Mick Doohan Interview
Following injury to defending MotoGP champion Marc Marquez, five-time motorcycle World Champion Mick Doohan spoke with Fox Sports reporter Chris Stubbs, ahead of the Grand Prix of Andalucia at Jerez, this Sunday to talk about all things MotoGP.
We have taken some of the most pertinent bits from that conversation and reproduced them for you here. If it doesn’t flow particularly well it is because we have just pulled the more juicy bits out, and not that Mick was all over the place. The headline image is from Honda’s 60 years of racing celebration 12 months ago.
Mick on the season opener
“It was an interesting race, very unpredictable in a way, from what the qualifying and practice sessions displayed. Marc was always going to be a contender, the Yamahas were consistent, Marc had the outright speed but for one reason or another ran off and almost crashed early in the race, before then clawing his way back up to third and then that turn three, which is an easy corner to crash on to be honest, from reasonably slow to accelerating hard and he unfortunately hurt himself. But all in all it was good to see the bikes back on track and give everyone enough motorsport for the weekend.“
And on that bloke Marc Marquez
“Marc rarely crashes in a race but quite often crashes in practice sessions, I think maybe even once or twice on the weekend. As soon as I saw the bike hit him, to me that looked where the damage was caused, you could see the arm was fairly loose, as if it had either dislocated or broken, but you knew there was some injury. You could see straight away that he was a bit hesitant to move it too much, so I was just hoping he wasn’t too hurt because of all these races being back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and we are going to lose the championship contender, or one of the contenders, but really bar injury looking at the sheets you would have to say he was on course for another title.
“That said Quartararo was always going to be tough for him to beat, had he beaten him on the day who knows, but back to Marc it is a shame to see him actually injure himself, I believe it is just the humerus on his right arm and I am not sure as to what other damage he sustained in the crash.
“There is no doubting how quick he is, I think he has all his competitors scratching their heads as to where he finds his speed, he went back down to 17th or 18th, and I am sure he is thinking from where ever he is now in hindsight that he should have probably settled for that third or whatever it was before had the crash, but you know that’s not in his nature, it’s not in his DNA to take second best. He felt as though he could win, and failing that crash, I believe he doesn’t run much traction control, but you can see when the bike lit up he was actually on the painted kerb, so whether or not that sort of helped the bike spin and flick him off the way it did, but all in all it was one of the better rides and that is what makes MotoGP so exciting.
“You know in car racing it is difficult to come from the back of the field, especially in dry conditions, but to come all the way through he certainly showed there how good the racing in MotoGP is. We have seen it in the past with Valentino Rossi coming from the back of the grid and all the way through to the podium, MotoGP is such a good spectacle like that. But at the end of the day it is unfortunate that we might not see Marc do it again for a little while.
“It wouldn’t be Marc to just sit there, he had come through the pack so quickly and was all over the back of Vinales when he crashed, Vinales did seem to pick the pace up a little bit, but you know, should he have been in that much of a rush, there was still enough laps really to perhaps try and get Fabio but as an ex-racer, that mind-set.. You know I am sure he is sitting back where ever he is now and thinking about the way things should have unfolded but in the real life situation outside of racing we all have those type of bright spark moments where we think we should have done this or done that, but you know he is a racer, and he wins because he is so…. Well number one he is just so talented, but number two he does push it to the limit every single time and evey single lap he is out there, and that’s what we all love watching him for and that is what he is respected for, so if he was to start to roll off and think about his approach to racing differently he would be a different rider.. I suspect he will come back and he won’t be any different.
“Hopefully the arm will be strong enough in a few weeks, I don’t think he will have the full strength required to man-handle the MotoGP bike, they are not that heavy in comparison to a street-bike but you’ve still got 300+ horsepower and 150kg of bike that doesn’t want to turn, stopping from incredible speeds, and just the physicality of moving yourself all around the bike. Basically all the stopping power is on the front brake so he needs his right hand for that and the gas and also to steer it so there is a fair bit happening with that right arm, more so than the left, so it is not going to be an easy recovery for him because there is no time to recover, there is not a weekend off or two weekends off, they are just back-to-back-to-back so I think MotoGP is going to be a little bit different without him being in there and in the mix for a little while, but that said I think the Yamaha, especially at that circuit, they look to be strong, and maybe they will continue on and we can see some great racing, and watch for Marc to be coming back through the pack as he gets stronger.
