Andrea Iannone made his long-awaited MotoGP debut in 2013, but a rider known for his exciting riding style at Moto2 level would struggle to make an impression on the troubled Ducati GP13.
Often left to flounder as the lowest-placed prototype rider- and often out-paced by the odd CRT - Iannone’s rookie season was marred by physical difficulties.
The first was in the form of an early season arm-pump operation, requiring 22 stitches, while a shoulder dislocation in Germany forced him to miss two races and left the young Italian at less than full strength for the rest of the season.
Iannone’s best race result was an eighth place in Australia and he remained with Ducati and Pramac for 2014. But although he ran in Pramac colours, Andrea Iannone was very much a factory Ducati rider and emerged as the more consistently competitive team-mate to Andrea Dovizioso than the other man in red, Cal Crutchlow.
A notable step up in consistency and form compared with his maiden 2013 campaign, Iannone - like Dovizioso - often stole the headlines in qualifying as he took advantage of Ducati’s softer compound rear rubber, claiming five front row starts.
But Iannone’s race pace was also eye-catching at times, leading several races and scoring six top-six finishes, as well as being in contention for a podium at the Valencia season finale. Iannone proved himself to be on the up in 2014 and was duly promoted to join Dovizioso in the official Ducati team in 2015.
It would be a breakthrough season, with Iannone claiming his first pole, podiums and fastest lap on the way to a career best fifth in the world championship. The Italian was also the top Desmosedici rider, two places above highly regarded team-mate Dovizioso.
But the way in which the 26-year-old achieved those results was just as significant. Despite dislocating his shoulder - twice - during the season, the hard-riding Italian more than held his own during some stunning battles. Highlights included swapping places with reigning double champion Marc Marquez 17 times at Le Mans and forming part of a lead quartet that made 52 passes at Phillip Island.
One of those saw Iannone overtake both Rossi and Marquez in a single move - surely the overtake of the season - while the way he brushed off an earlier collision with a seagull made mainstream media around the world. If Iannone and Ducati can make a further step i 2016, few would be surprised if the Italian becomes MotoGP’s first new race winner since Marquez in 2013.