Was This The Best MotoGP Pole Lap Ever? - story fullscreen Fullscreen

Was This The Best MotoGP Pole Lap Ever?

Mick Doohan, Assen, 1998; Cutting It Fine

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What do you do when qualifying has been red-flagged with only 2 minutes left and you still need to set a time? If you’re Mick Doohan, you go for it, of course.

The Day Doohan Left It All Out On The track

It happens quite often in racing; an incident interrupts proceedings and everyone haas to make their way back to the pits while it is sorted out.

It doesn’t often happen in a race but in qualifying, that’s a different matter. What can make it worse is if there are only a few minutes left of the qualifying session, making it a do-or-die situation for those still to set a competitive time and get them selves as far up the grid as possible.

1998; Mick Doohan’s Last Title Year

In 1998, Mick Doohan was cruising to the fifth and last of his 500cc World Championship titles, but that didn’t mean that he was taking it easy. Oh, no! He was still pushing just as hard as he always had.

When, during the dying moments of qualifying for the Dutch TT at Assen, Ralf Waldmann crashed and the session was red-flagged with only 2 minutes and 12 seconds of the qualifying period left to run. Remember that this was the old Assen circuit, with the long square loop after the start-finish straight. Lap times were just over two minutes which meant that all the riders trying to qualify would have to produce an out-lap from pit lane very close to race pace in order to cross the start-finish line in time to be able to run a fast qualifying lap.

You’ve Got Two Minutes; Make it Count

Was This The Best MotoGP Pole Lap Ever?
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You’ve Got Two Minutes
With a flying lap time of just over two minutes, a pit lane start would give precious little time to complete the out lap before the flag signalled the end of qualifying

14 bikes left pit lane in a gaggle, while provisional pole man, Simon Crafar - he who is the current pit lane reporter for MotoGP - chose to sit it out in his pit. Would his lap time of 2:02.491 be enough? Everyone thought it would, given the circumstances.

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Doohan’s Out Lap
He treated the out-lap like a race, passing everyone to make sure he was first across the line and so would have a clear lap ahead of him

But they had all reckoned without Mick Doohan. He treated the out lap like a race, passing everyone else to make sure he was first across the line, which he crossed with bare seconds to spare. He then proceeded to ride one of the greatest laps of his life.

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Crafar’s Wait
All he could do was wait in the pits and watch on the monitors. Had he done enough to secure pole position?

Assen - then and even now, in truncated form - is a very fast circuit and the Grand Prix bikes of the time were furiously fast and wild 500cc two-strokes; no electronics reining in the power, it was down to rider skill. Doohan rode like a man possessed, faster than he had ever lapped the circuit, while the camera played on Crafar’s nervous smile.

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First Split
Doohan’s 0.1 seconds up

The Greatest Lap Ever?

Bit by bit, Doohan chipped away at Crafar’s time - a hundredth here, a hundredth there. He was mesmerising to watch - man and machine at the peak of their talents. Crossing the line, he was just shy of four tenths of a second underneath Crafar’s time; he had taken pole position and set a new lap record in the process.

It was, possibly, the greatest single lap in the history of Grand Prix racing.

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Third Split
Doohan half a second to the good. This can’t be happening!
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Over The Line
Doohan crosses the line to take pole position by 0.4 seconds
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As Good as a Victory Lap
Doohan accepts the applause of the crowd after possibly the greatest GP lap ever
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How Did He Do That?
When faced with talent such as Doohan’s, all you can do is shrug your shoulders and bow to the inevitable
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Pole and Lap Record
Doohan breaks Schwantz’s seven year old lap record

Source: Youtube

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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