Iron Man
interview michael doohan --1993
by dean adams
November 08, 1993

That horrible limp. If you saw Mick Doohan at all in the final races of 1992 or any in 1993, the obviously painful limp and the kicking motion he made to keep his foot from dragging stuck in your mind. Doohan could not place more than a fraction of his weight on the leg without wincing. For some persons, without Doohan's resilience, riding or even walking would be impossible. With the courage and fortitude he has a hard time explaining, Doohan did the unimaginable - he rode the entire 1993 season with his leg essentially fractured. In a bid to remain competitive, Doohan put so much pressure on the injured leg that the bone itself began to weaken and bend. After his Laguna Seca crash Doohan opted to have an American specialist fix the tibia correctly, and while he underwent what would be weeks of physical therapy I arranged an interview with Honda's great hope for 1994.

Q. How has your stay in America been? It's bewildering how unrecognized GP racing is in the US, isn't it?

A. I've been here about eight weeks and America isn't too bad. I haven't really been leading an exciting life while here, in Hospitals and seeing Doctors is about what I've been doing. I've spent good amount of time with Dean Miller, he's set us up with a couple of gyms out here, trying to stay fit, he's been helping me out with things. I've been down to Doug Chandler's place a time or two and then to Eddie's last week, but as I said, it hasn't been much of a holiday. I tried to crash Doug's dirt bikes the best I could, that about all the excitement I've had. I've spent some time here before. I stayed with Eddie at his place in California in 1989 and I have some friends in America, in Miami, Florida so I've spent some time there in the past.

In Australia roadracing's a bit bigger than here in America and a good example of that is here, I can walk down the street unrecognized. It doesn't bother me, at home I don't really focus on the celebrity part, anywhere really, I just try to be myself. It's a real shame that motorcycles and motorcycles racing aren't as big as they could be in America. To me personally it doesn't worry me that I'm not recognized in the street, but it is a shame that the sport doesn't get more recognition over here. It's a shame that it hasn't taken off here as it has in other countries. Eddie Lawson and myself walked around for a day or two in California and nobody recognized us anywhere, that says enough of how it is over here.

Q. A team that was instrumental to you in your Australian racing career, the Yamaha team, recently folded. Your thoughts on that and the repercussions of their leaving Australian racing.

A. It's hard to say what's going on with the Yamaha team in Australia. They haven't had the success, except for like the World Superbike stuff. I don't really know what happened but again, it is a shame that they won't be racing. The thing is, if one (factory) pulls out then another one thinks about it, so that kind of puts next year up in the air a little bit for the other teams. Hopefully they'll (Yamaha) have a re-think and do at least a few races next year and come back in 1995. It's really a shame that things couldn't get worked out to where that they could stay in racing.

Q. You have been to visit Wayne Rainey last week. You've seen what this has done to him, will it affect the way you look at racing?

A. It didn't affect my racing at all. I'm sure Wayne realized that it could have happened before it did happen. I realize that every time I ride a bike on a racetrack or even a car, for what it's worth, you can hurt yourself. His injury really knocked me about a bit because for the past few years Wayne and I have been racing real close, going for the championship, either him or I it was gonna be last year. It really knocked me around a fair bit but I went down the other day in LA and saw him, and he's just the same as he always is. It's very encouraging to see him that way. It's definitely a blow for the sport because Eddie Lawson retired at the end of 1992, Gardner with him and now, this with Rainey as well. We could do with a few high profile people getting back into it, to keep the interest high.

The biggest way it has affected me is that Wayne won't be lining up on the racing grid next to me, I'm not too concerned about him pulling out of racing because of his injury, I'm going to miss him mostly because, win or lose, you could always have a good race with Wayne, he was always there.

