Private, polite, friendly and rarely outspoken but I will never forget the look Andrea Dovizioso gave Marc Marquez after they had crossed the finishing line at Austria in 2017. The winner of an epic battle round the Red Bull Ring had just let World Champion Marc Marquez know in no uncertain fashion the fight for the MotoGP™ World Championship was on. The previous year in Austria it had come down to another last bend decider, that right hander at the bottom of the hill, and Dovi lost out to teammate Andrea Iannone. The gentleman off the track was not going to let it happen again. You do not win 24 Grands Prix and a World title without that inner aggression and confidence when the lights change. That stare said it all
Dovi went on to win three more Grands Prix that season including another dramatic last bend Marquez confrontation in the Motegi rain but just failed to prevent the Spanish rider and Honda from retaining the title. It was similar outcome the next season despite four more wins for Dovi and Ducati but he had paved the way for the Italian factory to take on the Japanese giants.
Thank goodness Dovi won that 125cc World title in 2004 fighting off the likes of Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner. He really would not deserve to be called the nearly man after twice finishing runner-up in the 250cc and three times in the MotoGP™ World Championships. I honestly think Dovi deserved to win at least a couple of those and especially a MotoGP title for Ducati but a certain fit Marc Marquez was around at the time.
So just one World title for Dovi but the facts speak for themselves. This has been a truly incredible record-breaking career when the final curtain drops for Dovi at Misano on Sunday.
The rider from Forli, just up the MotoGP™ mad Adriatic coast from Misano, made a record-breaking 229 consecutive MotoGP™ starts for Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. He made his premier class debut at Qatar in 2008 and never missed a race until the start of the 2021 season. Only his great nemesis Valentino Rossi has made more Grands Prix starts in all classes. Dovi starts his 346th Grand Prix at Misano on Sunday. It was 16 years and 120 days before his first Grand Prix win and his last. That first came in 2004 in South Africa in the 125cc race at Welkom in South Africa. The last in 2020 in the MotoGP™ race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Only fellow Italians Rossi and Loris Capirossi have longer Grands Prix-winning careers.
No rider in the 74 histories of the sport had to wait so long, 130 races to be precise, between that first MotoGP™ win at Donington in 2009 and his second in 2016 at Sepang. Dovi made his Grand Prix debut as a 125cc wild card in the 2001 Italian Grand Prix at Mugello Grand Prix which was won by the wonderful Nobby Ueda.
What a legacy Dovi will leave especially for Ducati. Watching the Italian factory dominate so many of the races this year despite the herculean efforts of Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha, makes you realise just what a talisman he had been for Gigi Dall’lgna’s team. It was Dovi that led them back to the top step of the podium. It was Dovi who brought back memories of the Stoner days to the passionate Italy factory.
Dovi certainly has earned his retirement from a sport he has graced for over two decades. Of course, we will never forget the wins. I will always remember that stare but even more, I will remember a really nice guy.
The MotoGP™ paddock will miss him very much.