Sports Monks

Mir makes history to put one hand on the crown

The number 36 puts MotoGP™ on cloud nine as he becomes the ninth different winner and the fifth first time winner of the year, pulling clear in the Championship

Another race, another chapter written into the history books: Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is now a MotoGP™ race winner. The Suzuki rider was pitch perfect in the Gran Premio de Europa to make his first visit to the top step in the premier class, putting one hand on the crown in the process as he stretches his advantage in the Championship to 37 points. Mir is also the ninth different premier class winner of the year, seeing 2020 equal the record of most winners in a season, and the number 36 sets a new record as the fifth different maiden winner this year. With teammate Alex Rins following him home in second, the day also marked the first Suzuki 1-2 since 1982 and the Hamamatsu factory now lead in the fight for the riders’, constructors’ and teams’ Championships. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) kept Rins honest as the number 44 took third though, back on the podium at the scene of both his and KTM’s first premier class rostrum finish in 2018.

It was close as the premier class riders roared away from the line, with both Rins and Pol Espargaro getting away well from the front row but the KTM ultimately taking the holeshot. Mir got away well from fifth too and was up to P4, just behind Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). But not long after that, eyes would turn to some serious Lap 1 Championship drama.

Heading into Turn 8 at the end of the back straight, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was suddenly down and out of contention, the Frenchman reacting to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) alongside him as the two both slid into the gravel. No contact was made and pure bad luck reigned, but it was monumental for the Championship. Luckily for Quartararo, he was able to pick the bike up and get running again but El Diablo re-joined behind Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who had started from pitlane due to exceeding his engine allocation. Early doors, it was advantage Mir near the front as some of his key rivals scrabbled to make up lost ground. 

Pol Espargaro led the first one and a half laps but it didn’t take long for Rins to pounce at Turn 11, the Suzuki slotting through to take the lead and a couple of laps later, Mir – who had passed Nakagami on the opening lap – copy and pasted his teammate’s move on KTM as the Hamamatsu factory made it formation flying at the front. Oliveira was now also past Nakagami as two KTMs chased the Suzukis, before more drama hit further back – once again for Yamaha.

On Lap 5, the returning Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was shown stopped on track at Turn 5, the Doctor’s comeback from Covid-19 sadly over after just a handful of laps. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) then crashed unhurt not long after, bumping Viñales up to 15th and Quartararo on the verge of the points. How much more progress could they make?

Meanwhile, the front group remained in a tense as-you-were. An intriguing game of chess was beginning as Rins led teammate Mir, with Pol Espargaro and Oliveira not far off and Nakagami and Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) still in fairly close pursuit to boot. After a slow start, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was regrouping and chasing Zarco down as well, with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) going the opposite way as the Italian was shuffled back.

With 15 to go, there remained nothing to choose between the two Suzukis in the lead. Lap after lap, Rins and Mir were exchanging 1:32.1s. A few laps later, Mir was visibly closer and homing in, but a move wasn’t coming yet as the gameplan seemed to hint towards patience. But that was assuming it would all come down to tactics, and instead it was about to come down to a small but costly mistake for the man in the lead.

Rins, heading through Turn 11 with 11 to go, was ever-so-slightly wide – and a door ajar will soon become a door opened in MotoGP™. Mir needed no second invitation, sweeping through to take over at the front and face down 10 laps with a lot at stake. Next time around, the Mayorcan set the fastest lap. By seven to go, his lead had crept to over half a second.

Two laps later, Mir was over a second clear it that made it clear: a mistake was likely the only thing that was going to stop the Mayorcan finally taking to that top step. Rins was still getting hounded by an impressive Pol Espargaro, and Nakagami was lurking just behind with some great late race pace as well. Suzuki Team Manager Davide Brivio could barely watch, but it all came down to this: one more lap.

With 1.4 seconds in his pocket, just 4km stood between Mir and a historic maiden MotoGP™ win, as well as a whole load of Championship advantage. And the number 36 held firm, keeping everything calm and collected to the line to finally make it a reality: his first premier class win, taken in some style. Monkey off back, one hand on crown and debate silenced, all he needs next time out is a podium – regardless of anyone else’s results.

Rins held off Espargaro by six tenths in the end, enough to create that milestone Suzuki 1-2 and moving himself into third overall – equal on points with Quartararo. Another impressive podium for KTM was also Pol Espargaro’s fourth rostrum of 2020, putting him just nine points down on Dovizioso in the Championship.

Nakagami banished the Aragon demons with a great ride to P4, less than a second away from a first premier class podium and top Independent Team rider to earn a trip to parc ferme. Oliveira slipped back into the grasp of Miller but the Portuguese rider just got the better of the Australian for P5, relegating the Queenslander to sixth.

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), meanwhile, took a superb P7 despite a long-lap penalty served for his Aragon mistake, and the South African regains a points advantage in the battle for Rookie of the Year after Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) crashed out. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) lost more ground in the title race after a P8 finish, but the Italian beat fellow Ducati rider Zarco by 0.7 seconds after the Frenchman’s pace dropped off in the latter stages. Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci completed the top ten, the Italian gaining an impressive eight places.

Morbidelli’s Sunday was a contrasting one to Teruel.  A difficult day and P11 for the Italian sees him drop to 45 points behind Mir in the title race after a tough weekend on the whole for Yamaha. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) crossed the line 12th after another good ride from the HRC test rider, just ahead of Viñales who, despite his pitlane start, was just over a second behind the German.

Quartararo took the flag in P14, his opening lap crash putting a serious dent in his title chances. He remains second overall, however, and looking to hit back against Rins too. There are still 50 points in play…

Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing), Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) crashed out, riders ok.

And so the curtains come down for another week, with another chapter safely filed in the annals of history. Valencia will host again as the paddock returns to action next weekend, and everything will now be on the line as the first match point appears on the horizon. Nine winners, five first timers, and one of them on the roll of his life. Can Mir make it a coronation? With a 37-point safety net, all he needs is a podium.

MotoGP™ podium

1Joan Mir Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki 41:37.297
Alex Rins Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki +0.651
Pol Espargaro Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM +1.203

Joan Mir: “It’s amazing. I don’t have words to describe the moment, it’s amazing that the victory came at the perfect moment. Obviously I would have liked to win in Austria too but it wasn’t the day. Today was the day! I’m happy but I was already happy before the race because we did a super good weekend. On Friday we worked on the bike, on Saturday I found something good in the rain to have a good qualifying in those conditions. It was pretty good, I made an improvement, and then in Warm Up we worked so well and the pace was not bad! That was the key to the victory today, I had something more than the others and I could show it. I’m also especially happy for the team, Suzuki, first and second is amazing. I have no words.”

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