For a while, 500cc Grand Prix racing in the '90s threw together some very odd fellows. Following Wayne Gardner and Eddie Lawson's move to retirement at the end of 1992, the tragic loss of Wayne Rainey to serious injury near the end of 1993 and the subsequent retirement of Kevin Schwantz at the start of 1995, this mean the last of the 500cc gods; Mich Doohan, had to take on the coming men of the class. One of these was Spaniard Alex Criville.
Mick took more crowns ('94, '95, '96, '97 and 1998) but one of the few to get on his case – and under his skin – was the Spaniard who became the 1999 champion, which was Spain's first, following Mick's sad departure from the sport at Jerez that year through injury.
Mick Doohan's departure shouldn't take away from Alex's 1999 championship at all. Alex Criville was a thoughtful racer: the then-youngest 125cc champion in 1989, he moved up to the 250cc class where he didn't set the world on fire, but with a Campsa sponsor-backed move to 500cc's in 1992 on a Honda NSR, he won the Dutch Assen TT and was the right man at the right time to become Mick Doohan's team-mate in 1994 after a year with private Marlboro Pons outfit in 1993 that ook him to two third places. His second win finally came in 1995, followed by two more against Mick in Austria and the Czech Republic in 1996, where Doohan was annoyed that Alex was able to beat him by two-thousandths of a second. Mick Doohan would always have the upper hand, but let's not take away from Criville's championship season of 1999, where – being the head HRC man following Mick's round three crash – he had to put together six wins to finally take the title.