MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
How I rode: Mick Doohan
The teak-tough Aussie was the most successful 500 two-stroke rider of all time. This is how Mick Doohan did it
Mick Doohan raced 500 GPs from 1989 to 1999, during which time the 500 two-strokes evolved from truly malevolent machines to mostly rider-friendly missiles.
His debut season, aboard Honda’s vicious 1989 NSR500, was marred by injury. So too was what should’ve been his first championship-winning season, in 1992. Doohan nearly lost his right leg following an accident at that year’s Dutch TT, but fought back from that to win five consecutive 500 titles from 1994 to 1998. He retired injured, during the 1999 season, just like rivals Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz before him. As Doohan says, “I didn’t crash much, but when I did I did it properly”.
You had a very rapid rise – from 250 proddie bikes in 1987 to superbikes in 1988 to 500s in 1989 – how did you adjust?
Going from proddie bikes to the superbike, the superbike felt easier.
What about the 500s? Because the first 500 you rode was Yamaha’s YZR, when they were trying to sign you at the end of 1988…
I only rode the Yamaha 500 once and went quite well on it. To me it felt like every other Yamaha I’d ridden – you looked one way and the bike went that way. It had some throttle lag, almost like a dead spot, so you had to crack the throttle a bit to get the thing ticking over before you could really open it up. Whereas the Honda’s carburation was very connected – you’d open the throttle and it was there instantly, so the load would transfer straight to the rear tyre and the thing would spin up that easy. I preferred having a bit of lag.
When I first hopped on the Honda it threw me down pretty quick. That was the ’88 bike, after I’d tested the Yamaha. Then I hopped on the ’89 bike, which did similar things. I was thinking, ‘Jesus, have I signed for the right manufacturer?!’
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.