It was a wager of a different kind that began Dovi’s motorcycling life. As a four-year-old, he bet his father that if he could ride his bicycle without training wheels, he would win a motorcycle. The youngster won the bet and his father, a motocross racer in his own right, was more than happy to pay up. .
Dovizioso’s early memories are of watching his father race motocross and it wasn’t long before the youngster took to the track with a passion. By the time he was seven he was racing both on and off-road near his home in Forlimpopoli, Italy, and wearing the number 34 in honor of his idol Kevin Schwantz. In 1994, his first year in the Italian Minimoto Championship he finished fifth, and would later twice win the championship. He was also an avid and skilled football player, but in 2000 he chose to devote his energy to racing.
In 2000 he raced in the Aprilia 125 Challenge before moving on to a proper race bike to contest the 2001 European 125cc Championship. In his first try, Dovi won the European title and was promoted to ride a Team Scot Honda RS125R in the 2002 125cc World Championship. Just two years later he took eight poles and five races on his way to the 2004 125cc title.
The move to 250’s followed, still with Team Scot Honda, and he scored five podiums in his rookie year, finishing third overall. The next year he won twice, to finish second, a performance he repeated in 2007.
Dovizioso’s dream came true when he was elevated to the MotoGP category in 2008 with Team Scot Honda. In his class debut under the lights in Qatar, Dovizioso finished just off the podium while beating the eventual world champion Valentino Rossi and finishing just behind Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. .
The result was tough to replicate, but Dovizioso was a revelation in 2008, finishing inside the top five on nine occasions, finishing just 16 points behind fellow rookie Jorge Lorenzo on the factory Yamaha and ahead of works Honda rider Nicky Hayden. .
Peaking with a maiden podium finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix, Dovizioso was hot property by the end of the season and was duly promoted to the factory Repsol Honda team for 2009.
However, despite the high-profile move, Dovizioso endured a season of mixed fortunes, proving a frequent top five finisher, but struggling to crack the ‘aliens’ ahead of him. Indeed, by the season’s end, Dovizioso had managed just one further podium and finished sixth overall. .
On the plus side, this solitary podium was in fact Dovizioso’s maiden MotoGP win, the Italian staying upright as others fell around him at the slippery Donington Park. .
Staying with Repsol alongside Dani Pedrosa for 2010, though Dovizioso couldn’t replicate his race-winning turn in his second season aboard the Honda, it was a far more consistent season for the Italian as he notched up four podiums in the opening five races to even out-score his team-mate. However, a fairly average mid-season saw Dovizioso slip out of contention, while late charges by the returning Rossi and Stoner saw him end the year fifth overall, 39 points behind runner-up Pedrosa. .
With no win to his name, it was off-track where Dovizioso caused a greater stir as he fought for his place in the Repsol team. Under threat from the impending arrival of Casey Stoner, Honda favoured placing Dovizioso in one of its satellite teams for 2011. However, though he was promised factory assistance, Dovizioso reminded Honda of its contractual obligations and, after a few crossed words in the media, it was announced that he would form part of a three-man Repsol Honda line-up alongside Stoner and Pedrosa. .
With the RC212V proving the bike to beat in 2011, Dovizioso was consistent and quick, but entirely overshadowed by eventual title-winner Stoner. Failing to add to his victory tally once again, Dovizioso nonetheless did enough to secure third in the overall standings, ahead of Pedrosa, but with the Spaniard missing rounds through injury, it was little surprise when Honda confirmed there was no room for Dovizioso in its slimmed two-man 2012 line-up. .
Despite Honda’s attempts to retain Dovizioso, he announced he will defect to Yamaha for 2012, joining its satellite Tech 3 operation. One step back with the intention of taking two steps forward in the future, Dovizioso went into the season with Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies as his performance barometer, as well as a quick team-mate in Cal Crutchlow to contend with.
