MICK DOOHAN ON TZRS
“WITHOUT A DOUBT THE TZR MADE ME LOOK GOOD, AND IT WAS REALLY A STEPPING STONE TO THE REST OF MY CAREER”
Mick Doohan (five times World 500cc Champion, lest we forget) raised a few eyebrows in 1987 on a TZR. This is how he remembers the bike. “We didn’t actually have a one -make series in Australia, although I know they did elsewhere. It would have been fun if it was, but it was just a 250 proddie class. So you’d have TZRS and older Suzuki RGS and Kawsaki KRS and even older Yamaha RZS. You can see from that photo that we got some big fields there! My TZR was supplied by Yamaha and we had local dealer support so we could afford to race it. We raced all up and down the East Coast, mainly. We weren’t very professional – we’d just turn up with the bike in the back of the ute, check the tyre pressures (if we remembered) and get out and race.
“For me the TZR was a big step up from the production bikes I’d ridden before - I’d had an RZ250, and the 500, and then an FZ750. I couldn’t say it was like a pure race bike, because I didn’t know what a pure race bike felt like then – I didn’t really put a leg over one until the NSR500 in 1989. So all I knew was that the TZR made my old RZ feel awful!
“Yamaha just had a way of making bikes that handled, a really user-friendly chassis, it just did everything you wanted it to. In fact when I first rode the NSR500 I told Honda that Yamaha’s street bikes handled better than Honda’s race bikes! It was only when Eddie Lawson came from Yamaha and said the same thing that things started to change and we developed the 1990 NSR, which was a much better package. We never did get them to handle as well as the Yamahas though.
“But the TZR taught me so much – you’d just be drifting with the momentum, especially on those street tyres, so it taught me a lot about confidence and carrying high corner speed. I was quoted at the time as saying I didn’t want to race anything faster than 200kph, but that was really because I was adapting after racing dirt bikes – road racers just seemed nuts!
“But you get used to it, and it becomes irrelevant whether you’re doing 200 or 300kph - until it goes wrong and you’re sliding down the track. Without a doubt the TZR made me look good, and it was really a stepping stone to the rest of my career – at Easter 1987 the local head of Yamaha introduced me to a Japanese dealer, and he invited me to the Suzuka 8hr and that was the leg-up I needed to get off the 250 production bikes and into international races. “
Which is Micky D? ‘Do you really have to ask, mate?’