Italian Andrea Dovizioso raced to his first 125cc World Championship title at the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang on Sunday, with two rounds of the championship left to be run.

Dovizioso shadowed race winner Casey Stoner throughout the 19-lap race to claim his first world crown. At 18 years, nine months and 17-days Dovizioso is the third youngest 125cc rider ever to take the title.

"This is a very emotional moment for me," said Dovizioso at the end of the race. "Basically I'm very confused even though we had such a big points lead going into the race and half expected to win the championship today (Sunday). There is no way to describe how I feel I will need some time before I dare think about what it means. We will have a big party tonight and when I wake up in the morning maybe I will realise what I have done."

"I have so many people to thank forgive me if I forget someone," continued Dovizioso. "My family for all their support, my team who have been fantastic and made it possible, Honda who gave me such a great machine and support, my sponsors, oh so many people. I really cannot explain it all, I'm very happy."

When asked about his ambitions and the planned racing strategy for the season Dovizioso said: "To be quite honest I was thinking about winning the championship from the first day, just like all the best riders. I expected the season would be very hard and it was.

"We believed Roberto Locatelli would be the fastest of our rivals and the hardest rider to beat over the 16 races but I didn't expect him to be as fast as he was at the beginning of the season. Barbera and Lorenzo were sure to be fast on some race-tracks, but 'Loca' was the danger, and that's the way the season developed."

"My team have worked hard for me and we have always been ready to race for the win. The new Honda was good from the start and we have been confident all season but we have been the most consistently fast team his season. This championship is for all of us in the team," concluded the new champion.

The quiet unassuming Dovizioso hails from Forli in Northern Italy and rode his first mini motocross bike at just four years of age. Under the careful eye of his father Antonio, a regular competitor in the Italian MX Championship, Andrea quickly developed his riding skills racing both mini-moto and mini-motocross. If the two categories clashed on a particular weekend Andrea chose to race his mini-moto machine.

Fast and consistent on both dirt and tarmac he was already displaying the smooth efficient riding style that was to become his hallmark and serve him well in later years. He was to win two mini-moto national championships and take third place in national mini-motocross at nine years old.

As with virtually all young Italians, Dovizioso has a love of football. A talented young player who displayed considerable talent for the nations favourite game. However, Andrea was in danger of becoming a 'Jack of all trades - master of none' and as he approached his fourteenth birthday father Antonio asked his son which of the three sports he preferred to concentrate his efforts on.

Thankfully for grand prix motorcycle racing Andrea chose racing on tarmac.

The decision made, he entered the 2000 Challenge Aprilia just two months after his fourteenth birthday and his road race debut was little short of sensational. The first event of the series was held at the Misano circuit and the 14-year old ran away with the race. Andrea held the lead throughout the series and took a well-deserved championship win - a trend that was to become a feature of his young career.

The 2001 season saw Dovizioso enter the 125cc European and Italian Championships while still just 15-years old. Andrea scored three race victories in the European series and ran away with the title to guarantee him a place on the 125cc grand prix grid for 2002. He also finished fourth in the Italian Championship.

He made his GP debut the same season, racing as a wild card at his home grand prix at the fabulous Mugello circuit in Toscana. It was a weekend full of highs and lows for Dovizioso.

The youngster was not overawed by the illustrious company around him and ended the Saturday morning free practice in 11th place and was confident of holding his position in the afternoon qualifying session. It was not to be. He seized his engine and had to start from way down the grid and, in his own words "had no chance of making an impression in the race."

His European success guaranteed him a GP berth in 2002 and he signed for the Pesaro based Team Scot Honda in the 125 championship. Team manager Cirano Mularoni fought off a host of rival teams to secure Dovizioso's signature.

"It was not easy," said Mularoni. "Team Scot Honda have a policy of signing promising young Italian riders and developing their talent. But with Andrea everybody wanted to sign him and we had some strong competition from other GP teams before we reached an agreement. We are happy he chose to race with us. We have worked well together and have been rewarded in the best possible way."

His second full GP season in delivered fifth place, with 157 points. The magic first GP win eluded him but he scored two second places, one in South Africa, where he finished less than half a second behind winner and eventual world champion Dani Pedrosa, and another in Great Britain.

Andrea recorded 13 top ten places during this season. Dovizioso had served notice on his rivals - he was the man to watch in 2004. The rest, as they say, is history.

He arrived at the first race of the year, in South Africa, exuding an air of calm confidence and self-assurance following successful winter testing with the new RS125R Team Scot Honda.

By the time he won the title, Dovizioso would never finished lower than fourth, winning four times and scoring five other podium places. He has also started from pole position seven times and set fastest laps in two races. The only blot on the copybook being a puncture at the Portuguese Grand Prix when comfortably leading the race.

"Andrea has grown over the last two years. In 2002 all was new to him but he coped well. Last year he really began to understand what was possible to do with the Honda and developed a good feeling with the bike. He knew the positive and negative points which allowed both Andrea and the team to grow," said Mirko Cecchini the team data-logging guru.

"This season has been exceptional. He was a little uncomfortable with the chassis at some tracks last year but this year the new chassis and suspension has been so good Andrea has won at circuits he just did not perform well at in 2003."

Dovizioso did indeed mature over the winter and he puts this down to experience and hiring a personal trainer.

"During the winter I improved both physically and mentally, mostly my mental approach to racing. I trained a lot with my father and personal trainer on MX and Supermotard machines as well as normal fitness routines but the mental aspect is vitally important in racing and that side of my preparation has developed enormously thanks to my trainer. I am now much calmer at the track and take things in my stride instead of worrying about the engine, chassis settings. It has helped me reach this point," explained Dovizioso.

Dovizioso will now follow in the footsteps of the 125cc World Champion of 2003, Spaniard Dani Pedrosa and move to 250cc GP racing. Few will doubt his ability to settle quickly on the quarter litre machine, and many will expect him to become a regular visitor to the podium.

"The step up from 125cc to 250cc is difficult for any rider but for me it will be particularly difficult for me because I will find Dani Pedrosa there. For me Dani is a Super Champion, he is as strong as Valentino Rossi was in 250cc racing, maybe even stronger," concluded Dovizioso.



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