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Doohan gets in the mood for Phillip Island

Doohan gets in the mood for Phillip Island

Doohan gets in the mood for Phillip Island

The Cinzano Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix is only days away – and Australia´s greatest motorcycle racer, Mick Doohan, has climbed back on a racing bike for one of the few times since he retired five years ago.

Indeed, he´s been back on two racing bikes in one day. Not that a comeback is in the wind for the five-time 500cc World Champion. Doohan was attending a ride day with new Australian Superbike and Supersport Champion Adam Fergusson, as well as Josh Brookes and Jason O´Halloran – at Winton Raceway in northern Victoria.

Doohan wasn´t worried about setting any lap records, but he was happy to talk about the modern MotoGP scene and next week´s Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

`I enjoy going down there (Phillip Island) quite a lot´, Doohan said. `It´s a fantastic facility down there, and I think the new owners (Linfox) have got a bright future in store for the place, so it´s good to see.

`I think motorcycle racing and motor racing in general has a long life ahead of it down there. To go back, and especially see MotoGP there… these bikes are amazing to watch and to hear. I´m hoping to see a big crowd there´.

Doohan, who scored all his 54 Grand Prix wins with Honda, claimed that the Japanese factory still have the best machine in the sport, but added that current World Champion Valentino Rossi remained the number one rider.

`I would dearly love to see Honda get up again´, Doohan said. `We have had a great deal of success over the last ten years or so. Yamaha are so close, and I think they will probably get across the line.

`Valentino is fourteen points in front, which doesn´t sound like a great deal, but Sete would be worried if he was only fourteen points in front, so to be fourteen points behind Valentino is still a long way.

`Gibernau has had a good year but hasn´t found consistency. At the end of the day it comes down to the rider, and that´s one thing still with motorcycling - the rider really does make the difference.

´Even if Honda sort of give another twenty horsepower, you need to be able to use it. A motorcycle is a fine balance between the rider and getting the technical side of it right.

`Honda definitely can build a better machine than Yamaha, but at the end of the day Valentino is half a second quicker than the other Yamaha riders and normally two or three tenths quicker, consistently, per lap than the Honda guys. Riders need to be consistently quick – in races, not just in qualifying´.

Doohan also made a brief appraisal of Rossi´s other title challengers, predicting bright futures for American rider John Hopkins and Australian youngsters Chris Vermeulen, currently plying his trade in the WSB series, and Casey Stoner.

`Suzuki need another Kevin Schwantz. They are not that far away again now - John Hopkins has a lot of talent and was given a `wake-up call´ recently. Kawasaki is getting better, Ducati went in the wrong direction this year, Aprilia´s engine design is wrong… but the future of the sport is good, the ten-year outlook is better and better and the manufacturers will always be there.

`I think Vermeulen has a great career ahead of him and I think there is some good things in store for him later in the year - and perhaps in a couple of years. He has a level head on his shoulders.

`There is every possibility that he might end up coming and visiting the team (Honda´s factory MotoGP squad) somewhere, and further down the track there is every possibility… he is a guy that Honda is looking at for the future.

`I would like to see that, perhaps not next year but the following year, that there is a position available for him in the HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) MotoGP team. Also, Stoner will just get better and better´.


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