Andrea Dovizioso is MotoGP’s spiritual champion

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By , Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    As Marc Márquez crossed the line in third position at the Valencia Grand Prix to claim an emphatic sixth world title, his season-long rival, Andrea Dovizioso, sat in despair in the Ducati garage – having almost achieved the unthinkable.

    Coming into the MotoGP finale at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Spain, Dovizioso had a 21-point deficit to turn around to win his first championship in the premier class.

    An excursion through the gravel for the bonkers Márquez during the race gave the Ducati camp some hope of getting the 31-year-old back into contention, after the Italian had qualified a dismal ninth.

    But with six laps remaining, the worst possible scenario occurred for Dovizioso’s title aspirations: a crushing fall at Turn 8, following his teammate Jorge Lorenzo – who’d held up the championship contender – who had also crashed out at Turn 4 on the same lap.

    Watching his 24-year-old rival clinch a fourth championship in the premier class in the past five years would have been devastating for Dovizioso – despite the fact he’s had his best ever season in MotoGP.

    The emotion and the passion seen on the faces of the people inside the Ducati sanctum was palpable. What could have been the Panigale’s first title in ten years, and the second for the Italian manufacturer since Casey Stoner’s sole effort in 2007, wasn’t realised.

    It was evident that Dovizioso, boss Luigi Dall’Igna, nor any of the Ducati team members believed they were out of their depth when they found themselves in contention for the title against Márquez and the Honda juggernauts.

    It’s been questioned whether Ducati could sustain a title tilt in the post-Stoner era and this season at last shut that conjecture down.

    Dovizioso has likewise long been impugned as a rider who would never come into the class of the ‘aliens’ – Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo and the GOAT himself, Valentino Rossi.

    Marc-Marquez-MotoGP

    CTK via AP Images

    Having come into 2017 with only two wins to his name in the premier class, the Ducati faithful in Desmo-Dovi won triple the number of races from his previous campaigns. Two came having fought tooth and nail with Márquez, with last-lap gaspers in Austria and Japan.

    Equipped with a Desmosedici GP17 bike that was hardly the best on the grid, Dovizioso slayed the giants of grand prix motorcycle racing, in the same way the late Nicky Hayden did in that spectacular 2006 season.

    While the Ducati rider was unable to ultimately claim the title – as ‘The Kentucky Kid’ did for Honda against the might of Rossi and Yamaha – Dovi can be regarded as the spiritual champion of 2017, if there was ever such a moniker.

    In the end, the 37-point margin following the end of the Valencia Grand Prix does little justice to the efforts of both team and rider. Even though Dovizioso himself summarised “it was a perfect season for us”, at the MotoGP prizegiving, there is a sense of unfinished business without that plaque bearing his name on the Tower of Champions.

    Now the question is whether Dovizioso and Ducati will challenge again 2018?

    Márquez proved once again this season why he will be one of the sport’s greatest – he will not falter any time soon.

    There will be the expectation as well that the Yamaha duo of Rossi and Maverick Viñales will lay down the gauntlet next year, following a calamitous 2017 campaign. Add too Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo, who was winless for the first time since his debut year in the lightweight class in 2002.

    Ultimately, there is no hubris at all in the challenge presented by Dovi. If anything, 2017 has seen the humble Italian at last enter the pantheon of the extra-terrestrials; better known as the ‘MotoGP aliens’. And that alone is a feat worth marvelling.