Years ago I was interviewing the legendary Mick Doohan.
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At the time, the Aussie was pretty much at the height of his power. Doohan was, outwardly, in command and harshly honest – not only about himself but about the other riders in GP500s.
I found that refreshing. You asked Mick a solid question and you got a solid answer.
A colleague of mine once asked Mick if he thought that GPs were getting boring to watch just because the Honda man was clearing off and winning races by huge margins.
“What do you want me to do? Slow down?” Mick replied to the question.
He had a point.
Could Mick Doohan have had the same sort of success were he to have left Honda and ridden for a rival factory effort? Possibly. Probably. As a rider Mick was fearless and thinking. The huge raft of work that he carried out developing the NSR500 into pedigree factory machine (and when I say pedigree I mean ‘pedigree’ – you know the sort of bike; flighty, snappy, fast-but-be-wary-of-it) wasn’t by mistake.
You know the old saying ‘the harder I worked the luckier I was’? That applied to Doohan and his technicians. Clever people who overcame mechanical and physical hurdles to put the Honda on top of the podium. Don’t believe that? How many others dominated the series on NSRs? Exactly.
But what I like best about Doohan was that, behind the outer shell, was a decent guy who just wanted to turn up and go fast. If you wanted to take away his world title then, boy, did you have to step up to the plate.
Go and take on Doohan. Be prepared for a scrap. Look away for a second and the King would have you with a snap of the right wrist and a whole load of screaming from the Big Bang factory machine.
Doohan was the archetype of the era. A brusque, brilliant rider who suffered no fools.
The old 500s were nasty motorcycles that hurt as much as they thrilled. And for one man to dominate the nastiest period of racing history (where the nastiest bikes of all lived) is legend enough.
But we fancied putting some meat on the bones of Doohan’s development tale. Hence our article on page 26.
I hope you enjoy it.