“If the soft tissue element side of it gets strong enough quick enough then he will be back doing the same thing and not thinking about finishing second if he thinks he can finish first, and that’s what makes him a multi-time World Champion.”
Doohan also crashed in that part of the track at Jerez
“I think in 1995 I was leading the race there and I crashed in that exact same spot, and crashed out of the race, but it was madness to crash but that is again, back to the racers DNA to just keep pushing, I was about six-seconds ahead in that same spot, same sort of crash but the bike didn’t hit me.
“Then in 1999 I was out of that turn and on the white line on the exit before going into the next one where I just touched that and it was damp.
“For sure I know the circuit, I know the corner, and I have crashed there twice and once with career ending injuries, but I don’t really go back to the space and that go well that feels like me, I was more hoping that it was just a walk away incident injury-free for him, although it is quick, there is probably second to third gear so say somewhere between 140 to 180 km/h when he has launched off the bike, so still reasonably quick, but almost slow enough to, quite often on these bikes you get hurt on the slow-speed high-sides because you are not like a skimming rock, so the thing has just flipped him up and he slammed down and landed in front of the bike and that is what happened to break his arm.
“The faster ones, even mine in 1999 where I was a bit quicker due to being further out of the turn, a bit over 200 km/h, and I hit the gravel trap feet-first and then flipped into the wall, the sudden stop really did all the damage to me. But generally the faster, not always, but quite often, if you skim like a rock on a fast high-speed turn you are pretty good.”
Coming back from injuries as fast as possible…
“I knew I could hurt myself, okay I hurt myself, what is the quickest way back, that is the mind-set of any sportsman or sportswoman. How do I get back as quickly as I can, let’s take option A.
“I am pretty sure at the end of if 1989 in a test, at Suzuki in Japan, it was a very cold day, back in those earlier days the tyre warming, especially in tests, wasn’t that important. The track temperature was that cold that it spun up in a straight line at about 160 km/h and flicked me over the top, and when I landed broke my left humerus, and I did exactly as what we saw Marc did, sat there and went to move up and could feel the bones grind, sounds worse than it is, but you start thinking well that is not a feeling I really enjoy…. Then basically the mind goes straight to how do I get back testing….I think Wayne Gardner was my team-mate at that period, and I think we were testing the following month somewhere in the world, I can’t remember where, but I got it bolted together and then at the end of that season I had the hardware removed to give you a chance to break it again if you need to, instead of shattering it with all the metal in there.”
Is the Honda that hard to ride?
“Dani Pedrosa was his team-mate and win a couple of races a year and push him, but I don’t think it is an easy bike to ride, for sure, the Honda has always got an inherent trait of not wanting to turn, it will lean over, but it still won’t want to turn. Always got good power, but you have to physically man-handle it compared to some of the other bikes… especially if you are used to riding one of those other bikes, which are probably a little more stable going into turns and through the middle of the turn and able to change direction, instead of a one-line type bike… the Honda is pretty much get the thing in there and that is where you are going to stay, and then you want to fire it out.
“Are there other people who can ride it, absolutely there is, are the right people on the bike at the moment, well I am not close enough to it to really say that but, you know Honda technologically are a superior company than some of the others, Yamaha are probably their biggest competitor in that aspect, but if they needed to change the bike or the handling of the bike just a little bit to suit another rider, I think they would.
“You know the bikes have always been notoriously difficult to ride, right back from when Wayne Gardner was riding them and when he won his championship, to Freddie Spencer, all the way through…you know if you look back through the history of the sport really there are only a couple of guys at the front who were doing different things than the other guys on the bikes which were similar behind them so…
“Marc has just been that far head and shoulders above the field, let alone the other guys on the Honda….you know I think if Honda get behind the next guy, if there is a next guy coming through, then… His brother hasn’t really had any time to test or anything really, but he seems a little gun-shy of it at the moment, but you know maybe Pol Espargaro might go well…Cal Crutchlow has shown signs of brilliance occasionally but for me he is just a little bit inconsistent, but it does show that the bike is capable, especially in qualifying, it’s just the likes of Marc can do it lap after lap after lap.. so yeah the bike isn’t easy to ride, but nor are any of them.”
Can Marc win the championship?
