Book of the Week

Mick Doohan: The Thunder From Down Under by Matt Oxley Haynes, pounds 14.99 hardback
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Mick Doohan: The Thunder From Down Under

by Matt Oxley Haynes, pounds 14.99 hardback

DOOHAN THE dominant has motorcycling's blue riband grand prix 500cc series in his now sizeable pocket. Five straight world championships, and within a lobbed can of Four-X of Giacomo Agostini's 68 victories and yet the insuperable Aussie still cuts an unloved, aloof figure in Britain. More chunder than thunder, to some. They go off the Richter Scale Down Under when Doohan wheels his Honda NSR on to a racetrack, but he has yet to emulate the acclaim that greets Carl Fogarty, Britain's triple world Superbike champion, in this country.

And it is not national prejudice. Kevin Schwantz, a Texan headbanger of a world champ was hugely popular here, until too many slides down the concrete carpet and the crippling of another American great, Wayne Rainey, proved a physiological barrier too far.

Perhaps that is a clue. Doohan may appear too detached, too focused, to woo the European racing public (not that he would care particularly). Which is a shame, because the man is a decent, honest, talented rider who deserves his place in the sport's pantheon.

So Matt Oxley's matey appraisal provides a timely bit of spit and polish to the 33-year-old's sheen (no pun intended). From mad Mick, the laid- back dirt track racer from Surfers Paradise, to prince Michael of Monaco, a two-wheeled millionaire with a Lear Jet on standby, Doohan's tale of rise - and the fall at Assen that nearly cost him a leg - grips as keenly as a freshly warmed Dunlop.

Why is he such a forbidding monomaniac? Perhaps that accident in 1992 (surgeons had to weld his legs together temporarily to save the damaged limb) enhanced Doohan's realisation that winning races is arisky addiction he is willing to pursue with only a modest regard for personal safety.

Doohan is also an adept practitioner of pit-lane mind games, dealing out mental anguish to pretenders. Not that he needs to; he is still the fastest man on two wheels. However, he can appear curmudgeonly to those outside his inner circle. This is because, as Oxley pinpoints, he's a bad loser - and that's what makes him such a great winner.

Thanks to Oxley's portrait - enhanced by sparkling photographs - there is no reason why we should not embrace Doohan as one of sport's true heroes - and a decent bloke, too.

Andrew Martin