With Andrea Dovizioso’s shock decision to bring a premature end to his extensive MotoGP career after the San Marino Grand Prix having been expected to see out the year, Motorsport Week decided to take a look back at Dovizioso’s established career that saw him climb all the way to the edge of greatness.
Having won the 2004 125cc world championship title in commanding style ahead of Hector Barbera before then scoring a trio of top-three championship finishes in the 250cc series across the subsequent few seasons – all on Honda machinery – Dovizioso was expected to take the MotoGP world by storm as he secured a premier class berth on a satellite Honda run by the JiR outfit.
The-then 22 year-old certainly turned heads with an impressively-consistent maiden campaign in MotoGP on the RC212-V, the Italian ending the year fifth overall as the second-highest rookie behind factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo to the tune of just 16 points.
Having scored no-less than nine top-five results across the 18 encounters that made up the 2008 schedule – including a maiden class rostrum in the Malaysian GP at the Sepang International Circuit – Dovizioso managed to earn himself a promotion to the factory Honda squad for 2009, replacing the Ducati-bound Nicky Hayden.
His maiden year as a factory MotoGP rider largely ended up being a case of solid-but-unspectacular, his sole podium appearance coming at a wet Donington Park where he mastered the tricky conditions to take a maiden premier class victory en-route to sixth in the final season classification.
The 2010 season was set to be his last within the factory Honda team as it elected to sign 2007 MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner to join Dani Pedrosa for 2011, though he managed to secure a reprieve as a result of finishing fifth overall in 2010 – triggering a contractual clause that guaranteed him a slot within the factory team for the following year.
A strong final season in black-and-orange – in which he managed to beat Pedrosa to fourth overall having notched up a total of seven rostrum finishes – saw him offered a satellite ride with the LCR Honda operation for 2012, though he ultimately elected to chase a future with Yamaha and signed on the dotted line with the Tech 3 satellite squad to the view of securing a factory M1 for 2013.
A brilliant run to fourth overall on the striking Monster Energy-sponsored prototype ultimately failed to capture him a berth within the official Yamaha organisation, principally due to seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi choosing to return to the Japanese manufacturer alongside Lorenzo following a tough two years with Ducati’s factory team.
Dovizioso thus would attempt to pick up where his countryman left off by taking the vacant seat at the Bologna-based squad for the 2013 campaign, though his as well as technical director Gigi D’alligna efforts would soon begin to bear fruit as the brand rose from being occasional podium challengers in 2014 to consistent rostrum finishers the following year.
Ducati’s upward swing would continue as it finally returned to the very top of the box following a six-year drought in 2016, Andrea Iannone leading home Dovizioso in an emphatic 1-2 in the Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring.
Dovizioso wouldn’t have to wait much longer to end his own half-a-dozen year win deficiency as he took the chequered flag in the penultimate race of the year at Sepang, setting him up for a potentially career-year in 2017.
And so it would prove as he went on to score a stunning six wins as he battled the relentless Marc Marquez for a maiden premier class title, the Italian in the end losing out to the Spaniard by 37 points after a thrilling tussle with his rejuvenated Desmosedici.
This would ultimately prove to be the closest he would get to reaching greatness as despite scoring a total of six further successes over the following couple of campaigns, another pair of runner-up series finishes would prove to be the zenith of his grand prix career.
What looked to be a formidable partnership was soon brought crashing down as the lack of a title across the preceding seasons created a rift between Dovizioso and Ducati’s management, with the marque’s CEO Claudio Domenicali going as far as accusing his lead rider of lacking the “touch of madness that maybe the ‘Ducatisti’ would appreciate.”
Unsurprisingly this culminated in a rather un-amicable split at the conclusion of a tricky 2020 term, leaving Dovizioso on the sidelines for 2021 after finding himself unable to find a seat.
A brief stint as a test rider for Aprilia’s MotoGP programme would eventually lead to his race return at the 2021 San Marino GP by signing the factory Yamaha deal he missed out on a decade earlier, affording him a seat with the Petronas SRT team that would morph into RNF Racing for 2022 on a full-factory specification entry.
A best result of 11th – captured in this year’s Portuguese GP – ahead of the British GP is currently his best result on his new steed, while a measly ten points in as many encounters leaves him a lowly 22nd in the rider’s standings – level with rookie team-mate Darryn Binder who made the step into MotoGP directly from Moto3 for 2022.
The Misano World Circuit will therefore prove to be the start and end point of a fruitless 12 months back on an M1, an unfortunate and muted conclusion to a varied and vibrant grand prix career.