Last weekend, MotoGP star Andrea Dovizioso made his much-publicised competitive debut as a DTM guest driver. The transition from his familiar Ducati to a powerful, turbo-charged Audi couldn’t have been more different.
But the Italian coped admirably with the steep learning curve, and claimed to really enjoy his weekend on four wheels.
We followed every step of his Misano debut...
Thursday 6 June
1430 Engineering meetings
It is still quiet around the Misano World Circuit as Andrea Dovizioso arrives. Parking in the paddock, close to the trucks and transporters, he quickly disappears into an Audi Sport trailer for meetings with his engineers.
Having tested at Misano for a day and a half the previous month, he’s familiar with the circuit – but now he needs to better understand the engineering challenge of preparing his car for a race distance. Like most drivers, there’s time in the afternoon for a familiarising track-walk with his engineers before his next engagement.
1600 Pre-weekend photo-shoot
Dovi breaks cover in the late afternoon for a photo-shoot with his Ducati MotoGP bike, which goes on to be proudly displayed in the Audi Sport hospitality unit for the weekend, and his Ducati-liveried WRT Audi. He’s also snapped with his Audi driver family for the weekend – sharing a group shot with Jonathan Aberdein, Pietro Fittipaldi, Nico Müller, Loic Duval, Robin Frijns, Mike Rockenfeller and points leader Rene Rast.
Dovi obligingly grips and grins in both his race overalls and his bike leathers, allowing DTM host broadcaster SAT.1 to create a major TV feature ahead of the race weekend.
Friday 7 June
1315 Friday press conference
A special guest merits a special press conference. With the first action of the weekend set to get underway just a few hours later, Andrea Dovizioso is available for the numerous media representatives in the huge press room on the first floor of Misano’s pit building.
He speaks about his expectations for the weekend and his preparations, first in English, then in Italian. Relaxed and with a warm smile on his face, he warns about expectations running too high: “I’m here to enjoy myself; to have a good time,” he smiles. “I don’t have to prove anything – but, of course, I will do my very best!”
As focus shifts downstairs, to the garages and the imminent first practice session, another MotoGP rider is spotted in Dovizioso’s garage: his Ducati team-mate Danilo Petrucci, winner of the previous weekend’s race at Mugello, has popped in to offer moral support.
1535 Free Practice 1
Fastest time 1m29.809s
Gap to front 2.169s
Finally, the wait is over. The cars take to the track for first practice, lasting 45 minutes. Dovi starts with a first run of five laps, then heads back to the pits to talk with his engineers and to make some set-up changes to the car.
His next run covers four laps. Then, he goes out for a longer stint of seven laps, all nicely around the 1m30s mark. His 15th lap is his fastest with a time of 1m29.809s. After one more outing, the Italian ends up with a total of 19 laps, and is classified 16th overall.
1825 Free Practice 2
Fastest time 1m28.488s
Gap to front 1.768s
The final practice session of the day is a shorter 30-minute affair. Dovi completes two runs – one of 10 laps, and a second of 11 laps. His fastest time of 1m28.488s sees him classified 16th again, but he significantly reduces the gap to the fastest driver.
Perhaps more importantly, he looks focused, unflustered and mistake-free out on track.
Saturday 8 June
1030 Qualifying 1
Fastest time 1m27.037s
Gap to front 1.743s
The first of two race days at Misano: today is when it really starts to count.
On Saturday, he has just 20 minutes to set a qualifying time for the afternoon’s first race of the weekend. Like most of the drivers, Dovizioso completes a total of 10 laps across two runs.
1310 Starting grid
In warm sunshine, Dovizioso arrives on the grid for the first race. Dozens of photographers and camera teams surround his car as he poses for a photo-call with Mattias Ekström, the former champion who has been his personal driver coach for several weeks; six-time world rally champion Sébastien Ogier and Alex Zanardi, the three motorsport stars who all sat in the DTM guest-driver hot-seat during the 2018 season.
1330 Race 1
Fastest lap 1m29.235s (+1.244s)
In his first DTM race, Dovizioso does a highly credible job.
He manages to stay away from all the problems, has some nice on-track battles, and makes solid progress through the field. On lap 14, he gets up in eighth position; then, one lap later, he gets as high as fourth as other drivers come in for their mandatory pit-stop. ‘Dovi’ himself has his tyres changed at the end of lap 16, rejoining the race in 15th place. He makes further progress and finishes twelfth.
“The race was nice,” he says afterwards. “It was nice to battle with other drivers. I learned a lot about the racing lines, and also about where I have to brake and get on the throttle. My start wasn’t that good, but in the end, I gained some positions and I had some nice battles. Especially the restart after the Safety Car was very nice.”
1550 Post-race press conference
After the race and the usual debriefing with the engineers, Dovizioso goes to the media centre again to talk to the journalists about his experience.
Sunday 9 June
1045 Qualifying 2
Fastest time 1m26.703s
Gap to front 1.319s
On Sunday morning, he encounters his first mishap. On his second lap of qualifying, Dovizioso loses control of his Audi RS 5 DTM under braking and slides into the gravel trap on the outside of Turn 14.
He just manages to stop the car in time, avoid an impact with the tyre barrier. The session is briefly red-flagged, which allows the marshals to push his car back on-track. The car is unscathed, so Dovizioso is able to get it up and running and back to the pits. His ninth lap is his fastest of the weekend – a 1m26.703s – and sees him qualify 14th.
1130 Autograph session
Every weekend, DTM holds its regular autograph session – lining up all the drivers behind tables for fans to press the flesh with their racing heroes. Numerous fans take the opportunity to obtain one of Dovizioso’s ‘hero cards’ and the star driver is inundated with selfie requests and lots of merch for signing.
1330 Race 2
Fastest lap 1m29.311s (+2.020s)
For his final DTM outing of the weekend, Dovizioso makes a good start and successfully avoids the incidents on the opening lap, vaulting up to 10th place. He then makes further progress, enjoying a nice battle with former DTM champion Bruno Spengler for eighth. ‘Dovi’ stays in the top 10 for the first eleven laps, looking increasingly confident, then comes in for his pit-stop at the end of lap 12.
He rejoins the race in 14th place and pushes hard to the finish. He makes one mistake – a high-speed pirouette around the back of the circuit – but shows his maturity by collecting things up and getting on his way once again. After 38 laps, he is classified 15th.
“I made a good start and I was ninth after two laps, which was cool, but I didn’t have the speed to be fighting at the front. It was difficult,” the Italian admits afterwards. “The level of the drivers and the car is very high, so it takes time; but I had some nice battles and was able to use DRS and push-to-pass. As the race went on, I struggled a bit with the rear tyres.
“I didn’t really have a goal prior to this weekend,” he says. “I just wanted to learn; to understand more of the car and the level of the drivers. And that’s what I did. I really enjoyed it and I could definitely see myself coming back to the DTM one day.
“The only thing that surprised me a bit were all the meetings. In DTM, I think I had more meetings in two days than in one whole year with Ducati… And I stopped it, because I was here to drive, not to have meetings!”