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Quiet man Dovizioso makes Honda pay

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Matt Roberts | 15:04 UK time, Monday, 9 July 2012

There could barely have been three happier faces on the podium at Sachsenring last weekend, with Dani Pedrosa sealing his first win of the season, Jorge Lorenzo taking an unlikely lead at the top of the championship and Andrea Dovizioso also benefitting from Casey Stoner's penultimate corner crash to take his third podium of the season.

It was with typical understated joy that Dovizioso stepped onto the box for the 19th time in his MotoGP career and his brilliant ride to hold off Cal Crutchlow and beat Ben Spies to third provided a timely reminder to factory team bosses planning for the 2013 post-Stoner shake-up that he remains one of the true class acts in the field.

As Repsol Honda scaled back from three to two riders at the end of last season, Dovizioso was in some ways unfortunate to be left out of the factory reckoning, but Honda’s loss was the immediate gain of Yamaha who instantly benefitted from his vast experience and famously concise feedback from the very first test at Valencia.

In fact, a good deal of the credit for the way Yamaha have closed the gap to Honda - and perhaps even overtaken them with the 1000cc YZR-M1 – over the winter must surely be attributed to Dovizioso's input.

Now, with Spies desperately struggling for form and Lorenzo with a championship to think about, Dovizioso's contribution to the machine's ongoing development will be vital.

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Indeed, in the post-race test at Barcelona last month, he was entrusted with a new engine and electronics package which he used to set the fastest time of the day, some seven tenths of a second quicker than Lorenzo's best effort in the previous day's race.

He backed that up with an impressive display at Aragon later that week, assessing a revised engine spec and giving additional feedback to Yamaha's engineers, and after crashing out of the next race at Silverstone he has followed up with back-to-back podiums at Assen and Sachsenring.

It makes you wonder if Honda are regretting not making more of an effort to keep the former 125cc world champion on one of their bikes for a 10th season.

With justifiable hype around Crutchlow's sparkling start to his second campaign at the top level, Stefan Bradl's impressive adaptation in his rookie season and an uncertain future for Valentino Rossi at Ducati, the unassuming Dovizioso is often overlooked in the speculation surrounding the factory rides for 2013.

However, with Yamaha feeling the benefit of his 60 grand prix podiums in all classes, it is hard to argue that the Italian does not deserve one.


  • Comment number 1.

    Had Cal stayed on track, he'd have overhauled Dovi. But Dovi remains one of my favourite riders, on and off the track. If Cal goes to Ducati next season, I hope Dovi helps Brad Smth bed-in at Tech 3.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think Dovi will land himself a factory ride next year, with Honda or Yamaha, mainly because of his testing and development abilities as he seems only marginally better than Cal during the race and arguably not better at all.
    One thing I don't understand is why Cal would want to go to Ducati (if indeed he does).His present bike is far better than the Ducati, the only person who has been able to do well consistently on the Ducati was Stoner and, if my memory serves, he only managed it for 1 or 2 seasons. I would think he is better off waiting to see if Yamaha or Honda offer him a factory bike and if not staying put.

  • Comment number 3.

    In the silly season this time the biggest loser is Nicky Hayden. He is putting in more visible work than Rossi, outperforming him a lot of the time and even provided the settings that Rossi used to turn around his feeling on the bike, and shown much more get up n go at the start of races, yet they haven't re-signed him.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think that Cal has to take the factory Ducati ride if he wants to remain at the top table of MotoGP. Honda seem to be sorted with Pedrosa, Marquez, Bradl and Bautista; Yamaha seem to prefer Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Smith and A.N.Other. I can't see Tech3 running 2 British riders in a French team. So this leaves Crutchlow's only viable option being a factory Ducati ride, not such a bad thing when looking at CRT options. Just look at the Moto2 riders knocking on the door of MotoGP, Pol Espagaro, Andrea Iannone and Thomas Luthi are all worthy of a ride in MotoGP.

  • Comment number 5.

    Appreciate an article like this Matt! Dovizioso's been trying d*mn hard since 2009 to look like a factory rider and it's good to see him regularly handing it to Spies and receiving the recognition for it that he deserves.

