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After looking at the top three finishers in MotoGP, our review of 2014 turns to the riders who didn’t make it onto the podium. After Marc MarquezValentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, we turn our attention to the men who finished behind them. Today, we review the seasons of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

5th – 187 points – Andrea Dovizioso

If there was one adjective which summed Andrea Dovizioso up at the end of his first season at Ducati in 2013, it would have to be dismay. The Italian looked pained; not as shell-shocked as Marco Melandri when he first got on the Ducati in 2008, but still clearly finding it hard to come to terms with the bike.

“This is the reality,” he would say whenever he had rolled over the line thirty or more seconds after the winner. As the year progressed, the look on his face turned to one of resignation, accepting that eighth place was all the Ducati was capable of.

2014 saw only small changes to the Desmosedici, but it saw a major change to the fate of Andrea Dovizioso. If you asked the Italian what the weakness of the GP13 was, he would tell it was in braking, in corner entry, mid-corner, and corner exit. Or to put it another way, everywhere except in a straight line.

At the Sepang tests in February, Dovizioso was almost upbeat. The GP14 was already a step forward: the bike still struggled mid-corner, but braking was improved, as was the initial turn in for corner entry. Corner exit was improving as well, with less rear-wheel pump making the bike more stable, and quicker out of the turns.

The improvement was visible on the timesheets: at Qatar, Dovizioso slashed the difference to the leaders from 25 seconds in 2013 to just 12 in 2014.

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At Austin, he could only cut the gap by a couple of seconds, but thanks in part to tire problems for Valentino Rossi and a jump start for Jorge Lorenzo, he finished the race on the podium, the first dry weather podium for a Ducati since Valentino Rossi put the GP12 on the podium at Misano.

But that weekend at Misano in 2012 had been almost entirely washed out, the track only drying for qualifying, limiting track time for everyone except factory Ducati riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, who had tested there a couple of weeks’ previously.

The improvement continued as the season went on: at Jerez, Dovizioso cut the gap from 42 to 27 seconds; at Barcelona, from 32 to 16 seconds; at Indianapolis, from 42 to 20 seconds. Better results, and a string of minor updates, each one bringing small but clear improvements, vastly improved Dovizioso’s mood.

Where in 2013 he had worn a look of resignation, in 2014, there was an impish glint in his eye again. His media debriefs were no longer an agonizing affair for both parties, there was a sense of fun, an occasional joke, a sense of lightness.

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This lifting of his spirits translated to better results on the track, with Misano being perhaps his finest race of the season. Dovizioso hounded Dani Pedrosa all race long, coming up just short of passing the Repsol Honda rider for third.

If Dovizioso’s podium at Austin had had an element of luck to it, his fourth place at Misano was all down to him. The gap to the winner, Valentino Rossi was just 5.5 seconds. He would go on to add a pole position at Motegi to his achievements, but Misano was surely the high point.

Where had this improvement come from? Certainly, the changes made to the Ducati Desmosedici had helped. Though the bike which rolled onto the grid at Qatar was essentially the machine left behind by departing Ducati Corse boss Bernhard Gobmeier, new chief Gigi Dall’Igna quickly left his mark.

Lacking both the time and the resources to make the major changes needed, Dall’Igna focused on areas which could be improved quickly and cheaply.

A lot of small updates followed – swingarms, a new chassis, lots of software iterations – which improved braking, corner entry, and made the bike less physically demanding to ride.

Just making the bike less of a physical handful helped a lot, riders ending the race with more strength and energy to maintain their pace all the way to the final lap.

That fact, the interaction with Dall’Igna, the clear signs of progress, all left Dovizioso far more optimistic than he had ever been in 2013. That change of attitude made a huge difference to his performance, making him more willing to take a chance, seeing that real results were almost within his grasp.

A year’s experience helped: instead of having hopped off a bike which handled onto one which didn’t, Dovizioso had gone from a bad bike to one which was a little better.

Switching to the GP13 from the Yamaha M1 in 2012 had dealt a hammer blow to Dovizoso’s confidence. Going from the GP13 to the GP14 had given him a boost. It was a very different rider who sat astride the GP14 throughout the year.

Things are looking even brighter for Dovizioso in 2015. The new season will finally see a radically revised version of the Desmosedici designed from scratch by Gigi Dall’Igna. That bike has been designed to cure the Ducati’s chronic understeer, while maintaining the strengths of the current machine.

If that bike is all that Dall’Igna promises, Dovizioso could be a real threat for podiums. The motivation from small improvements in 2014 already had a huge impact. The motivation from a major leap forward should help him fight for podiums every race next season.

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Photo: © 2014 Tony Goldsmith / TGF Photos – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Eyvind

    Dovi put on a great show. It was great to see him in good spirits.
    He doesn’t complain. He does things.
    Wish him all the best for the next season.

  • Phil

    Dov has never been a slow rider and I reallt hope in 2015 it’s him that stands on the podium more often.

  • Jw

    Considering how he closed the gap in 14. This is one of the better stories of the season.

  • Dovi did a great job qualified well, put in some great races and did plenty of laps gathering data for the off season. What else can you ask for hopefully with a much improved GP15 he can get some wins and run upfront all year long. Good luck Dovi!!

  • Kaw4Life

    What is there not to love about the guy. He and Cal are two of my favorites!

  • Nick

    Dovi put in a great fight and was trading places with the leaders in the first half of practically every race. He has learned to ride the Ducati better in 2014 and maintained a positive attitude. I always root for him, I really hope the new bike will put him on the podium more often.

  • H.L.

    Dovi = True professional.

    Will be interesting to see if Iannone can hang with Dovi or beat him on the same GP15.