5 years ago
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Every champion has to start somewhere, and Mick Doohan is no different. Before he was a world beater and racing legend, he was a kid on a motorbike. The Australian explained to MotoGP.com where he came from - and his incredible journey to the top.
“My first memory with a motorcycle; I was very young, I was on a little bike, you know, running around just out there in the forest in Australia," remembers the 5-time premier class title winner. "So I think my mother got concerned that I was just running through the what we call 'bush' in Australia. So she wanted us to go racing, so I started racing about a year later. From there, I was then racing dirt bikes and then street bikes - and then I got invited to go and race in Japan."
That would prove the first big breakthrough for Doohan, getting seen by Yamaha and then beginning world level competition in World Superbike.
"Then Yamaha picked me up, and then the World Superbike Championship started," continues the Aussie. "So that was the first year of that. And I did two races, and then I won three out of the four races so, you know, the next minute the telephone was ringing from teams to come into the World Championship. It happened very, very quickly and I was surprised. And I spent the rest of my career racing the World Championship.
"It took a little bit for me to understand and even actually convince myself that I was able to compete with these bikes, because they were so difficult to ride and it sapped the confidence out of you. So I really had to dig down deep to try to get myself in a mental position, to say 'hey, I can conquer this thing and I can beat these guys' and, you know, a couple of injuries later I did! But it wasn’t an easy road. It wasn’t so much that I was great saying that we needed to do this or we needed to do that, but I was good at giving the feedback of what I wanted the bike to be like. And I just wanted a bike that was relatively easy to ride."
That was sometimes not at odds with engineers, but a different approach and focus - one that proved incredibly successful and saw Doohan take five championships in a row, as well being one that the Australian thinks should return as a philosophy.
"I think if you let the engineers be engineers, they just want to build a bike that is a masterpiece of machinery," says Doohan, "but it might not have the feel or the rideability. So we kept things very basic and we’d only improve the parts that needed improving rather than reinvent the wheel, and you know, that’s what kept the Honda at the forefront for so long. I see here at the moment that it’s starting to move around again, and for me it looks like the Honda is starting to be too much an engineering company again. Marquez seems to be about the only one who can ride it, the other guys seem to struggle."
Speaking of the Championship leader, Marc Marquez is knocking on the door of some Doohan-related history and the Australian former world champion thinks he'll go on to much, much more.
"I never dreamed that I would have 54 Grand Prix wins. Marc Márquez will take his 54th win the next times he does…but number 54 for him will be very small. I’m sure in five or ten years’ time, 54 will be only a third or, if that, of how many he’s actually won in total. Last year perhaps there was a lot of things that he learned and he can use them, put them to work this year and really capitalise on the position he is in.”
MotoGP™ gets back on track at MotorLand Aragon on the 23rd September, as Marquez heads back home and tries to hit that magic number 54 in the history books.
Flashback: How Doohan got his start
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