“He can, if he is strong enough, depends of course on how many races he will miss, but you know he has won previous championships by four maybe five race margins, I would have to go back and have a look exactly but he has certainly won with a very clear margin over his next competitor.
“Number one if he does go out there and put the pressure on and starts winning, winning, winning then that puts the pressure back on to the guy he is chasing, then that rider could make a mistake then that closes the gap even quicker.
“You know the good thing about watching Marc and MotoGP is, but mainly Marc, is you just never know what is going to happen, you never say it is impossible with Marc, because, honestly, the guy has a different mind-set, and that goes back to what we were talking about with the bike, he is prepared to do what others aren’t…you know it wouldn’t matter what bike he was on, he would make it look for everyone else on that bike as though the bike is difficult to ride, if he was on a Yamaha it would be the same.
“He has 100 per cent got a chance…. He has already missed one, let’s say, as he scored no points, even if he missed these next two and then came back, or even if he only misses this weekend, he will still score points as soon as he comes back, even with one arm, because he is that good, as long as he doesn’t fatigue he will score some points, and that will just motivate him to just keep getting stronger..”
What about Jack Miller?
“Jack is now on a factory bike, and next year on the full factory squad, and you know he is maturing and he certainly has got the pace…. touch wood, again, he doesn’t make that many silly mistakes, like he has in the past, and when I say silly I really mean just pushing and learning basically…he is certainly capable of winning the championship and fourth on the weekend was a great start to the season….with the season being so compact this year, back-to-back-to-back and realistically at this stage we don’t know exactly how many races there is going to be, scoring points is what you need and if he can go one better and maintain podiums for the duration, then he is in the hunt.
“I certainly think there are going to be some wet races, this year in Europe there seems to be a fair amount of rain about, and Jack is great in the wet, he is good in qualifying and quite often on the front row so he is in the box seat to make it happen.
“It would be great this year, but certainly within the next couple of years he is World Championship material without a doubt, I think he is understanding what it takes every day he is out there, more and more, to obtain that championship.”
So who is the favourite in Mick Doohan’s mind?
“Quartararo was always going to be strong, he has been strong in qualifying, well last year he was the dominant qualifier really, and Marc sort of played with him a couple of times in the races and made him feel like he was going to win some races, and perhaps that might have been the same on the weekend if Marc hadn’t crashed, but Quartararo is championship material, he is certainly consistent, he is fast, I think if he gets another win under his belt you will see his confidence grow and he will just get faster and faster, I think he is certainly a championship contender.
“Vinales has been up and down over the years.. He has always won the off-season testing championship, he’s always been quick then… He got a quick start in Jerez and if he can keep that going then he is going to be a challenger. Both Fabio and Vinales are on the same bikes, same level of equipment, so it could be a Yamaha year…
“And the rest of it, I am not sure that the Suzuki is really in the play as yet and let’s not discard Dovizioso. Okay he hurt himself with that dirt-bike accident and did a collar-bone, but he was also up there and got on the podium in the end at the season opener. He is certainly capable of winning, he is mature enough, if Ducati can keep the motivation and keep the bike on track….I think you know as far as the Ducati squad it will be good for him and Miller to be pushing each other for that honour of best Ducati, and that might push them towards a championship, either one of those guys.”
Is Rossi out of contention?
“Look you can never say never with Valentino, he is 41-years-old and put it on the second row in qualifying, he is sort of in and around there the whole time.
“How do you say this, with respect to the guy, I think if there is an opportunity, and I think the opportunities need to present themselves, if there is an opportunity he is going to be there and able to win a race.
“He was on the podium a couple of times last year from memory, so he is certainly no slouch, he is double the age of some of these guys on the grid. Is a championship in his grasp at the moment, it’s not something that comes to mind that he is going to be a championship favourite but you can never discard him and we are only one round in so let’s see, he certainly been doing plenty of racing in the off-season at his dirt facility, with all the other Italians and whoever else wants to come, so the motivation is 100 per cent there, he is committed, he is passionate and he is performing well, so I wouldn’t discard him but you know the younger generation just probably have more hunger than what he has right at the moment. but for him and the sport it is great to see him in and amongst it all.”
Thanks to Fox Sports for the audio. The Fox Sports MotoGP commentary team is back in studio on Sunday night for the Grand Prix of Andalucia, at the Jerez circuit, with stand-in Host Tara Rushton, alongside experts Chris Vermeulen and Kevin Magee.
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