There is a term in MotoGP that is used to separate the great riders from the merely good ones. And it is probably about time that Andrea Dovizioso was added to that illustrious list…
The term ‘Alien’ is often used in MotoGP to describe those riders that are one step above the rest. Riders that have, well alien like talent and can ride the wheels off anything they are on. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez are the best of those that are deemed ‘aliens’. Cal Crutchlow is also on the cusp of being one. His impressive 2013 season with Tech 3 Yamaha lead to many call him an alien before his 2014-’15 slump. Last year perhaps saw him become one again after an amazing season with the LCR Honda team. But there is one man that should perhaps be deemed an alien. Potentially one of the most underrated riders of the decade. That of course is current championship leader, Andrea Dovizioso.
Dovizioso has had an unusual career. His first MotoGP win came with the Repsol Honda squad in 2009 at a soaking wet Donington for the British Grand Prix. He then did not win a race for seven years. Repsol Honda then ran three bikes for Stoner, Dovizioso and Pedrosa. When the team scaled back from three bikes for 2012, Stoner and Pedrosa got the nod over the Italian. With options limited, Dovizioso switched to the Tech 3 Yamaha team for a year. Dovizioso impressed throughout that 2012 season. Five podiums saw him take fourth in the championship and it lead to a call up to another factory MotoGP team. He replaced Rossi at Ducati in 2013, and spent four long seasons helping to rebuild a team that had not won since 2010.
“It was very important for me to win a race this year: I’ve been trying for so long and I’ve come close on several occasions, so satisfaction for today’s result is truly immense.”
Andrea Dovizioso after his Sepang 2016 win
2015 showed promise with several podiums but no wins. Then came 2016. Austria that year saw him come oh so close to that elusive win, but teammate Andrea Iannone snatched it from him, leaving ‘Desmo Dovi’ a deflated man. But then came Malaysia at seasons end. The penultimate round of the championship saw Dovizioso take pole position at the Sepang International Circuit. A gripping fight with Rossi saw him take his first win in over seven years and he was of course elated. Expectations were high at the end of the year for 2017. Lorenzo had been drafted in to lead the team back into the glory days, and Dovizioso was signed up as his teammate over Iannone. If Ducati were on the pace, everyone predicted Lorenzo would lead the charge. But would he?
Lorenzo’s acclimatisation to the Ducati over his Yamaha bike of eight seasons has taken much longer than anticipated, and many fans and pundits admit they all underestimated the changes. His best result so far is third at Jerez, his next best fourth at the Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona. What hasn’t helped is Ducati’s slightly patchy start to the year. Dovizioso fought with new Yamaha man Maverick Vinales in the season opener in Qatar and took second place, but was not on the podium again until the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
And what a podium it was. Third on the grid lead to an incredible win for ‘Dovi’, his first in the dry and one that shocked many, especially as food poisoning was on his mind all race. Then came the next race. Remember that Lorenzo took his second best result of the year at Barcelona with P4, guess who won that race? Yes, it was Dovizioso. Back to back wins for the first time in his career and the first time for Ducati since 2010. He was now just 7 points behind championship leader Vinales.
“Being on the top step of the podium once again, just one week after our extraordinary win at Mugello, confirms that we have been working really well.”
Andrea Dovizioso after winning the 2017 Catalan GP
The following race in Assen saw Dovizioso charge from a 10th place qualifying spot to podium contention in one of the seasons best races. Only light rain near the end saw the Ducati man back off. Vinales had crashed out and the Italian now had the championship lead. Maybe backing off wasn’t right as third place was there for the taking. But with the top four in the championship all having at least one off, consistency will be key. And Dovizioso has been the most consistent of them all.
Dovizioso has perhaps not had a career as stunning as Rossi or Marquez. But this does not mean he isn’t an alien. He has shown over his career he is incredibly talented and probably the most underrated rider of this decade. This year in particular. The Ducati is still having problems. It is still the heaviest and hardest handling bike of them all. Yet somehow, Dovizioso has wrestled it to three podiums, two of them wins and is right at the top of the standings. It is an almost Fernando Alonso like fight against the odds. His one crash this year came in Argentina, and he was the innocent victim of Alvaro Bautista’s 2016 satellite Ducati. Dovizioso could actually be higher in the standings. He could well and truly become the first Ducati champion since Stoner and only the second man to ever win a title with the team. And if that doesn’t confirm his status as an alien, then I don’t know what will.
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