On this day, August 21, at the 1994 Czech Grand Prix, Mick Doohan clinched his first 500cc World Championship crown.
He did so in fine style with with three races still remaining and won the title by 143-points after winning nine rounds in the 14-round season on his Showa suspended and Michelin shod NSR500.
Doohan then went on to win a further four titles in succession before an injury early in 1999 forced him into retirement.
After his right ankle fusion in 1992 Doohan had taken to using a thumb-brake set-up on the left bar to control the rear brake. The 1994 bike also sometimes sported a rear suspension adjuster on the left bar.
Mick Doohan on that 1994 World Championship
Taken from Motocourse
“All year long I tried to put the World Championship out of my mind. That wasn’t easy. Apart from being reminded of it all the time by other people, winning the title has to be every Grand Prix rider’s ambition, or else he wouldn’t be there.
“I’d already faced the disappointment in 1992 of being in the lead and losing it through injury, and I didn’t want to go through that again. I just tried to approach it race by race, and let the points take care of themselves. Now it’s over and I feel as though I can enjoy it.
“I have to thank Honda, of course, and also Michelin and Elf, for all their technical and other support. And especially my team. My crew chief Jeremy Burgess is more than a partner in my success. He’s a vital part of it; and people just don’t realise the amount of work he and his crew have put into this.
“I also owe everything to the doctors wo brought me back to race fitness in 1992: Dr. Costa, who probably saved my leg from amputation, and Dr. Louie and Dr. Ting in the USA, who helped repair the damage. Without them, I might not have been able to walk, let alone race.
“Winning the World Championship won’t change me. I’m just an ordinary guy who was lucky enough to have the opportunity and the determination, and I’m still the same person as champion as I was before I was champion.
“That’s not say victory isn’t sweet. I’m thrilled to have won. Now We” start working on trying to win next year as well.”
The best of the rest
Second in that 1994 World Championship was Luca Cadalora on a Yamaha YZR500 by two-points over the Cagiva mounted John Kocinski.
Kocinski won the opening round at Eastern Creek but that was the only round he won that year. Cadalora took two victories late in the season to clinch second place in the championship.
The Cagiva had overheating issues but was also interesting from an engineering perspective thanks to its carbon-fibre front frame, alloy middle and sometimes the team also ran a carbon-fibre swing-arm.
It also sported an interesting anti-dive system with variable rate linkages mated to a conventional mechanical system.
The caliper was mounted on a trailing link that pivoted at the axle, which operated an adjustable link which in turn was connected to the steering head.
Kevin Schwantz took two wins before crashing at the famous Laguna Seca corkscrew which hosted round 12 of the 14-round championship.
Schwantz dislocated his left hip and fractured his right scaphoid. The Texan sat out the remaining races in the ’94 season and have an operation as soon as possible to be able to begin winter testing earlier in preparation for the ’95 season.
This was a period where half the grid were on Yamaha machinery after the Japanese manufacturer had during that era embarked on a plan whereby they would sell Factory engines and provide chassis data to independent manufacturers such as Harris and ROC. 46 different riders started 500cc races throughout the season and 36 of those had been on Yamaha powered machinery. However, only around 30 of those 46 were regular starters throughout the whole championship.
Other interesting notes from the 1994 season were that Mick Doohan’s brother Scott also competed in the opening round at Eastern Creek where he scored a highly creditable 12th place finish on a Harris Yamaha backed by Shell.
1994 was a trying season for Daryl Beattie with then then 23-year-old struggling on a Team Roberts Marlboro Yamaha. A crash at Le Mans also saw Daryl lose all the toes from his foot after it was caught up between the chain and sprocket. In the races he did finish however they were all in the top ten with a best of 5th at the Catalunya finale. Daryl bounced back the following year, 1995, where he signed with Suzuki and went on to have his best season and challenged Doohan for the title.
1994 also marked the first of a 23-year-old Max Biaggi’s 250cc World Championship crowns while 28-year-old Kazuto Sakata won the 125cc Championship to make it a double for Aprilia.
Both of those minor crowns were taken after titanic season long tussles. Biaggi triumphing over Tadayuki Okada, Loris Capirossi, Doriano Romboni and Ralf Waldmann. The only Australians to make 250 starts in 1994 were Craig Connell, who like countryman Rene Bongers only competed in the Eastern Creek season opener where he finished a creditable 11th. Bongers came home a lap down in 23rd place.
The leading protagonists in the 125cc fight taking it up to Sakata had been Noburo Ueda, Takeshi Tsujimura, Dirk Raudies and Peter Ottl. Garry McCoy scored a couple of podiums but missed the final few rounds and along with a couple of retirements that saw the Australian place only 13th in the championship.
Another interesting note that stands in stark contrast to today is that in both the 250cc and 125cc classes there were more Japanese riders than Spanish or Italian riders taking part. In the 125cc category Japanese riders finished 1-2-3 in the championship.
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