Doohan: In Qatar they'll both be strong, challenge for the win

Five-time world champion Mick Doohan gives his opinion on Repsol Honda’s new rider line-up; doesn’t foresee injury worries affecting either rider’s start to the season.
Doohan: In Qatar they'll both be strong, challenge for the win

Having stepped into Honda’s factory team during the 'reign' of his country’s inaugural 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner, five-time world champion Mick Doohan knows a thing or two about competing alongside – not to mention beating and outlasting - a heavyweight team-mate.

So, too, does he understand the grit, desire and bloody-minded determination it takes to return to the top after serious injury. Thus Doohan is well placed to judge the impact of Jorge Lorenzo’s arrival to the Repsol Honda team in 2019, and how injury will affect his and team-mate Marc Marquez’s fortunes.

The much-hyped ‘dream team’ was presented officially in Madrid on Wednesday, and amid the excitement over riders who boast a combined twelve world championships, 138 race wins and 267 grand prix podiums sharing the same garage, there was mild concern too.



A recurring issue with Marquez’s left shoulder forced the 25-year old to undergo “complicated” and “aggressive” surgery in December, leaving him with a recovery time estimated to be between “three to four” months. Meanwhile a recent training crash for Lorenzo fractured his left scaphoid, an injury that has ruled him out of February’s Sepang test.

Doohan, however, doesn’t foresee any complications. Along with coming back from a horrific, career-threatening broken leg toward the end of 1992, the third most winning rider in premier class history has experience of breaking a scaphoid, too.

“It was at the beginning of ’93 just before the start of the season in fact,” he recalled after joining the Repsol presentation with ex-team-mate Alex Crivillie. “We were trying fuel injection; and it leaked more fuel than it burnt! It high-sided me in Shah Alam so they pretty much bolted it [the scaphoid] back together, in the same way Jorge has done.

“Once it is bolted – at least for me – the bone was healed it’s just the soft tissue damage. I’m sure it’ll be tender but he should be OK.”

As a result of that injury, coupled with the lengthy recovery of his right leg, broken at Assen, ’92, Doohan was forced to ease his way into the following year, and shred a strand of aggression as he sought out his racing rhythm without accruing more injuries. 

“[They are] completely different eras but in '93-'94 I was putting my leg back together and tentatively you don't go into the start of the season as aggressively as you would do; or at least I wasn't,” he said.

“But then the momentum comes. You know it is a long season and you know there will be some guys who are always like a bull out of the gate in the first few anyway. So you have to maintain some momentum and get some good points. That was my philosophy.”

Considering the calibre of riders at Repsol Honda’s disposal, Doohan fully expects both Marquez and Lorenzo to be fighting toward the front of the season opener in Qatar on March the 8th in spite of their respective injuries.

“We’re six to eight weeks from the start of the season so we can expect both of these guys to be strong and challenge for the win. Mentally, they know why they are injured and there are no other issues. I think they will end up attacking the season like they have attacked any other season and see how the first few races unfold.

“I don't think the championship now is as different as it was years ago; you get through the first few races and you see where you are sitting and then put a game-plan together of what you need to do.”

As well as going up against Gardner from 1989 to '92, Doohan was part of the Repsol Honda team that won all before it in 1997, a year in which he, Alex Criville and Tady Okada won all of the season’s 15 races between them.

He also had to stem Criville’s championship charge in 1996 and ’98, but is well aware that focus on the other side of the box cannot become all-consuming.

“I think it is healthy to have a strong teammate,” he opined. “Somebody of the calibre of Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo are not really too worried about their teammate. Sure they want to be in front of them but they have to beat everybody.

“I think if you start focussing on any competitor then you lose what the objective is, and that's to win…and not just to beat your teammate. You need to work on yourself, your team to get a step ahead of competition.

“When the guy beside you has access to the same machine and equipment it means you have to work a little bit harder to make sure you stay on the front foot.

“Even when I was racing with Alex back in the day we had equal equipment, there was no clear number one. Yes, I was winning the world championships but there was no priority for what I was receiving.

“I was pushing to get everything done my way and I’m sure these guys will be doing that. At the end of the day it comes down to the individual, how hard he pushes and making the most of the package they have.”

Did he react differently when his principal competitor was a teammate? “Not really,” he said. “I’m far removed from the inner workings of the teams these days.

“But when I was racing then my inner team would try to hide as much of the information we were using and were trying to put in bluff scenarios so the other wouldn't know what we were going to be running in terms of set-up.

“Everything is uploaded with the data and everyone has access to the computers. You just have to do the best you can. I think Marc is a strong guy mentally and Lorenzo also. If they start to worry too much about their teammate then the other guys will be all over them.”