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How Doohan and The Doctor were nearly teammates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

The plans were in place.

Five-time World Champion Mick Doohan has opened up on how close he was to riding on the same team as Italian great Valentino Rossi.

The plans were in place during 1999, with Doohan set to pair up with Rossi - then a fresh-raced 20-year-old - in the following season.

Rossi had not made his MotoGP™ debut at that stage but would, of course, go on to win seven world titles in the premier class in a glittering career that is yet to conclude.

The dream partnership never eventuated, though, with Doohan forced to retire after a 1999 crash in Spain.

Quizzed about how the pairing would have worked, Doohan told “I don’t think it would have been an issue.

“He was going to ride with myself. We were going to run another team, a full factory team, independent of Honda Repsol team.

“And then when it became evident that I wasn’t coming back to compete … [it fizzled out].”

Speaking to ex-MotoGP™ rider Chris Vermeulen in a video chat, Doohan said that even then, Rossi’s extreme talent was very evident.

“He is quick and he was quick from the outset,” he added.

“That was why we wanted him for a teammate, also.

“It would have been a tough challenge [being on the same team], I’m sure.

“He would have given me grief and I’m sure I would have given him grief.

“It’s one of those things that just never happened but … all the ingredients were there.”

Doohan added that he is in awe of the fact Rossi is still riding and said the Italian’s continued involvement in MotoGP™ was “great for the sport”.

Rossi will be replaced by young gun Fabio Quartararo at Yamaha’s factory team for the 2021 campaign, but he could continue riding next season, potentially with Yamaha’s satellite team.

“He is Yamaha’s golden boy, isn’t he? I’m sure they’re going to give him top-line equipment,” Doohan said about the 2021 possibility.

“He is still racing, he is still competitive and I admire his dedication … he is still quick enough.

“He has certainly got the experience … if he qualifies eighth, there’s every chance he is going to be on the podium … 20 years in MotoGP - that’s a long time at the top of the game.”

Doohan, who said the modern-day MotoGP™ action is a “great spectacle”, also highlighted his famous 1998 triumph at the iconic Phillip island Grand Prix Circuit as “one of the highlights of my career” in the compelling interview.

Watch the full chat with Doohan and Vermeulen here.