It has been a remarkable year for Andrea Dovizioso. After years of being dismissed and overlooked, the 31-year-old Italian went from being placeholder for his new teammate Jorge Lorenzo – far more successful previously, and vastly better paid as a result – to being Ducati's main weapon in the 2017 MotoGP championship.
Viewed from the outside, Dovizioso's transformation has been truly astonishing. After a slow start in MotoGP – a podium in his first year with the JiR Scot Honda team, then a solitary victory at a soaking Donington Park the following season in 2009 – Dovizioso got into his stride in the Repsol Honda team. He scored seven podiums in his first season on the factory Honda, but that was not enough to secure his spot at Repsol. Early in 2010, Honda announced they would be signing Casey Stoner.
Dovizioso refused to budge for the Australian. He held HRC to their contract with him, and three Repsol Hondas lined up on the grid in 2011. Despite finishing ahead of Dani Pedrosa – helped by Pedrosa's absence with a broken collarbone for three races after he was knocked off at Le Mans by Marco Simoncelli – Dovizioso was dropped by Honda at the end of the year, when the Italian's contract expired.
The Nearly Man comes good
Dovizioso gained a reputation as the nearly man: always fast, but never able to finish the job. After moving to the Tech 3 Yamaha squad and finishing fourth in the championship, he was offered the seat at Ducati vacated by Valentino Rossi when he left at the end of 2012. While the media still focusing on the fallout from the inevitable break up of the marriage between two Italian icons which had ended so badly, Dovizioso got on with the slow and steady work of developing the bike.