Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir is the 2020 FIM MotoGP World Champion after taking an unassailable lead in the penultimate round of the championship at Valencia on 15 November.
The 23-year-old from Mallorca in Spain won the title in only his second year in the premier class and his fifth full season of grand prix racing. Those five years include two in Moto3, where Mir won that World Championship in 2017 as a 20-year-old.
This year’s MotoGP championship is also the first for a Suzuki rider since Kenny Roberts Jnr. in 2000. Combined results from Mir and team mate Alex Rins saw Suzuki also secure this year’s Teams’ Championship at Valencia.
Mir’s road to this year’s championship started poorly with two DNFs in the opening three rounds, but he then finished second – his first ever MotoGP podium – at the first weekend of the Spielberg double-header. From there, the Spaniard was remarkably consistent, finishing inside the top five for seven of the next eight races. The only blip was at Le Mans, where wet conditions on race day caught Mir out and saw him finish in eleventh place. A podium at the following round in Aragon saw Mir take the championship lead for the first time as early championship leader, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) faltered.
At the first of the Valencia double headers, Mir secured his first MotoGP race win with a near-faultless ride that put him in the box seat for the championship with two rounds remaining.
For the second round of the Valencia double header a week later, Mir held a 37-point championship lead, needing to accrue 14 points to make the title a certainty.
Despite winning at the same circuit a week earlier, Mir struggled in qualifying, his woes compounded by a heavy crash in FP2 that put a scare through the Team Suzuki Ecstar garage.
Last in the final Q2 qualifying session meant Mir would start from twelfth on the grid, but Quartararo was alongside him in eleventh, while fellow title rival Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was on pole.
Before the race start, Mir confessed that, despite projecting an appearance of calm on the grid, he was anything but: “I wasn't calm and without pressure I was just super nervous, which is not a bad thing!”
Despite his poor qualifying position, Mir’s goal was made easier when Quartararo ran wide on the opening lap. Eight laps later, the Frenchman crashed out, which meant the championship was all but assured – Mir could circulate at the tail of the top ten.
The Ultimate Goal
At the chequered flag, Mir was in seventh place, which was more than enough to comfortably take the title despite Morbidelli’s race win.
“It's something I've been fighting all my life. Since I was ten years old, I had this dream and I never stopped until I got this title,” Mir said.
“So what can I say? I can start saying thanks to a lot of people who've stayed with me, not only this year but also in the past, to make me who I am and achieve this result.
“I want to thank first my family, and then Suzuki and the opportunity they gave me in 2018, and now in 2020 two years later I'm the World Champion!
“I didn't expect it honestly, I expected it further in the future! But we've got the title and now it's ours, so I'm happy!"
Being Suzuki’s first premier class champion in 20 years – and in the same year that the company celebrates its centenary – was also special.
“For me, to win a title with any manufacturer is unbelievable and the main target, but I was quite brave in that moment to go with Suzuki because I didn't expect this potential with the bike in the second year, I expected it further forward. For me to win with Suzuki has something extra, not just this year, but to get a title with Suzuki means something more than normal."
In winning this year’s MotoGP World Championship, Mir becomes only the sixth rider to take a 500cc/MotoGP title with Suzuki. He joins Barry Sheene (1976, 1977), Marco Lucchinelli (1981), Franco Uncini (1982), Kevin Schwantz (1993) and Kenny Roberts Jnr. (2000) on their roster of premier class champions.