After a horror crash at Assen and two months out of action, Mick Doohan showed real grit and determination to finish second in the Championship in 1992 (just four points behind Wayne Rainey). The Aussie proved himself as a force to be reckoned with…
Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, the 1992 season heralded the almost supreme dominance by one bike and one rider for most of the coming decade. Aussie Mick Doohan had really bonded with the Big Bang Engine of the Honda NSR500 and the introduction of the new chassis, based around the endurance racer RVF750 RC45, complemented both man and machine. All the early signs suggested that the Mick Doohan was about to step into Wayne Gardner’s shoes and, hopefully, be the second Australian to take the 500 crown back down under again.
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The season began well with Doohan taking the first four races from Rainey who had to settle for two seconds and two DNFs; it certainly didn’t help the American that Mick was so unerringly consistent. The season also had its ups and downs with the mercurial and volatile John Kocinski riding alongside Rainey in Team Malboro Yamaha. Americans Kevin Schwantz and Doug Chandler were on Suzukis, Wayne Gardner carried limping along on the Rothmans Kanemoto Honda, while Honda HRC was running NSR500s with Shinichi Ito and Darryl Beattie.
Up to the midpoint of the season it looked as if the combination Honda and Doohan was the perfect pairing; only Wayne Rainey appeared to be in with a chance. If you were a gambler, as everything approached the halfway point, you’d have put your money on Doohan to take the prize. Unfortunately, things went wrongat the Dutch Assen circuit, and in a big way. With a substantial 53 points between him and second place man Schwantz at the start of the weekend, things looked good for Honda. Even an off in practice and mile run back to the pits didn’t seem to faze the Aussie, but come the race it all went wrong – very badly.
Doohan came off at speed breaking his right tibia in the process. Electing to have almost immediate surgery locally the operation subsequently caused the leg to swell badly due to blood supply issues. MotoGP doctor Claudio Costa effectively ‘kidnapped’ Doohan (and Schwantz who was also injured in the race) and performed limb-saving surgery back in Italy. It was all very much touch and go for the Honda rider with a very real chance he might lose his leg. With both limbs sewed together to enhance blood flow to the damaged one, hyperbaric chamber sessions, infections and multiple operations, Doohan’s leg was ultimately saved.
Amazingly the super-fit, supertough Aussie would be back on the grid and ready to compete once more just two months after the accident. Despite ‘only’ finishing 12th at the Brazilian GP, Doohan was back in the game and just weeks after his comeback he’d get a sixth place in the South Africa GP at Kyalami – hard doesn’t even begin to cover it! When the points were totted up, Yamaha’s Wayne Rainey had won the 1992 500 crown by just four. The American had suffered three DNFs across the season, whilst Doohan had missed four races in a row. Given that the scores were 140 to 136, few could argue the Aussie was a force to be reckoned with… if his injured leg held up okay.
Elsewhere, the 1992 season hadn’t been a text book one for Honda. Wayne Garner only managed to complete six races bagging just 78 points, whilst up-and-coming Spanish rider Alex Criville would only finish with 59. Once again Yamaha and Suzuki seemed to have beaten Honda almost hollow. What the 1993 season would bring would be anyone’s guess!
Words: Steve Cooper Photo: Don Morley
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