Q. Did you ever envision yourself in world championship GP racing when you began your racing career?

A. When I first started racing, I was racing 250 streetbikes and I thought roadracers were crazy!

I had been racing dirt bikes and really took some convincing to get me on a street bike to roadrace. It wasn't until 1987 that I'd actually gave away my job, for what it was worth, and started roadracing full time. I thought that maybe I could make a living off this, I really didn't think it could take me to where I am now, but I thought I'd give it a go and try and race as often as I could and see what I can do, try to live off the prize money and contracts. It's turned into a better gamble than I ever thought it would be. I never figured I'd be racing factory Hondas or factory anything really, I was getting help from Yamaha Australia at the time and a local Yamaha dealer, Brisbane Yamaha, but I never really expected to be asked to ride for a big team or any team for that matter. What would I have done if I hadn't become a racer? Probably not a great deal, probably working in the building industry and riding motorcycles for the fun of it, just cruising around. I'd probably have raced in Australia but I could see myself living in the same town where I started. (laughs) Bikes and girls, just taking it easy. I'd be doing whatever it is that people who don't do this do.

Q. Many factories request that their riders do not ride on the street for safety purposes, how often do you ride a street bike?

A. I might go on a bike ride on the street only occasionally now. There is a bike shop on the gulf coast of Australia where I'm from that Paul Feeney's got and they organize a fun run that I'll do often, but other than that I only ride two or three times a year. When it seems safe enough, but it never is, I'll give it a roll, ride fast on the street. But we ride pretty sensibly on the street when we do ride, although it's hard to ride slow after riding at a race pace for an entire year. When I was seventeen or eighteen on streetbikes I was just out of control, now days I tend to think about it a little bit more.

Q. Your fellow countryman Wayne Gardner had some limited success with his machines being tended to by Erv Kanemoto. Have you ever had any thought about working with Ervin?

A. I'm quite happy with my tuner Jerry Burgess and I feel that Jerry is every bit a match for Erv. Erv and I talk and we're good friends but we have never even discussed a link up because I have such a such a good relationship with Jerry and the team I'm with now. We haven't any machine failures, besides the Australian GP at the beginning of the year. Basically our team has always worked right, Jerry and I worked together for the past five years, he just knows what exactly it is that I want. So the relationship I have with Jerry right now I don't think I could make any advances with by going to Erv.

Q. Your brother, Scott Doohan, is a racer as well yet he has not had the success you've had at the world level, is that a sore point with him?

A. Scott got into roadracing after I did, he was the one who really got me into roadracing,, racing bikes really too. I guess he saw that when we would race when we were kids that I had won a few races and he could beat me then on dirt bikes, so he got into it. He's doing quite well too. I don't think that he doesn't have the same approach as me, like he has a family and a couple of beautiful daughters, he's married. So he's got some obligations that I haven't got. He's kind of in it for the enjoyment and a half job, racing is to him. He loves to win as well, but as for me I'm 100% into racing.

Q. You are a good friend of Eddie Lawson's, will we see him a 500 any time soon?

A. It's hard to say. I don't know whether we'll see him on a 500 or anything, but I'm sure that maybe the eight hour and Daytona, races like that, I'm sure he'd consider. I have not really talked to him about it, like what his plans for the future are. I think he wants to go car racing again next year. I think that he might be doing the eight hour next year. You never know, maybe he and I will hook up and do it together, but again I don't know what his plans are for riding a 500. It would be good to see him out on the grid again.

Q. Your injury to your leg has been one that almost forced you out of racing. What have you done to mentally cope with the injury?

A. It's the same as I said about Wayne Rainey's incident, there are dangers involved in racing. I knew that getting into this sport. I have just tried to put it all behind me and go on with my leg, but it just seems to come back out in front of me all the time. The biggest problem I had was in Holland, when they first went to fix it they didn't do it properly and it had a bit of a bend to the right. if they had fixed it right in the first place I'd have never had this problem, and maybe had a world championship. That's not the way it is though, I never let the thing heal and perhaps I should have sat this year out or at least the first part of it to let it heal. Now, I won't be doing any testing until January so I should have a good bit of time to let it heal. I have to get this thing straight and then get it strong enough so I can ride with as much of my strength in my legs, if I do that I think I have a fairly good shot at having a good year. This year I knew I was up against it, that I had to get out there to give it the best shot I could. Basically my leg had never healed, it had stayed broken all through the year. That's why we had to fix it, I knew it had to be done. I just couldn't put the pressure on it that I needed to, I was always hopping on it. I was in a situation I really hadn't been in, a year I just had to get through, to get another ride for next year, get that ride and then get my leg fixed and then go for the championship.

