Andrea Dovizioso will reach a proud moment in his professional career this weekend at Mugello, when he takes part in his first home event as a factory MotoGP rider.
Dovizioso joined Repsol Honda at the end of last season after completing his rookie MotoGP campaign with Scot Honda. The intelligent Italian finished the 2008 season fifth in the championship, as the top satellite rider, and took his first podium at the penultimate round in Malaysia.
That third place remains the high point in his short MotoGP career to date, but if Dovizioso's past performances are anything to go by it is unlikely to last long.
Dovizioso followed the same template used by most current MotoGP stars - from pocketbike (or minimoto) racing at an early age to sport production to 125 GP bikes to 250 GPs and finally to MotoGP - and has met with success every step of the way.
Only once did the youngster try to run before he could walk, when he graduated from pocketbike to real motorcycles in 2000, on the eve of his 14th birthday.
“My first full-size motorcycle was a 125 grand prix bike, and it was a very traumatic experience,” said Dovizioso. “I was asked to race the bike in 2000 by Fiorenzo Caponera's team because I was the fastest kid in pocketbike. But a GP bike is too big a jump from pocketbike because it isn't easy to ride; it's so difficult to use the engine because the rpm range is so narrow. I tested this Aprilia GP bike three times at Maggiore during the winter before the 2000 season, and each time I went very slow. In the end the team said I wasn't fast enough to race.”
At that stage of his life Dovizioso had already decided that he wanted to be a grand prix racer, putting to one side his other passions, motocross and football.
“Every weekend I played football, ride motocross and ride pocketbike, but Caponera told me I need to stop football and focus on roadracing. I'd already had a couple of try-outs with local football teams.”
But the enthusiastic teenager wasn't worried when he was told he wasn't fast enough to race the 125 GP bike.
“When you are young you don't think like that, you don't think it's all over,” he says with a wry smile. “Within a week another team near my home gave me a bike to ride in the Aprilia Challenge, for 125 streetbikes. I won my first race on the bike and then I won the championship!”