Motor cycling: Doohan remains confident

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The Independent Online
Michael Doohan, the reigning world champion, is determined to continue his winning streak at the Dutch Grand Prix on Saturday despite crushing his leg in an horrific crash on the Assen track in 1992.

"Assen is a place that I find difficult to get along with," the Australian said. "I have always been fast and have had some good results but I don't enjoy going there." Doohan's leg almost had to be amputated after the 1992 smash.

But, much to his own surprise, he has won the Dutch world championship race for the past three years. Another victory on Saturday would be his sixth win in seven outings this season and put him firmly en route to a fourth successive world title.

Doohan has compared racing at Assen to racing on public roads without lamp-posts and houses. The twisting 6.049-kilometre circuit challenges riders with numerous high-speed kinks and rapid direction changes. Its surface is constructed like public roads with the camber falling away from the centre to provide effective rain drainage, posing a major challenge for the driving skills for riders.

"It is very fast and flowing, which is fine, but there are no real corners - many kinks," said Doohan, who is now 43 points clear of his nearest rival, Honda team-mate Alex Criville of Spain.

"It has a crown in the middle of the road which makes the corner banked, which means as you come out and over the top of the crown the bike goes light and gives you a lot of wheelspin," said Doohan, who has achieved 39 grand prix wins, 75 top-three placings, 41 pole positions and 35 fastest laps.

The lap record at Assen has been held since 1991 by Texan Kevin Schwantz, who clocked 2min 02.443sec.

Unlike Doohan, Criville actually likes Assen. "It is probably one of my favourite tracks," he said. "I always get good results there and I am not saying that because I won my first 500cc there in 1992."

Criville, who won the Spanish Grand Prix in May and was beaten only narrowly by Doohan in Assen last year, is determined to do better than he did in the last grand prix in France two weeks ago, when he finished fourth.

Max Biaggi, who has also won three world titles, is leading the 250cc category with 111 points after six races in his first season for Honda, 13 points ahead of his team-mate Ralf Waldmann of Germany. The Italian teenager Valentino Rossi, riding an Aprilia, leads the 125cc category with four victories from six races. Rossi is on 120 points, 21 clear of Honda's Noboru Ueda.

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