    Just like Hayden (as Tim Higgs mentions), does a lot of donkey-work with precious little vocal reward for his efforts.

  • Comment number 6.

    I work with a nmber of guys associated with Ducati and the big message coming out of Bologna is that Audi are very, very keen to get Ducati back to the top of Moto GP.
    They certainly have the resources and see Ducati as a marque brand to their group sports programme.
    I think it`s almost certain Cal will join up with Rossi.
    Could be announced at weekend.

  • Comment number 7.

    Dovi was hard done by when honda slimmed down, he is showing his class now. As for Cal, well I do think he would have eventually got through on Dovi but as to the move to Ducati, well Audi own them now, Audi like to win and I can't imagine that they aren't going to make the Ducati as good as they can, not to mention that Cal has ridden a decent array of different machinery in his time and I think will be more flexible in what he can do on the bike, might be the ideal time to move. As for Nicky Hayden well who knows he could still be a rider to be reckoned with on a decent satellite bike. Been a great season so far, just hope it keeps up :)

  • Comment number 8.

    I would be surprised if Dovi doesn't have a factory ride next year, most likely with Yamaha but Honda might want him back. I think Cal will be on the factory Ducati, although I feel sorry for Nicky Hayden as the a comment above me has mentioned. I wonder how long Rossi will stick around for, i'm sure he's getting pretty sick of Moto GP right now.

  • Comment number 9.

    #5- hear hear. I've been following his quiet progress for years now and it is rare he even gets a mention, even though he's often in the mix, if not for a win, for a podium. I like the way he's genuinely pleased with even a half-decent ride, something a few other riders *cough Stoner cough* could do with showing now and again. Would be an atrocity if he didn't get a factory ride next year, but am guessing Yamaha are hedging their bets and seeing if Spies can pick his season up.
    Also, a shout out to Bautista for a good (and safe) ride and Barbera, who was right in the mix of it with the factory Ducatis.

  • Comment number 10.

    Dovi is indeed a quality rider. Certainly one of the best on the brakes, and is performing consistently well this season. A pleasure to watch.

    I agree with ichris and Negaduck, it would be great to see Nicky on a better bike - I'm sure he'd be challenging for podiums.

  • Comment number 11.

    Good post matt - people do forget about dovi, though for me this year, he's been cal's most direct competition. Both excellent riders, in a team with something to prove. There are just too many good riders - and more if you include those knocking on the door from moto2 - and not enough truly competitive rides. Dovi and cal both deserve a shot at a works bike (indeed, dovi didn't really do much to deserve losing his in the first place), and perhaps nicky first deserve to lose his. Spies...well, the talent is there, is it worth the gamble from Yamaha?

  • Comment number 12.

    Hmmm...typos. 'perhaps nicky doesn't deserve to lose his', that should say...

  • Comment number 13.

    Honda did same mistake twice for Rossi and Dovi. They paid for the mistake and still paying for that. How about Cal goto Factory Yamaha and Dovi to Ducati. All italian Ducati. I think Cal will do much better in Factory Yamaha than Ducati. Cos Ducati will be new bike for him. Cal will do definitely better and may be a championship on Yamaha....

  • Comment number 14.

    Cal would be taking a huge risk at Ducati just to get on a factory bike, especially when satellite bikes like the one he's already on are beating the Ducatis every race. The one decision that will settle virtually all the changes is who Honda will put on the vacant bike - until that happens, I think it's all still up in the air.

  • Comment number 15.

    Right..! It's hands up time. My excuse is that I wasn't aware how good Cal Crutchlow had done over winter testing [hey, I get every single bit of my MotoGP news from the Beeb MotoGP website, so...], but wow..! Cal has really shown some talent, determination and spirit, and his position in the Championship is fully deserved. Crikey, I can hardly believe it as I type - the plucky Brit isn't plucky at all, he's just plain brilliant.

    Well done, Matt. Nice to see an article on the oft overlooked Andrea Dovizioso. He may not have been the absolute fastest last season, but maybe the Honda didn't suit him as much as it did his team mates..? We know Dovi can be really speedy though, and with a quick turning Yamaha to ride, he's really showing what he can do.

