Ducati’s Dovizioso Eyeing MotoGP Title
Many in the MotoGP paddock are perhaps asking themselves where Ducati racer Andrea Dovizioso’s stunning 2017 performances have come from. Long considered a steady and consistent, if non-exciting rider, Dovi has taken the 2017 championship ﬁght to Honda’s Marc Marquez in the most exciting way possible. Last week’s wet Japanese GP at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit was an “edge of your seat – hold your breath” battle between the two championship protagonists, and was the second such race this year the two engaged in a close fight (the other being the Austrian GP back in August.) In both races, the winning move was made in the last turn of the last lap! That the Italian Dovi has come out on top, winning both times in these last chance, tire spinning, sideways, elbow banging battles against Marquez is the real surprise.
If Dovizioso hasn’t lived in the MotoGP spotlight his entire career, he actually hasn’t been too far from it either. Dovi won the 125cc (now Moto3) World Championship way back in 2004, and had other strong results throughout his junior category career, ﬁnishing in the top 2 or 3 the following three years in the 250cc GP class (now Moto2). In 2008, he made his MotoGP debut with a privateer Honda team before moving to the factory Repsol Honda team for the following 3 years. His one win in 2009 was his only MotoGP victory until last year – a full seven years between wins, despite 32 podium ﬁnishes during that time. After moving to the factory Ducati team in 2013, Dovi suﬀered with the struggling Italian team just like Valentino Rossi had before him, and like his teammates Nicky Hayden, (2013) Cal Crutchlow (2014), and Andrea Iannone (2015 and ’16.) The addition of engineer Gigi Dall’Igna to the team in 2014 signaled the passionate Italian’s started to turn themselves around. During the 2015 season, Iannone scored the team’s ﬁrst win (since 2010) in Austria in 2016, with Dovi a close second. Dovi then scored the top podium step in Malaysia near the end of the year, giving Ducati two 2016 victories.
With the high proﬁle signing of 5 time Champion Jorge Lorenzo to partner Dovizioso starting this season, suddenly Ducati was being talked about as a genuine Championship contender, but with Lorenzo as the supposed savior and headliner. Dovi was left to work his quiet and consistent magic in the dark shadows of the sport’s spotlight, which was, of course, ﬁne with him.
By the third race of this season in Austin, Texas it was starting to become apparent that Lorenzo was struggling to adapt his super smooth, ultra-fast corner speed style to the all-powerful Ducati, and Dovi was asserting himself as the stronger of the two. He grabbed his ﬁrst win of the season in the motherland of MotoGP – Mugello, becoming the ﬁrst Italian to win the Italian GP on a Ducati. As you can imagine, the win brought the house down! Dovi then won again the very next weekend at the Spanish GP, and has since taken 3 more victories including last week in Japan. With three races to go, and with only an 11 point deﬁcit to Marquez (pictured above), a Championship for Dovi is no longer a long shot proposition. In fact, his newly found aggression, yet still complemented by his ever present consistency and steadiness, might actually make him the favorite against the quicker, braver, but bigger risk taker, Marquez. Who would have ever thought this? Perhaps not even Dovizioso himself until very recently.
Two years ago, Dovi enlisted the help of famed Italian inventor, mental coach, eclectic visionary, and psychologist, Amedeo Maﬀei (pictured above). After his Mugello win in June, Dovi surprisingly publicly acknowledged the presence of Maﬀei, saying Maﬀei “discovered a power inside me that I didn’t know I had. I understood that if you face things in a certain way, they happen, and this doesn’t depend on others or by chance. He is a special person who has changed my life as a man and as a rider.” Maﬀei said that he “helps Dovizioso feel the asphalt through his feet, not the tires,” and works to “to re-awaken the skills that have been put down by fears and inhibitions.” If all this sounds a little too out there to be part of the world’s most dangerous and demanding motorsport, maybe ﬁve minutes spent on YouTube watching the last few laps of both 2017 Austrian and Japanese GP’s will convince even the most old-school thinkers in the sport that perhaps Dovi has indeed been transformed. Certainly something – or someone – has unlocked an inner demon who is calmly ﬁnding new aggression, and results. And while no one is yet shouting that Dovi is the World Championship favorite, with three races to go, only a fool would not believe it even if it is only whispered…