Doohan leads another procession

Motorcycling BRITISH GRAND PRIX World champion has no trouble in finally breaking his duck at Donington
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The Independent Online
Retirement has been on Michael Doohan's mind of late, his theory being that the competition in the 500cc is so tepid that it is hardly worth putting on his helmet. The British Grand Prix, it can safely be said, did not put back the day before he hangs up his leathers and starts drawing his pension.

The Australian world champion said he felt that he did not dominate yesterday's race, which was akin to Julius Caesar intimating he was just a back-bencher in the Senate when Rome turned from a republic to an empire. Doohan was an irresistible force at Donington, a winner with a lot to spare.

It was his first triumph at a track he dislikes, and it extends his world championship lead over Daryl Beattie to 15 points. Only a bad fall or a run of horrendous bad luck stand between him and his second title.

"It was one of the most satisfying races of the season," Doohan said. "I can't say I expected to win; the practice times suggested it would be very close. I thought the Suzukis were going well so, yes, this is a pleasant surprise."

To everyone else it was the sort of surprise you have when you find presents under the tree at Christmas - the shock would have been greater if it had not happened. Doohan was fourth going into the first corner, and by the the fourth lap Beattie had established a lead of four seconds. That was the low water mark for the world champion, however. From then on his charge towards the finishing line had a preordained quality to it.

Maybe if Scott Russell, who had been fastest in the morning's warm-up session, had been there the story might have been different. But once the American fell off his Lucky Strike Suzuki and was barred from the race because of concussion Doohan was unstoppable.

Beattie felt like a fish being drawn in on a line. "I was going pretty well, I was comfortable," he said. "But when I looked at the boards in the pits my lead was going - 2.3 seconds, 2.1, 1.8. I thought, 'Here he comes.' There was nothing I could do about it."

It was possibly this sense of the inevitable that preyed on Beattie's technique, and at Goddards Corner on the 10th lap he went too wide. Doohan seized on the error, was by in an orange and white flash and disappeared over the horizon.

"Visibly, I didn't think I was catching up," Doohan said. "I expected Daryl to come back at me, even when I got past. Maybe he was disturbed a little when I took the lead because I just pulled away."

By the end he could afford to ease off. It was his 25th Grand Prix win, and his sixth of the season, and his plans for putting up his feet are still unclear. "I'll definitely race in 1996," he said, "but 1997 I'm not sure about." Amplifying on a lack of competition, he added: "Let's say it's more satisfying going head to head and winning by half a second."

The British riders, meanwhile, had no hope of living with Doohan but had success of sorts. Neil Hodgson was seventh on a Yamaha for his best grand prix finish, while Sean Emmett and Eugene McManus were 13th and 14th.

Doohan was not the only person breaking a duck at the British Grand Prix. Max Biaggi won on a Chesterfield Aprilia in the 250cc race, beating Tetsuya Harada by 2.848sec.

The Italian world champion is not known for niceties, once knocking an opponent aside on the last lap with the words "bike racing is not classical dancing", but yesterday he had no need to emulate Jonah Lomu. Ahead by the third lap, he was as comfortable as any man could with a broken bone in his right hand.

"It was causing me problems," he said, "because my weight was thrown on to that hand every time I took a corner."

BRITISH GRAND PRIX (Donington Park): 500cc (30 laps, 75 miles): 1 M Doohan (Aus) Honda 47min 28.602sec (ave speed 94.78mph); 2 D Beattie (Aus) Suzuki +4.286sec; 3 A Criville (Sp) Honda +22.192; 4 L Capirossi (It) Honda +40.296; 5 L Cadalora (It) Yamaha +40.413; 6 S Itoh (Japan) Honda +46.131; 7 N Hodgson (GB) Yamaha +58.509; 8 J Borja (Sp) Yamaha +59.33; 9 B Garcia (Fr) Yamaha +1:01.432; 10 M Bosshard (Swit) Yamaha +1:30.756. Other British finishers: 13 S Emmett Yamaha +1: 37.132; 14 E McManus Yamaha +1:37.636. Did not finish: 15 C Walker Yamaha +1 lap. Fastest lap: Doohan 1:33.693 (96.04mph). Championship positions (after nine rounds): 1 Doohan 170pts; 2 Beattie 155; 3 Cadalora 110; 4 Criville 108; 5 A Puig 99; 6 Itoh 83: 7 A Barros 71: 8 Capirossi 61; 9 N Abe 55; 10 Borja 43.