In the eighth instalment of our series looking at 2013, we come to Andrea Dovizioso. This is how the Italian got on in his first year at Ducati. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquez; part 2, Jorge Lorenzo; part 3, Dani Pedrosa; part 4, Valentino Rossi; part 5, Cal Crutchlow; part 6, Alvaro Bautista; and part 7, Stefan Bradl.
After losing his factory Honda ride at the end of 2011, Dovizioso made the switch to Yamaha, joining Cal Crutchlow in the Tech 3 team. A strong year with six podiums saw him win the slot in the factory Ducati team vacated by Valentino Rossi. Dovizioso felt he deserved a factory ride, and he had got what he wanted.
That proved to be something of a poisoned chalice. The year after Ducati was taken over by Audi proved to be a year of stagnation, with new head of Ducati Corse Bernhard Gobmeier never really able to impose his authority on the race department.
A lot of work was done with chassis stiffness, a new aerodynamics package was unveiled, the engine received a minor upgrade with improved throttle bodies. It all helped, a little, but the bike still had understeer — still wouldn’t turn.
Dovizioso started the season with some hope, racing with real determination and guts. Early in the season, he had some good results, getting close to the podium at Le Mans in the pouring rain, and then following on with strong race at Mugello, aided no doubt by the amount of testing Ducati does at the circuit.
But as promised upgrades failed to materialize, and the full seriousness of his situation started to sink in, Dovizioso’s mood took a dive. An air of despair hung around him, the Italian resigning himself to a lost season.
It was clear that racing for Ducati had become a chore for Andrea Dovizioso. He never fell short of what was required, he always gave what he could, but he always played it safe, never took any real risks, always stayed safely within the limits. He did what he had to, but he took no joy from it.
After relatively positive lap times during practice or qualifying, mediocre race results would follow. “This is the reality of the situation.” It would become Dovizioso’s mantra, something we heard from him a million times in 2013.
In 2014, Andrea Dovizioso will be joined by his former teammate Cal Crutchlow, but it is hard to say whether he looks forward to the year with much enthusiasm. Much is set to change at Ducati in the next year, now that Gigi Dall’Igna has taken over the race department. Whether Dovizioso believes it will make a difference remains to be seen. For his sake, we hope it will.
Early in the year there were still promises of upgraded chassis, and even a new engine to come in the middle of the season. A strong result at Le Mans boosted Dovizioso’s confidence, and then they arrived at Mugello, and Dovizioso sealed a front row start and came within a few yards of bagging a fourth place finish. Things were looking rosy.
After Mugello, Dovizioso’s optimism was short-lived. The date of promised upgrades kept on being pushed back, and the updates that did arrive, didn’t make much difference. A new chassis helped, the bike was less tiring to ride, but it didn’t turn much better and it certainly wasn’t any faster.
Dovizioso’s mood waned, sliding into the slough of despond. There wasn’t so much a low point for Andrea Dovizioso in 2013, more of a long slide into darkness. 2014 needs to be a lot better.
Photos: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.