Archives Column | The Last American GP Sweep

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We look back at the last time MotoGP saw an all-American podium.

Last week in Archives, we revisited 1983 when Freddie Spencer, Randy Mamola and Eddie Lawson swept the podium at the Italian GP at Monza. A first for America and a historic day indeed in 500cc Grand Prix/MotoGP racing. And this got us to thinking: When was the last time three Yanks hogged the podium at a Grand Prix?

The field assembles for the 1993 Australian Grand Prix with Kevin Schwantz (34) on pole from Wayne Rainey (1), Daryl Beattie (4) and Doug Chandler (red umbrella).

By Rennie Scaysbrook

I thought for sure it would be in the Nicky Hayden/John Hopkins/Kenny Roberts Jr. era, seeing as it’s been nothing but rolling tumbleweeds since then (bar, of course, the mercurial Ben Spies pulling the odd podium), but I needed to go way back to 1993 to find the answer.

The last time there was an all-American podium in MotoGP came at the season opening Australian 500cc Grand Prix at Sydney Motorsport Park (then known as Eastern Creek) that I attended as an annoying, autograph hunting 10-year-old.

This was the height of the American/Australian domination of the class of kings, and the year that would ultimately prove the final in the long-running duel of two of the sport’s most revered names, Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz.

Schwantz is among the three who made up the last all-American MotoGP podium 30 years ago.

The 1993 season was almost guaranteed to be a two-horse race for the title between the two American giants. Rainey, a three-time and defending champion, had a rejuvenated Kevin Schwantz hungrier than ever to take the coveted title after an off-season that saw crew chief Stuart Shenton and the Lucky Strike Suzuki team transform the RGV500 into the most rider-friendly bike on the grid, with more power than the Yamaha YZR500 and better handling than the Honda NSR500, and better all-round everything than the Cagiva V593 of former teammate Californian Doug Chandler, and a very young soon-to-be AMA Superbike legend Mat Mladin.

Rainey, on the other hand, was fighting his YZR500 from preseason testing right to the first green light of the year at Eastern Creek, the machine a hangover from the 1992 YZR, Rainey openly admits was the least favorite of all his title-winning machines.

A late, revised chassis seemed to fix most of the issues. but the YZR troubles were also befuddling the fourth American on the grid, three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer, who was making yet another comeback season, this time for Yamaha France.

Riding a 1992 chassis, Spencer’s race would end at the dauntingly fast turn one, flung over the highside halfway through the race in a violent crash that knocked the Louisianan out cold after smoke was seen puffing out from the back tire right before it all went south.

Under threatening skies Chandler’s Cagiva ripped the holeshot from fourth on the grid ahead of Rothmans Honda’s Daryl Beattie, while Schwantz hit reverse gear and went from pole to 13th at turn one.

The still drastically injured Mick Doohan, who had three quarters of his right leg bending like a banana after his brutal Assen crash in 1992, as well as a broken left wrist, was third by turn one, but that’s as good as it would get for the heroic Aussie, as his NSR started spluttering to a halt on the 18th lap and his goose was cooked.

Rainey ended lap one in sixth as Schwantz began his fight back, and Beattie used the Honda horsepower to storm past Chandler into the lead at turn one on lap two. By one-third distance, Doohan’s lack of race fitness after so many massive crashes began to show as he dropped back, while Schwantz and Rainey both charged forward. Alex Criville was quickly disposed of for third by Rainey. Schwantz soon followed and they both closed on Chandler.

Beattie, meanwhile, was making the run from the three Americans, but as the weather began to turn on lap eight, they all began to close down the Australian in his first full year in the 500cc class.

Schwantz, now up to second, closed inexorably on Beattie, pulling time back in every sector of the circuit, bar the 0.8-mile-long front straight where the Honda horsepower made the difference. He made his move for the lead on lap 10, and by lap 12, the first few spots of rain appeared on visors. The rain signaled the end of Beattie’s home-win challenge, and the young Queenslander slowly began to drop back. Suddenly, it was an all-American top three, but with no guarantee of the finishing order.

“Next thing I knew Wayne and Doug were back all over me,” Schwantz said. “It was only the rain that slowed me. There was nobody in front to give me any warning of the wet patches.” But as the rain fell, so did the temperatures, and thus gave Schwantz’s soft compound Michelins the chance to cool off slightly and last the distance.

Rainey and Chandler were getting busy behind Schwantz and on the 19th lap, the two made contact through the uphill left of turn five when Rainey leaned on the front wheel of his compatriot, catching his knee and leaving a huge black rubber mark down his Nankai leathers.

With Beattie now in a safe fourth with five laps to go, “I just wasn’t prepared to push as hard as the top three in the wet as they were,” Beattie said, the race order began to settle down with Schwantz leading from Rainey and Chandler. Suzuki’s Texan, Schwantz, crossed the line for his first and only Australian Grand Prix victory 3.1 seconds up on Californians Rainey, on the Yamaha, and Chandler, on the Cagiva, the latter 6.1 seconds off the winning pace, with Beattie fourth from the second Lucky Strike Suzuki of Alex Barros.

The last all-American 500cc/MotoGP podium came 10 years after the first. Photo: Henny Ray Abrams

As the Star-Spangled Banner rang out over a grey western Sydney that Sunday afternoon, little did we know this would be the last time we would see an all-American top three in the world’s premier racing series.

We’d get a few more quinellas, Rainey/Schwantz, Hayden/Edwards, and lots of time we’d occupied second and third places on the podium, but we’re still waiting for another 1-2-3 like we got at Eastern Creek 30 years ago. And, sadly, we’ll likely be waiting a very, very long time. CN

VIDEO | 1993 Australian Grand Prix

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