Chasing Champions: Dovi on Stoner’s tail as a Ducati winner

It was a nine-year wait but Borgo Panigale were back on the top step at Losail

Andrea Dovizioso was Championship runner up last season, and he’s begun 2018 one step higher after opening the season with a stunning and, by now, characteristic last lap duel against the man who beat him to the crown last year, Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez. And as well as that breaking a run of second places for the Italian at the venue, it makes ‘DesmoDovi’ the first Championship leader of 2018 – and the second rider to win in Qatar for Ducati.

The man who wins the first race of the year has a 50% chance, statistically, of taking the crown come the season finale. Despite Marquez somewhat overturning that recently, in the time since the Championship began, victory first time out has been a good omen for many - including none other than Casey Stoner in 2007, who remains the only Champion in red. So far.

Dovizioso came close and is looking to change that, with the former 125 Champion steadily becoming a Ducati man through and through. Already known for some time as ‘DesmoDovi’, he joins countrymen Loris Capirossi and Andrea Iannone as a winner in red, but it’s his work taking Ducati back to the top after some more difficult seasons that’s paying off in style: he’s the only man since Stoner to have challenged for the title for the legendary marque.

Dovizioso and Stoner’s routes to the top are very different, but both won that opening race by beating the man who was dominating their respective eras. For Stoner, that was nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, and for Dovizioso, it’s Marquez. So will the Italian be able to go all the way in 2018? If he does, it will surely be Marquez trying to stand in his way…and it will be another incredible season.