Q. Have you ever had words with the Dutch surgeons who botched the operation in the first place?

A. Just at that time, after the surgery. I think they also realized that they could have done something to prevent what had happened, but again, that's all in the past. All I'm worried about at this point is getting ready for next year, getting as good as I can and as many miles under my belt before the first race in Australia.

Q. Your riding style didn't seem to change much after the rear brake lever was moved to the handlebars. What was it like riding those first few races once you'd come back?

A. The first thing I noticed was that when we went testing in pre-season I was steering a lot more with the handlebars than I was with my feet. That caught me out once as well and threw me down the road at about 210 kph. That was the first time I knew that I've really got to think about this and change the way I ride the bike until I have my leg back. Also, I didn't have a rear brake either so then I really started getting alot of pressure on my leg and it started to bend over and that's when the angulation really started getting bad. It is just like having a sore wrist, when you're racing you don't even think about it until the race is over. At the beginning of the season I'm sure I was definitely putting, especially in changing direction, putting alot of emphasis on the front end of the bike, through the handlebars.

My riding style never changed a great deal I don't think, I've never really been to analytical with it ever, my riding though. I know that in the first part of the year I couldn't get much leverage through the footpegs and had to do most of it though my arms when going from right to left. I had to turn the bars actually when swapping from right to left, it actually made the whole thing just a little bit scary. Once my leg started to get a little bit better and I'd made a few adjustments to the bike it was pretty much back to normal, although I don't think I'll ever push it as hard on the front this year as I did last year. I think the tires helped me too, everyone was switching from Michelin to Dunlop and back again while I stuck with Michelin and I could make a little time on the entrance of the corner because I was so confident in the tires. As soon as we put the rear brake up on the handlebar, we came good. I finished second the first time out and I've been on the rostrum every time out after that. I don't think that it's gonna affect my riding in any way, it's just a matter of getting strong enough, fit enough and get some miles under me, then I'll feel I have as good a chance as anyone else.

Q. The bike wasn't right though when you originally rode it in pre season testing and for the first part of the season ....

A. I couldn't test much last year and they had to do testing with the test riders in Japan and then with Daryll and Itoh. They kind of confused Darryll and Itoh, they wouldn't go back to the base(line). They started throwing parts at the bikes and couldn't get back to a base point again. Then they got lost and they wouldn't compare from the old set up to the way the bike was with the new bike. They'd put a new part on and then another new part on in front of that and then they lost their base, their starting point. When I got on the bike in Malaysia, just before the start of the season it just wasn't right and from then on in I tried to get the thing changed. We had mechanical things that we couldn't help either. Then, the machine broke in Australia and for me that was pretty good because then I got them to change the bike the way I wanted it. Basically we were pretty strong as a team all through the year, working together Darryl, Itoh and myself.

Q. Rothmans leaving Honda is a subject you've been grilled on by everyone. What can you tell us, how will it affect the team and yourself?

A. It might affect how many riders the team might have, last year we had quite a big team and without Rothmans we may not have the big team again. For me anyway, I'll have HRC or Honda motor sponsorship no matter what happens. If we do get a sponsor, well then we'll have a sponsor and I'll run their colors but if not I'll be in HRC or Honda Motor sponsorship. My support will not be any different than it has been years past regardless of sponsorship.

Q. Your friend and team mate Darryl Beattie finished his first full season of GP racing with the close of 1993. Would do analyze his season for us? He has been mentioned as a Roberts Yamaha rider for 1994, any insight into that?

A. I think he had a good season. I got to see it from one end to the other and he was the third best rider. He knows all the racetracks now because he finished all the races, so that will help him immensely next season. Hopefully he will still be with Honda next season, he's a good guy to have on the team and he helps me out because our riding styles are similar. Whether he stays with Honda I guess is between Darryl and Honda, we'll have to wait and see what happens


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