A dark horse among MotoGP's rising stars - The Race

A dark horse among MotoGP’s rising stars

Jul 14 2020
By Simon Patterson

The 2019 season was a tricky debut MotoGP campaign for Suzuki rider Joan Mir.

The 22-year-old made a strong start to the year as he paced himself alongside the GSX-RR’s rapid development – then it all went wrong when a technical problem during testing at Brno left him suffering from injuries that hampered the rest of his season.

Damaging his lungs and spending the rest of the season fighting for full fitness, the crash meant that Mir wasn’t able to make the big step forward that he and his close-knit team had planned for the second half of the year.

That is perhaps why some were surprised when he came out so strongly in 2020’s pre-season tests.

Immediately jumping into top five contention on the opening day at Sepang and remaining there until testing concluded at Losail, Mir looked on track for an impressive second season with the squad when racing got underway.

That all came crashing down when the coronavirus pandemic struck, leaving him ruing what could have been.

But, with racing finally set to get underway again this week at Jerez, the Spaniard told The Race that he’s confident he, team-mate Alex Rins and Suzuki can pick up where they would’ve done in Qatar four months ago.

Joan Mir Suzuki MotoGP 2020

“Everything will be more serious this year because I’m not a rookie anymore, and we showed in the tests a little bit of what we can be able to do,” says Mir.

“It was important, and we need to keep working in that line, to always be in the top three or top five. That’s the positions we’re aiming for and where we deserve to be.

“In the Qatar test I was sure that we had a good bike that could fight for podium positions right from the start.

“Now, after two or three months without even seeing the bike, I can’t remember as well though! For sure other manufacturers are in a worse position than us, but we’ll see what happens.

“All through pre-season I was getting ready for the race in Qatar, improving my skills and my style, working really hard with the team – and then at the test we didn’t just confirm that I was fast, we were even faster than we thought.

“A two-year contract isn’t a long time, and I had other opportunities but I decided to stay with Suzuki because I believe a lot in the project” :: Joan Mir

“I was one of the top three riders, and then everything disappeared. It’s a shame, and now it’s like we’re starting from zero again.”

However, it won’t be as easy as originally planned for Suzuki to have a strong year with the revised calendar. It has lost the tracks where it was expecting to have race-winning potential – such as Silverstone, Assen, Phillip Island, Austin – and Mir has instead been left plotting a more strategic path through the shortened season.

“At the tracks that aren’t good for us, we’ll just have to score as many points as possible and be constant,” he says.

“That’s going to be key in this championship. To be able to attack without crashing will be the most critical part of the year.”

There has been good news come out of the unplanned break for him, though, with a two-year extension to his Suzuki deal that will keep him with the manufacturer until at least the end of the 2022 season.

Joan Mir Suzuki MotoGP 2020

And despite interest from other manufacturers (with both Ducati and Honda believed to have made inquiries about the hotly-tipped 2017 Moto3 world champion), he says there was never any doubt in his mind.

“It was easy to choose. I’ve only spent two years with one manufacturer, which isn’t a lot of time,” says Mir.

“Normally with Suzuki you need one year to adapt to the bike, and then the results start to come.

“A two-year contract isn’t a long time, and I had other opportunities but I decided to stay with Suzuki because I believe a lot in the project.

“We are very alike, always improving, always growing up. It’s something that allows me to identify with the project.

“It was nice to have some other manufacturers who wanted to talk, but I didn’t speak with them. My decision was already made.”

The key reason for such an easy decision? In large part, the close bond that he has formed with his team. Led by veteran British-Italian crew chief Frankie Carchedi, Mir has built a squad around him that he’s loath to split up as they continue to make rapid progress with the bike’s development.

“In my side of the box, we’re really close, and it looks to be the same on Alex’s side as well,” he says.

“I am super close with my crew chief, with my telemetry engineer, with my mechanics.

“When you know really well everything about racing you know how important this is. If you have a bad feeling or some type of problem in the garage you’re always distracted and thinking about other things.

“Frankie was a rookie as well, and we grew together. I really like that, I like that he’s the only MotoGP crew chief that I’ve ever had, and it will be a beautiful thing if we can achieve a victory together.”

Alex Rins Suzuki MotoGP 2020

Thinks are perhaps a little cooler with the other side of the garage, though. With Mir making no bones about his desire to share the number one rider position with Rins as 2020 progresses and as the two remain team-mates until 2022, it could make for an interesting scrap within the garage as they vie for position and results.

“I want to think that there’s no number one and number two at Suzuki now,” says Mir.

“Last year there was because Alex was the established rider and I had just arrived.

“But I don’t believe in this anymore and I don’t think Suzuki does either.”

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