Giving a Tootle

The story of Hendrik's ride on a Honda NSR 500 GP bike

In 1991, I was executive producer of a national television current affairs
program, the 7.30 Report, on the ABC. Mick Doohan, who lives on the Gold
Coast, held regular media conferences at Honda Australia, which was then at
189 Coronation Drive, Milton, in Brisbane. This is two minutes from the
ABC's studios.

Mick's publicist, Mike Porter, who also lives on the Gold Coast, had been
asking me to give his bloke a plug. It was terrible, said Mike, that most
people in Queensland didn't know Mick Doohan's name, but everyone knew of
Wayne Gardiner.

Mike gave me a PAL Betacam copy of Mick Doohan doing a flying lap of
Sydney's Eastern Creek circuit, with Doohan doing the commentary (such as,
"This is a slow, second gear corner, then it's up a little bit of a rise,
hard to keep the front wheel on the ground here"). I still have the tape.

I put it to air as a closer just before the Australian GP. Porter was
really impressed, because Doohan was finally off the sports pages and into
the news.

Two days later, as it happened, the news chief of staff told me that Doohan
would be
holding a presser at Milton at 10.30. It was a Friday, when I normally
don't work, and I was in jeans and T-shirt, not my usual suit and tie. But
I jumped in the news car with Harry Williams and went along for interest.

Etiquette requires that journalists not filing a same day-er wait until the
dailies have had their fill. As program producer, I wasn't filing a story
anyway. Reporters from Nine, Ten, Seven, and the ABC asked inane questions
(like, "Is it dangerous?"), then the Courier-Mail hack asked him how his
girlfriend coped with all his travel, and then... all this being over... I
was finally able to ask a question or two.

"Mr Doohan," I said...

He looked up, his publicist standing beside him said something in his ear,
and then Doohan interrupted both of us and said to me "Nice T-shirt. Wannta

The shirt I was wearing was the T-shirt of the Moto Guzzi Club of
Queensland. Black. Big map of Queensland. Gold eagle. Moto Guzzi written on
the sleeve too. Cost me $18.

Doohan's shirt was white, short-sleeved, with a small, turn-over collar.
Rothmans stitching. Spark plug manufacturer. His name.

"Nah," I said, shaking my head. "Nice try. Nah."

This brought the house down.

What's a NSR500 like to ride? Well, after that, he let me wheel
it out of the press conference, through the Honda's foyer, and onto the
footpath on Coronation Drive.

It was alright. Hasn't got the same turning circle of the V50. And that
chain rattle is a bit disconcerting. Seating position a bit cramped for my
frame. It's ok, but I imagine it would be a bit difficult to live with.

I told Mick that, of course.

And we sent him a MG Club of Qld T-shirt.