Mick Doohan (Gold Coast, 57) accompanies his son Jack, a Formula 2 driver, on all the races. He is no stranger to the paddock of Formula 1, on the contrary, the myths of the engine are in all the circuits whatever the discipline. His way of walking betrays him, a serious injury nearly cost him his right leg in 1992, and another horrific crash in practice for the 1999 Spanish GP ended his motorcycling career sooner than expected.
Living legend of MotoGP and Honda, was the big dominator of the 90s and was five consecutive 500cc champions between 1994 and 1998. The Australian understands better than anyone the situation that Márquez is currently experiencing, recovering from his fourth operation on the humerus of his right arm. At the end of June, Marc takes stock of his situation and publicly thanks Doohan for his support during this period. AS set up an interview with the five-time champion to ask him why.
—Márquez recently said that after his fourth operation, he was grateful to several people, including Mick Doohan. Can you explain what Mark is referring to?
“I don’t think I had much to do with it, honestly. We talked for years because of my association with Honda. My first concern is your safety, your health, life after the races. Because running, if you look at it in hindsight, is just a very small part of your life. We have spoken several times now, more often since he had injuries a few years ago. The injury I had and the one he has are not comparable, but psychologically we have the same thoughts. I guess I’m trying to help you digest all of this through the experience of someone who has gone through something similar.
“How does a pilot feel when he’s been in drydock for three years?”
“Marc is still clearly very fast and mentally strong. What you must be feeling is frustration. The biggest disappointment, as a driver, is the frustration of knowing that you can’t race like before. Sometimes you go over the limit, because physically you are not able to ride at the same level. That’s why, I’m sure, he takes time off to recover, to fix his arm properly, to come back one hundred percent. And so he can ride the bike as he needs to, without compromising his safety, to win again.
—His rivals continue to drive during these three years, he doesn’t. Is it possible to think of winning again when I return?
— It’s not easy, it never is, sport doesn’t wait for anyone. But he has already shown that he can win races with just one arm. Like I said, he’s very strong mentally, he’s won six MotoGP titles and you don’t understand that if you’re a softie. He is one of the best of all time. Until the moment he decided to quit (in the middle of the 2022 season), he was still among the fastest. I don’t see any problem for him to come back after six months, do some tests, get back in shape and be able to compete with whoever is in front. He may not have raced a lot in those days, but he already knows how to compete. What is he, 29 years old? In fact, he is still young. If he is physically good, if he can compete at the highest level, if he was already winning with one arm… with two arms and two legs, I think he is capable of achieving it.
—How does a pilot come to the decision to take a step back?
“It’s a very difficult decision, but it shows that Marc is very smart, very strong, because he made the right decision. There was no point in continuing, more damage could be done and he couldn’t drive like he knows how to. Besides, I was not going to win this World Cup. Health is a priority, focus on the arm then focus on next season.
What memories do you have of your retirement?
—When I stopped in 1999 I crashed, I could have come back in the middle of the season in 2000. But until 2001 I couldn’t have fought for the title, because then I was still hurt. For me, it was time to stop. I was 33 years old, I had a serious injury before and I already knew that I could do it, that I could come back. But Marc doesn’t know if he can win when he comes back and he deserves to have this opportunity with himself. I’m sure you can and you made the right decision. Also, having a team like Repsol Honda behind you, supporting you and giving you time to come back strong, is good for everyone.
—Without Marquez, Honda is not seen in MotoGP…
“Honda is also in a difficult situation. I say this because Marc is the only one who makes the bike always good. His brother is suffering, even (Pol) Espargaró is suffering. Everyone who gets on the bike is suffering, it’s Marc who makes the difference but at the same time he takes too many risks, that’s why he falls. Honda has to work, just like Márquez has to work. They should check how they work on the bike. Alberto Puig is the right person, I know him well. He is strong. I hope I can influence the Honda engineers so that they are again a reference.