Indeed, the tussle for inter-team honours between Dovizioso and Crutchlow would prove one of the stories of the season, but the Italian would prove the more consistent of the two, ascending to the podium for the first time at Catalunya, a feat he would match on five further occasions.
Regularly the quickest of the satellite riders, Dovizioso would also prove a thorn in the side of the factory riders, not least Spies, whose troubled year would see him wholly overshadowed by his satellite counterpart.
Even so, despite giving Tech 3 its best-ever season at MotoGP level as he cruised to fourth in the overall standings, the Italian would find himself overlooked once again when Yamaha decided to welcome Valentino Rossi back into the fold to replace the out-of-favour Spies for 2013.
Aggrieved that his strong performance hadn’t been enough to earn him the ride that he – and many others - felt he deserved, Dovizioso refused to re-sign for another season, instead choosing to assume Rossi’s available berth in the factory Ducati team.
Dovizioso spent much of his debut Desmosedici season seemingly locked in battle (occasionally literally) with team-mate Nicky Hayden, emerging as the leading Ducati rider by one place and 14 points over the American.
In a season that saw Ducati fail to finish on the podium for the first time since joining MotoGP in 2003, Dovizioso at least claimed the brand’s best result with fourth at the wet Le Mans race and concluded the season eighth overall.
After a solid first year with Ducati, Dovizioso made the step up in performance befitting of the improved GP14, overseen by highly-rated new Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna.
Though much can be said of the benefits Ducati received on the back of new technical concessions, Dovizioso was nonetheless the firm’s standout performer in 2014. The Italian took full advantage of what was available to him by proving particularly fast over a single lap - culminating in Ducati’s first pole since 2010 - but also scored his first two Ducati podiums.
Dovizioso pulled in 47 more points than during his debut season at Ducati and was a massive 85 points clear of the next best Desmosedici rider, Pramac's Andrea Iannone, in the year’s final standings. Team-mate Cal Crutchlow scored less than half Dovizioso's points. Furthermore, Dovizioso had failed to finish just three races in the last four seasons... a remarkable achievement in its own right.
Dovizioso began 2015 by putting Dall’Igna’s new GP15 just 0.174s from what would have been the factory’s first victory since 2010, in the Qatar season opener. By round five, Dovi had continued the momentum to notch up three second places and a third, enough to be talked about as a potential title contender.
Yet Dovizioso would be seen just once more on the rostrum during the remaining 13 rounds, in the wet at Silverstone. While Yamaha and Honda upped their game, the balance of power in the Ducati garage also swung from Dovizioso to new team-mate Andrea Iannone as the #4 spoke increasingly of braking issues.
A rider famous for his lack of mistakes, Dovizioso failed to score in four events and eventually slipped to seventh in the final standings, two places lower than the previous season and with 25 less points.
In 2016, Dovizioso suffered an appalling run of bad luck after a runner-up finish in the Qatar season opener. First the factory Ducati rider was taken out of second place - by his own team-mate Andrea Iannone - within sight of the chequered flag in Argentina. Just a week later, he was again punted out of a rostrum place - the unlikely assailant being Dani Pedrosa, who lost control under braking.
Dovizioso was then forced to retire from the Spanish MotoGP after a water pump failure, before making a mistake of his own in the following French MotoGP, when he slid out of third place after a 'two-degree error' in lean angle. While he returned to the podium just before the summer break in Germany, more mental anguish was to follow when he narrowly lost out on the honour of Ducati's first MotoGP win since 2007 in Austria.
Dovi's long Ducati efforts - he has been at the team since 2013 - were finally rewarded with victory in the wet Malaysian MotoGP, his first grand prix win since 2009, which also made him the last of this year's nine different winners.
The down-to-earth Italian finished as the highest placed Desmosedici rider in the world championship standings and was selected ahead of Iannone to continue at Ducati alongside new superstar signing Jorge Lorenzo, surely in part due to his calm handling of the early season adversity.