When you ask someone who the greatest ever rider in the 500cc World Championship was, they'll inevitably reply "Valetino Rossi" on the shortest notice. Those who know their sport though, won't be so hasty answering your question.
They'll probably know that Rossi has only won a single championship in the now defunct 500cc, the rest of the champioships he bagged were all motoGP class championships.
Also, provided they watched motorcycle racing before 2000, they'll certainly remember this other unstoppable force of nature that was Australian rider Mick Doohan.
Born on June 4th, 1965, in Gold Coast, near Brisbane, Mick Doohan became the rider whose domination of the 500cc class can be considered somewhat similar to Valentino Rossi's domination of the GP class nowadays.
For us viewers, especially the young, he acquired somewhat of a status of superhero as more often than not he seemed to be riding on a bike endowed with magic or some type of extraterestrial technology no one else could catch up with. All this, despite the fact that there were many other riders racing on bikes similar to his. I suppose the magic was partly made up by his riding talent and partly of his incredible capability to get the settings of the bike just about right for every race.
He first raced in the 500cc class in 1989. Other notable feats of his from this early period include the winning of the Suzuka 8 hours endurance race in 1991 on a Honda RVF750. He competed more or less succesfully in the World Motorcycle Championship till1992, when he suffered a potentially career-ending crash at the Dutch TT. Even in those early years it was obvious that there was something to him, that he had the makings of a great champion.
The fact that he was in the lead of the overall championship at the time of the crash would certainly confirm that. However, the right leg injury that he suffered would lead to medical complications and there were rumors they'd have to amputate his leg.
Despite the hardships and setbacks, with the concentration and resilience characteristic of great personalities, during 1993 he reabilitated his leg to the degree that starting with the 2004 season he could once again compete at top level.
After that, everything seemed to go his way. He won every single championship from 1994 to 1998. Just to give you an idea about how dominant he used to be: he won 12 of the 15 races of the 1997 season, and came in second in the remaining three.
His style was all about being much faster than the rest of the field, building an advantage early on and then holding on to it till the end of the race.
His knowledge of bike settings, and other bike-related subtleties made him a huge factor in the future development of Honda racing motorcycles. The year 1999 saw the end of Doohan's phenomenal career.
He suffered another accident, on the same leg he's had trouble with before. This time things were more serious and he had to quit racing altogether.
The fact that he retired when on peak of his career, as they say "was shot down in a blaze of glory" made his herritage all the more impressive. No one ever remembers him struggling, and lagging behind in the field, because he simply never did that.
To illustrate just how valuable a person he was for Honda's racing effort, he was kept on the team as an advisor up until 2004. Word has it, he had a great deal to do with Valentino Rossi's early successes on the Honda.
All of this being said, bottom line is there's nothing better to prove Mick Doohan's status as a top name of the World Motorcycling Championship's hall of fame, than the fact that concerning the number of championships won, he's third only to Valentino Rossi and Giacomo Agostini.