    One last thing - DON'T BE QUICK TO JUMP TO DUCATI, CAL. How many careers have hit the stoppers with that bike..? Looking back, only Stoner and Capirossi have got anything out of it. Currently, Nicky wrings its neck every race, while Valentino tries to turn it into a Yamaha clone. And where are they..? Several places behind satellite Yamahas, that's where. All I can say is that Audi must be going to throw a huge wad of cash at the problem, otherwise I foresee another one of those nightmare in a bubble car situations.

  • Comment number 16.

    By the way, any wing-walking in the offing..? :)

  • Comment number 17.

    I think he has to go to Ducati because at a satellite team he'll always be on, at very best, the second best bike, so there is zero chance of winning the championship. At Ducati he'll quite likely be on 4th or 5th best, but there is a slight chance it might end up being the best - especially with Audi money on the way - so he's got to take that chance.

    I presume he'll also have more influence on bike development which could be good experience to take Yamaha or Honda if he gets an offer from one of them in the future. Going to Ducati is a risk and one that's perhaps unlikely to pay off, but I think it's a risk he any racer in his position has to take. (Plus added bonus that a couple of years on a factory salary will probably set him up for life - far less important than winning, but it's got to ease the decision. How much is he likely to get paid compared to with Tech Yamaha?)

    As no. 11 said, what a shame there aren't more competitive rides. Wouldn't it be great to see Suzuki, Kawasaki and BMW all giving it a proper crack again. And, whilse I'm fantasizing, why not Triumph too......

  • Comment number 18.

    I never rated Dovi as he was 2nd in 250cc to Lorenzo in 2006 and lost out despite only scoring 2 wins against Jorge's 9

    It is probably unfortunate for him at Honda he had to contend with the fastest rider in Stoner and the sponsor's favoured son Pedrosa so was always going to get booted out

    As for Cal now I think about it he has to go to Ducati because Yamaha's favoured rider is Lorenzo and the noises are SPies is being kept possibly due to marketing reasons adding weight as well

    I would love Vale to move either to Gresini or Tech 3 to do a "Eddie Lawson" and win on a satellite bike. Surely he's the only one who can do it still

  • Comment number 19.

    Honda did make an effort to keep Dovi on one of their bikes. He was offered a ride at LCR (reportedly on a factory spec bike) but he turned down the ride. Word is that the clincher was that the LCR offer was for a two year contract, but Dovi only wanted a single year knowing that Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Spies all had contracts that finished at the end of 2012. In other words Dovi wanted to try for one of those four seats for 2012. Had the LCR contract been for a single year maybe we'd have seen Dovi on a Honda this year.

  • Comment number 20.

    If Yamaha do sign Spies over Dovi they are fools. I know they have a history of favouring US riders for marketing purposes, but Spies record on the factory Yamaha is not good. If they must have a US rider I'm sure Hayden would be a better bet. After all he's ahead of Spies in the standings so far this year and on an inferior machine. In 2012 Spies is on one of only four competitive factory bikes and so should be finishing top 4 in almost every race, with a few podiums thrown in. So far his average position is only slightly better than eighth. He's been beaten by at least one satellite bike in every race so far this year, for a factory rider that simply is not good enough.

    I know that Ben's ever optimistic fans will point to his improvement in recent races, but he's in his second year on a factory bike. He should have been competitive from day one. Even the new improved Spies is still only competing with the satellite Yamahas and had Cal not blown it I think Spies would have followed them both home on sunday. It's the half way point this sunday and for a rider in Ben's position to be in tenth place and 99 points adrift of his team mate at this stage of the season should not be acceptable to Yamaha.

  • Comment number 21.

    From press releases put out by Audi since acquiring Ducati, I dont believe they can put much towards the race effort in GP apart from finance. And since Rossi arrived Ducati have invested (2011-now) in all probability more than they did in the previous 5 years to provide chassis and engine upgrades and are still at best mid pack I need to see evidence that Audi's involvement will improve anything.

    On the other hand you have Ezpeleta saying Rossi will be on competitive machinery next year anyway; apart from the fact I dislike that it sounds as if Ezpeleta has his hands in the honey jar, that suggests either theres something pretty radical in the upgrades due at Laguna or the redesigns for the 2013 Desmosedici assuming he IS staying there.


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