Mick Doohan rode a Honda RC213V MotoGP bike today, at the Philip Island Circuit. The five-time 500cc world champ said he was rusty, but enjoyed riding the bike...
Among Australian riders who’ve won the 500cc motorcycle grand prix racing world championship, there’s Wayne Gardner, who won the title in 1987, Casey Stoner, who took the crown in 2007 and 2011, and then there’s Mick Doohan, who won the 500cc world championship in 1994. And in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998. That’s right, the former Gold Coast resident won five 500cc world championships on the trot in the 1990s, earning the nickname ‘Dominant Doohan.’
Doohan retired from the 500cc GP class in 1999, when he only participated in the first two races of the season, leaving Spaniard Alex Criville to win the world championship that year. And now, at 47, Doohan is back. Well, just for the weekend, for a few exhibition laps around the Philip Island Circuit aboard the current Honda RC213V MotoGP bike, but for Doohan fans it was still a treat to see the old warrior ride the way he used to.
‘I was rusty, but it felt good. The last time I rode a Grand Prix bike at all was in the mid-2000s in Japan, so it’s been a long while. Repsol Honda gave me a fantastic opportunity to ride this year’s bike and I can’t thank them enough. It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad I’m not trying to line-up and go and qualify later this afternoon,’ said Doohan, speaking to SpeedCafe. The five-time 500cc world champ was lapping the circuit about 13 seconds slower than reigning MotoGP world champ Casey Stoner.
From 1989, when he got started in the 500cc class, to 1999, when he retired, Doohan made 137 starts in the premier class and won 54 races and five world championships. That he can still ride a Honda RC213V MotoGP bike around a circuit just 13 seconds slower than Casey is further proof – if any was needed – of the man’s abilities.
The 1980s and 1990s two-stroke Honda NSR500s that Doohan used to ride must be completely different from the current RC213V. The late-1980s Honda NSR500’s two-stroke engine produced an untamed 170-ish horsepower at 12,000rpm and the bike had a top speed of about 310km/h. By the end of the 1990s, power had climbed to about 200bhp and top speeds had gone up to around 315km/h. Today, the RC213V, with its 4-stroke 1000cc engine packs about 230bhp and has a top speed of around 330km/h. The big difference is in the RC213V’s electronics, which keep a relatively tighter leash on the bike as compared to the fire-breathing 500cc GP bikes of the 1980s and 1990s.
We’ll return to the present before we get completely carried away and ramble on for ages about the 1980s and the two-stroke 500cc era. Yes, sure, we loved that time but it’s all long gone and there’s no bringing it back. Still, it was an absolute delight to see one of our heroes coming back to the track and riding a GP bike once more, even if only for a day.
Cheers, Mick. You were the best.