After overtaking his opponents with consistent podiums to take the lead in the World Championship, Joan Mir then unleashed a potentially knockout blow in Round 12 with his maiden MotoGP win in Valencia on Sunday.
Combined with a miserable race for his three closest Yamaha rivals, Mir has more than doubled his title lead to 37 points, of which only 50 are left.
It only takes me 26 points to be crowned Suzuki’s first masterclass champion since 2000 at the second leg in Valencia next Sunday, with the final in Portimao still pending.
“I feel great because we finally got this victory. To be honest, it was difficult because the championship was getting closer every time and you always have to find a compromise between risk and speed,” said Mir.
“Today the bike worked really well, I had a winning bike and I took the opportunity. Really happy. I honestly can’t ask for more.”
The talk of Mir becoming the first MotoGP world champion without a race win can now be forgotten.
“I wasn’t worried, but there was something on my mind that I wanted to do,” said Mir, who had led in Austria earlier this year just because the race was abandoned for Maverick Vinales after a brake failure.
“The most important thing this season was that we were on the podium in some races in which we weren’t the favorites. But when I had the chance to win today, I took it. Today it was.”
“In Austria there was maybe another chance, but I didn’t get it. So the win is important, but this season in particular, a win is good, but to be on the podium is also nice.
“I’m also very happy for Suzuki that I finished first and second [for the first time since 1982]. That was still difficult to imagine at the start of the season. Let’s see if we can continue in this form next weekend.
“The championship situation is pretty good.”
Starting fifth after the wet qualifying, Mir was third at the end of the first lap, overtaking KTM’s Pol Espargaro and finishing second on lap 4 of 27 behind team-mate Alex Rins.
Shadowed by his GSX-RR colleague during the next 13 laps, many wondered if Mir would risk a pass. But after seeing a possible move in the final corner, Mir took an unexpected opportunity when Rins missed a gear and went slightly too far on Turn 11.
Free of the turbulent air left by the front tire through his teammate’s trail, Mir increased his pace to build a small but secure lead, which he defended to the checkered flag, and became the record-breaking ninth different winner of the 2020 season.
“I wanted to try to overtake at every moment, but Alex was really strong at the exit of Turn 2,” explained Mir.
“I don’t know if it was him, the bike, the electronics, but in that part he was stronger. It was strange because it wasn’t in a corner, but where you accelerate” [from turn 2-3] and that’s why it’s hard to understand.
“I couldn’t accelerate in the same way, so I probably lost a tenth on that part,” Mir explained. “But I was able to relax in the other parts of the circuit and at Suzuki we share everything, so let’s look at the dates for next weekend.
“What made the difference today at the end of the day was that the center front tire gets softer when you stand behind someone because the temperature gets high and you feel more tire movement.
“When I was in front I felt better on the bike. I had probably three tenths more that allowed me to go off a bit and that was the key.
“I’m happy because he pushed at the beginning today, I didn’t bother him, I let him do his own race, but when I did it I passed him and tried to increase my pace.”
With runner-up Rins, who is now second in the world championship with Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo, Mir has even more reason to study his compatriot’s data before next weekend.
And given the shape of the M1 on Sunday (Best of 11), it could be up to Rins to at least delay Mir’s title celebration – a strange situation for the Suzuki team that could make the heart of team boss Davide Brivio beat faster that will be shown on TV on Sunday.
“Davide had a heart rate monitor ?!” told Me who didn’t know his boss had worn the device as part of the Dorna TV package.
“How many revolutions per minute?” asked me.
Said it doesn’t seem to go above 130, he replied, “130 isn’t much! I expected more. That means we have leeway to make the boss suffer a little more! We’re probably 60 RPM more!”
All jokes aside, I promised that next weekend he would be more focused than ever.
“We have to be very clever now more than ever because we have a really good lead on the points, but it’s not done yet. I think we are in a good position because our bike is working well.
“Probably, if I feel like going on today, I’ll try to get the win too or fight for the win and not think about it [the title]. But if I have trouble, we’ll see what I can do. “
“People who cannot pay their rent are under real pressure”
Suzuki was competitive last season, winning two races with Rins, while Mir took a best-of-fifth during an injury-related rookie season.
But speed alone won’t win a title and the most impressive aspect of Mir’s current season isn’t just the way he fought his way back from two early DNFs, but also kept an icy head in the championship leader’s pressure cooker setting over the last two rounds .
“I think we’re showing that pressure isn’t a big problem for us,” said Mir.
“Of course we have pressure. We play with our lives and have to be really focused on what we do. But in the end it’s our job and luckily I have no real pressure, just good pressure.”
“Because I’m winning this year [the title] it will be super good for me. But if I don’t win, it will have been a good year too. “
I may be a focused, well-paid motorcycle star now on the verge of achieving a lifelong dream, but the 23-year-old has a commendable awareness of those living outside the (literal) MotoGP bubble.
“Real pressure is on the people who cannot pay their rent because of these conditions, the coronavirus and all that, and who cannot bring home food,” Mir explained.
“When I hear questions about pressure, of course I think about it and say, ‘I don’t have any pressure. This is my job. I’ll be super good anyway’. So I’m privileged.”
And don’t expect the race win to change a lot for me.
“I thought that after winning a race I might become a different person,” told Me at the start of Suzuki’s Zoom video call on Sunday night. “I’m happy as you can imagine, but it looks like I’m the same person!”
Third place would be enough for me to win the title next Sunday by 26 points, even if Rins or Quartararo win the race.
Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) are also still in the mathematical battle for the title, but are now 41, 45 and 45 points behind them.