Dovizioso's main rival that year was Michele Fabrizio, currently a factory Ducati World Superbike rider. His biggest rival in pocketbike had been Marco Simoncelli, currently 250 world champion.
Apart from those traumatic first outings on a 125 GP bike, Dovizioso has always excelled at extracting the maximum from his machine without exceeding the limit, a product of his thoughtful approach to racing.
“This has always been my style, ever since I raced in pocketbike. It's my character, that's all. Of course, my father Antonio [a keen club motocross rider, even now at the age of 55] helped me think like this. When you start racing in pocketbike your father is everything. He is your mechanic, your driver, your teacher, everything. Thinking hard is important in every sport, of course, not just in bike racing. Whatever you are doing it's important to understand everything and to think about everything so you can improve.”
Dovizioso was not a great fan of school - “the only subject I liked was gym, I love all sports” - but he is definitely a thinker and has always thought hard about his racing. Not surprisingly, he finds MotoGP much more mentally demanding than any other racing class, and thus more challenging and rewarding.
“My race weekends are very different now compared to what they used to be in 250s and 125s. From eight in the morning to eight or nine at night you are always working on something, especially the electronic controls systems. However much time you spend thinking, it's never enough, because you can always do more. In 250s and 125s it's not like this.”
Dovizioso's race preparations begin immediately after the previous race.
“When I get home I watch the race on TV and study every practice session which can help me learn something new before the next race. At every race I give myself a target because it is always important to keep improving. At the moment I am working with a new team, so we are working very hard to improve my feeling with the bike and to improve the set-up. Of course, I don't consider this to be real work, because it's what I've always wanted to do with my life!”
In between races Dovizioso keeps himself fit in the gym and on the motocross track.
“When I am at home I ride motocross as often as I can. For me it's the most fun. I love everything about it, from leaving home to go to the track to the actual process of riding. When I am riding my MotoGP bike you have to think very hard, you can't just ride, with motocross you can just ride and have fun with the bike.”
When he does motocross, Dovizioso rides a Honda CRF250 and CRF450, in fact he's spent pretty much the last nine years of his life on Honda machinery. He won the 2001 125 European Championship and the 2004 125 World Championship on Honda RS125Rs, then twice finished second in the 250 World Championship aboard an RS250RW.
During his time in 250s he turned down an offer from the Aprilia factory to ride its 250, which has dominated the series in recent years.
“At the beginning it was coincidence that I rode Hondas, but then it was my plan because I believe in Honda. When I was riding 250s I had the possibility to go to Aprilia but I wanted to stay with Honda because I believed in them for MotoGP.”