Motorcycling: Doohan on trail of fourth world title

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The Independent Online
The reigning 500cc champion, Michael Doohan of Australia, launched his bid for a fourth world title by winning the Malaysian Grand Prix at Shah Alam yesterday.

The Italian Giacomo Agostini and the Briton Mike Hailwood are the only riders to have won the 500cc title four times in a row. Doohan, riding a Honda, beat second-placed Alex Criville of Spain, also a Honda rider, by more than 11 seconds in the opening race of the year. Nobuatsu Aoki, of Japan, finished a further two seconds behind in third place.

Doohan set a lap record of 1min 24.840sec for the race at the 3.505-km track, beating the previous best of 1:25.100 set by the American John Kocinski in 1991.

Doohan, starting alongside Japan's Tadayuki Okada in pole position, stormed to the front on the fourth of the 33 laps and led for the rest of the way. "It was pretty hectic at the beginning and I was a little worried about the rain," he said.

The 31-year-old Australian said he was not too optimistic about next week's race in Suzuka, Japan. "It is not one of my favourite race tracks and the Japanese are very hard to beat there," he said.