Joan Mir has wrapped up the 2020 MotoGP World Championship title with one round to spare with a dogged ride in the Valencia MotoGP to put the series out of his rivals’ reach.
An extraordinary outcome in what has been an unforgettable season, while Mir’s title win was expected after he opened up a comfortable 37 point margin coming into the penultimate race, it doesn’t disguise the gravity of his performance.
Title victory comes in only his second season of MotoGP competition, and only his fifth full season of GP racing, in a campaign forged on the back of metronomic consistency in a compact season where the pre-existing form book has been ripped up.
It’s also a huge moment for the Suzuki Ecstar team, marking only the seventh premier class win in what is its 60th anniversary season of GP competition, while it is its first crowning triumph since Kenny Roberts Jr won the 2000 500GP title.
Going down as possibly one of the most shocking title winners in the sport’s history – if not the most unexpected ever – few regarded Mir as among the title favourites coming into the season, even if he was largely a shadow for team-mate Alex Rins during pre-season testing on the improved Suzuki, a man many had otherwise tipped for a title tilt.
With the season playing out over 14 rounds, the result of the COVID-19 pandemic-prompted late start, two DNFs from the opening three races further cast Mir into the background before a pair of eye-catching rides in Austria hinted at what he could potentially do.
Breaking his podium duck in Austria, Mir began multiplying that tally over the ensuing rounds, often capitalising on the Suzuki’s ability to conserve its tyres better than its rivals to make up ground in the closing stages. This was typified in a grandstand performance at Misano when he overtook Valentino Rossi for third on the final lap in what will surely go down as the pass of the season.
With the form of his rivals fluctuating wildly, while Mir’s lack of race winning silverware was beginning to weigh heavy, his regular trips to the podium – seven in the last nine races – moved him to the front fro the first time after Round 10 at Aragon.
However, a perfectly timed maiden win in Valencia last weekend would prove the pivotal moment in his title challenge as his erstwhile main rivals floundered, while he stepped foot on the elusive top step for the first time.
While he made things difficult for himself with 12th on the grid for the second Valencia race with Rins and Fabio Quartararo starting 14th and 11th themselves respectively, a level head was all he needed to have the maths work in his favour.
And so it proved, Mir surviving a frantic opening lap – in which Quartararo scuppered his hopes with a wide moment at Turn 2 – settling on the edge of the top ten before picking up a few spots from overtakes and retirements ahead to cross the line in seventh. With Rins managing no better than fourth, it means Mir is the 2020 MotoGP World Champion.
The result also means Suzuki is well placed to wrap up the triple crown of riders, teams and manufacturers’ titles in Portimao next weekend.