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By Nick Harris

Mr. Steady is ready

Paddock legend and former MotoGP™ commentator Nick Harris sets the scene after the #QatarGP

I’m finding it hard to type with one hand because I’m being honest and have the other hand above my head. Come on; keep your hand down if at the start of the MotoGP season last year you expected Andrea Dovizioso to be challenging for the Championship going into that last Valencia round.

Highlights: Dovizioso wins duel to the line with Marquez

Like me, you expected the charming Mr. Steady Italian to be picking up a few podiums, even poles, plus at the best a win or two on the factory Desmosedici Ducati. After all, some people thought he was lucky to even keep that Ducati ride ahead of his very different team-mate Andrea Iannone. His new team-mate, amid a blaze of publicity, was Jorge Lorenzo. There had been no real hint of the truly extraordinary 18-round adventure that lay ahead.

Of course, Dovi has always been quick, growing up mini-bike racing on those infamous kart tracks that dot the Adriatic coast of Italy. You don’t win the 125 World title while still a teenager and finish runner-up in the 250 title chase before switching to MotoGP without oozing racing talent. But, was he good enough to join the greats at the very pinnacle of the sport?

Early indications pointed to an impressive MotoGP career, but a world title challenger? Perhaps not. He won the damp British Grand Prix at Donington Park in 2009 for the Repsol Honda team but it was not until the penultimate 2016 round in the pouring Malaysian rain he secured that second win. In between he had done a great job for the Tech 3 Yamaha satellite team before joining the ailing Ducati outfit in 2013. He was the ideal person to start restoring the fortunes for that passionate Italian factory that had really lost their way after the halcyon days of Casey Stoner. They were ready to challenge for the world title once again at the start of 2017 when three-time MotoGP World Champion Lorenzo arrived to spearhead their challenge. Or, that’s what we all thought.

So what happened to a rider that was always going to be remembered as the really nice guy? Off the track, friendly, honest and accommodating. Perhaps that was the view we also had of him on the track. We could not have been more mistaken. While Lorenzo struggled, Dovi just grabbed the opportunity to show a level of raw aggression and sheer confidence his rivals and Marc Marquez in particular had never witnessed before. He was quite happy to meet the World Champion head-to-head in epic final bend confrontations. Those wins over the Spaniard in Austria and Japan showcased the fact he had taken that giant step from Grand Grix winner to serious Championship contender. It’s a step that few make.

Typing is getting easier with both hands on the keyboard after witnessing Dovi destroy Marquez once again in Qatar last week. I will not make the same mistake again.

Mr. Steady? I don’t think so.

Who did Dovi think would fight for victory ? (Not Marquez…)

Dovi is ready and more than capable.