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Is the ‘Andrea Dovizioso: Undaunted’ documentary one of the very best to have emerged from MotoGP? Neil Morrison thinks so and explains why in his latest Blog

A very minor upside to a global pandemic and the impending economic depression that will accompany it is the time to catch up. For years now my phone has been filled with lists titled ‘Read’ or ‘Watch’. Somewhere on the latter was Andrea Dovizioso: Undaunted, an hour-long documentary on the Italian and Ducati’s failure to match Marc Marquez throughout 2019.

I’ll be
honest: it didn’t feature highly on my list of priorities. Being a Red Bull
Media production (one of Dovizioso’s personal sponsors is the Austrian energy
drink giant), I discerned this was a smiley PR exercise to keep the sponsors
happy. Having watched it during the recent lull in action I couldn’t have been
more wrong. While not exactly perfect, Undaunted
is a pretty gripping tale of doubt, angst and frustration at the highest level
of the sport.

For a start
it seems odd that Dovizioso gave the OK on a warts-and-all documentary on his
recent trials and tribulations. An introvert who keeps a low profile and
loathes any peers pursuing cheap publicity, the 34-year old doesn’t strike you
as a figure willing the court the camera. But as he outlines from the
beginning, “the good thing that comes from making a documentary like this is it
shows much more of the pain that is behind MotoGP.”

So that’s
what we’re treated to: pain. Anyone familiar with similar sporting documentaries
recently aired on Netflix and Amazon Prime will be aware it is this sensation that
drives a captivating narrative, rather than unabashed success. And there was
plenty of that in the Ducati garage in 2019. Even in the aftermath his
brilliant race win in Qatar, Dovizioso can be seen offering his team a stern
warning. “Fuck, I’m pessimistic,” he says. “It’s not only Marc that’s faster.
It’s the others.”

Considering
how Ducati backer Phillip Morris keeps a close eye on brand image and media access,
there is an impressive amount of behind the scenes footage captured by Italian
director Paolo Novelli. It doesn’t shy away from conflict. And not only that; Undaunted goes some way to explaining
the finer details of the dynamics within the Ducati’s garage once the shutters
descend.

It has long
been rumoured, for example, that Dovizioso and Gigi Dall’Igna do not see eye to
eye. That’s in plain sight here, with the factory’s technical wizard explaining
to the camera how he’d “like to see [Andrea] more instinctive and less
thoughtful in some race situations.” At times Dall’Igna can be seen looking on
disconsolately, wearily even as his rider stresses those well-known negatives
of his Ducati hardware.

The most
telling part of the film comes at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix. Having
stalked Maverick Viñales in the final laps, Dovizioso opts out of a risky move,
instead settling for fourth. On the surface a good result at a track Andrea
doesn’t love. But rather than receiving a warm welcome in the garage, there is
a sea of forlorn faces mystified by his lack of bite. Why didn’t he at least
attempt a late move on Viñales, he’s asked. “I was losing time in many
corners,” comes the response. But the inquest doesn’t end there. Soon Dovizioso
loses his air of assurance as he sheepishly defends his actions.

It’s here
you come to understand the weight of expectation and pressure that is forever
on these riders’ shoulders, their every move and decision being picked through
and critiqued in minute detail. Soon Dovizioso acknowledges, “I should have
tried it.” And so the film shows the rider – and team – grappling with his
thoughtful, and perhaps overly cautious, nature. Can he not, as company CEO
Claudio Domenicali asks, occasionally add “that touch of madness that
‘Ducatisti’ would appreciate?” An earlier shot from Qatar shows Andrea asking
the filmmaker, ‘does the camera get spoilt?’ before dousing him – and it – in
champagne. Even in moments of elation, Dovizioso thinks before acting.

There are
other interesting observations. We learn, for example, exactly what Dovizioso
thought of Danilo Petrucci’s turn one move that denied him a famous home
victory at Mugello (“What pisses me off is he entered the corner without
worrying. [That] shows you don’t care what happens to the others,” he tells a
close group of confidants). Dovizioso is thoughtful and measured when talking
to the press. But we see him petulantly throwing time sheets away in disgust
and receiving stern instructions from personal manager Simone Batistella to
calm it all down. Here is a title challenge unravelling before our eyes.

His
vulnerability is on display, too, particularly when addressing the issue of
whether he is getting the absolute most from his machine. “It’s annoying. Very
annoying,” he tells Batistella, referring to “some people at Ducati,” fans and
other riders who believe he should be performing at a
higher level. No matter how hard he tries to hide it, you see his human side. Criticism
still stings.

It’s not only the drama that delivers;
there are real artistic flourishes here (Andrea preparing his leathers on the
morning of his home GP to the tune of Il
Canto degli Italiani
is a particular highlight). Its pace doesn’t relent,
and the final product is impressive in how rigorously it’s been edited. No
corny music, conflated sound effects or cheesy musings on life are to be seen
or heard, a relief after watching Formula One’s watchable but rarely inspiring Netflix
series Drive to Survive.

Still, Undaunted
is not quite perfect. Yes, the level of intimacy is a pleasant surprise. But it
leaves you wanting more. At just 57 minutes in length you feel there is at
least half an hour of footage worth showing. Where is the footage from Le Mans,
where Dall’Igna told reporters “we had the bike to win” after his riders
finished second and third? Or why was Misano – the scene of Ducati’s season
nadir – left out completely? The viewer is left to ponder many of the scenes no
doubt left of the editing floor.

Even considering this, Undaunted remains a punchy, razor sharp look at the strains placed on those at the highest level of this sport. If you’re even a passing fan, seek it out on the internet, where it can be viewed for free. A handful of Dorna’s recent productions (in particular Jorge Lorenzo Guerrero and From Cervera to Tokyo) have been first class. But this stands above them all. It’s hard to recall any film on MotoGP as insightful as this.

By Neil Morrison @NeilMorrison87

Photos by Polarity Photo @polarityphoto & CormacGP @CormacGP

Watch the film by clicking HERE





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