Former 500cc and MotoGP mechanic Dick Smart believes that the two greatest riders he worked with, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, would have “swapped paint” if they had ever had the opportunity to race against each other.
Doohan won five consecutive 500cc world titles from 1994-1998 and retired from the sport after a body-shattering crash early in the 1999 season.
Rossi won the world 125cc and 250cc world titles before replacing Doohan at Honda in 2000 and the following year won the inaugural MotoGP championship.
He won the following two championships while working with Smart and then moved across to Yamaha where he clinched another four.
When you have worked with two of the greatest riders in the history of modern motorcycle racing it is inevitable that you will be asked to make a comparison.
What about the hypothetical of Doohan versus Rossi at the height of their careers on 500cc grand prix machines?
“Oh God, that could have got messy,” Smart smiled when talking with Speedcafe.com.
“We could have seen another Eastern Creek with (Alex) Criville and Mick.
“You saw that. No one was going to give in.
“They (Rossi and Doohan) would have been swapping paint, you know. Both of them.”
Smart’s Eastern Creek reference was to one of the great rivalries in modern GP racing between Doohan and his Honda teammate Alex Criville which escalated in the 1996 season and saw them both crash in the Australian Grand Prix after the Spaniard hit the home-country hero from behind on the final lap.
In his 16 years of working at the top level, Smart only ever worked with four riders, Doohan, Rossi, Alex Barros and Nicky Hayden.
While he has a long-term friendship with Doohan and and still works for him in his aviation business, you know he has a genuine respect for the rider he shared five world championships with.
“Oh look, you’d have to say Mick,” Smart said when asked who was the greatest he had worked with.
“Just to watch what he did and the dedication he had.
“I think if Mick had kept racing and actually competed against Valentino, even with their age differences, I would have still put my money on Mick because he would just not have given up.
“Valentino, he was great too. All four were good and different in their own way.
“I was fortunate to work with the quality of rider that I did.”
In total Smart’s riders had 234 500cc or MotoGP starts for 159 podium finishes, including 88 wins (54 Doohan, 33 Rossi, 1 Hayden).
Incredibly he had just one win in his first 30 races with Doohan and just one in his last 32 with Barros and Hayden.