Andrea Dovizioso can be a top five contender in MotoGP 2010, reckons his new Repsol Honda team manager Gianni Berti, off the back of the former 125cc World Champion's impressive pre-season testing form.
Having caught the eye by finishing inside the top six in both of his two premier class campaigns to-date – firstly with JiR Team Scot in 2008, and subsequently alongside Dani Pedrosa and in-place of Nicky Hayden at Repsol Honda last year – the goalposts have been shifted again for the forthcoming season, and during testing the Italian has stepped up to the plate accordingly.
Third place at the close of testing in Qatar last month – behind only MotoGP heavyweights Casey Stoner (Ducati Corse) and Valentino Rossi (FIAT Yamaha), and more than a second clear of team-mate Pedrosa – was a warning shot, and Dovizioso will consequently head towards the Losail curtain-raiser in just over a week's time buoyed by his pace and confident in the set-up of his RC212V prototype.
That optimism is palpably shared by Berti, who following a Repsol Honda restructure over the winter off-season will manage the Forlì native in 2010, with Alberto Puig similarly looking after Pedrosa.
“The two days of testing [in Qatar] were really busy for us, because it was the last test and we had quite a lot of parts to try out regarding the chassis,” Berti explained to the official MotoGP website. “We had to adapt the riding style of Andrea to fit with the bike. The mechanics worked very hard to complete the planned work, and Andrea was also satisfied because we made some improvements in general.
“He has some more confidence now with the machine, so we are satisfied at the moment. Of course it's not enough – we are looking to improve more because the competition for the podium is really hard – but we are continuing that way. My feeling is that we can ride in the top five.”