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GP Week : Issue 41
5 Minutes with ... ANDREA DOVIZIOSO Dovi is a different kind of hot-shot. The quiet Italian spoke withMICHAEL SCOTT in the lead-up to the weekend’s Qatar season-opener GPWEEK: You’ve jumped off a privateer Honda straight onto the latest pneumatic-valve- spring factory machine. Is it a big difference? ANDREA DOVIZIOSO: The bike is a big difference. Especially the technique. The power is much, much more, all the traction control and electronic systems. I have much more … we have too many things we need to understand, about my style, the bike setting, the electronic system, engine character and everything. Of course you’re also on new tyres – the Bridgestones. How about the change there? We need to understand how to put the weight and the stress on the tyre. Everyone seems to be putting more weight on the rear, and we also. But I am still not 100 percent. The new rules have made things much worse for us. With the testing reduced, and still a lot of things to try even at the last test at Jerez, we don’t have enough time. The first race is here, and you’re still learning the bike? It’s coming better. Through the tests, we learned a lot about the electronic system already at Qatar, and we tried many things. Honda brought some things to Jerez to make the power less aggressive, and it’s also better, though not enough. My feeling is not 100 percent. We still need to improve … need to understand everything. You’ve stayed with Honda through your career, even when the bike, the 250, wasn’t 20 that good. Is this factory ride the pay-off? The big prize? (Laughs) I think so. Now I am in one of the best teams in MotoGP. I made some good years in 125 and 250. Sometimes it was too hard for the victory. But now I am here and I am happy to be here. To be with HRC in MotoGP is … like a dream. In those 250 years, did you every think about switching to Aprilia, to get a better title chance? Of course. Because every year Aprilia tried to take me. Many things happened one year to the next. One year Honda did not give me what they said. But I always believed in Honda, and now … now I am happy about that. You’re from Forli, not far from Rimini and Misano. With you, Rossi, Simoncelli, Melandri, Pasini, and so many other riders from round there – is there something in the water? I think it is just the mentality. In that part there are so many short pocket-bike tracks. So everybody tries to race. That’s why many fast riders come from there. If you race pocket bikes from the age of six to 14 … it’s the best training. You learn about racing … it’s very important. You started so young – was it a family thing? Did your father race? Yes, but with motocross. He’s still racing. I started with motocross, and I still go training with motocross. I love motocross. You’ve been following a few years behind Rossi throughout your career. Even in pocket-bikes. Do you ever feel under his shadow? When I start with pocket bike he finished with them. So I already knew him. But at that age I didn’t think about that. And now? Is it the same as Melandri said to me once: he’s just another rider to you? No, no. It’s special. He’s maybe the best rider on the world for ever. So I am happy to fight with him. My dream is to beat him before he finishes his career. Are you friends at all? Aaah. A little bit. It’s difficult in our world. But yeah … he is a funny guy. There was some talk that you and he practised motocross together. Well … we tried, but it was very difficult to find the time at the same time. Your generation missed out on the chance ever to race a 500 two-stroke. Is that a regret? Yes, sure. It’s a really difficult bike. Really strong. I would like to try it at some time. Unfortunately I never had the chance to try one. Your English is pretty good nowadays. Do you still live in London? (Long pause) Now, yes. But I need to think about the future. They say you learn good English but eat bad food … but the good point is you can find every kind of food there, and it is really, really good. I have a few English friends because my management is in England, and I have friends in that company. You always used to race with the number 34. That has been “retired” in the MotoGP class when Kevin Schwantz retired, so you had to change. Did you choose it because of Kevin? There is not one reason. My number was always 34 from when I start pocket bike. And I admired Schwantz a lot when I was young. Obviously your next target is MotoGP. Anything beyond that? Do you think about cars for the future? I like cars, especially rally cars. But it is too early to think about that. What do you drive? A Volvo (another pause, as if embarrassed by the suggestion of playing the superstar). And I have an R8 Audi. That’s a bit more like it! Back to the racing. At Qatar, you’re looking a bit more comfortable than at the tests. How are you feeling? Very excited in my first official practice riding for HRC – even more than last year when I made my debut in MotoGP. We have improved things compared to the last test, but we still have some issues with the machine to sort out. I think racing suits my style and mentality better than practice, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.