden those awesome 500 cc two-strokes. Randy spearheaded the Riders for Health campaign to combat disease in Africa with the same passion and single minded approach that had made him such a great rider. He is worthy ambassador for companies involved in MotoGP, an inspirational riders mentor and does a superb job riding the two-seater providing the ride of a life time for those lucky Ducati guests. Most of all his love of the sport that has brought him such a roller coaster of emotions has never once wavered and that wicked sense of humour and fun is never far away.
Randy Mamola a true friend and MotoGP legend.