Who would have guessed that a pandemic-postponed season would be one of MotoGP’s most exciting in years? Suzuki’s Joan Mir was the only rider in the top six in the championship standings who hadn’t won a race this year, but he finally struck that one off his list at the European Grand Prix. He’s the ninth winner this year.
“I feel the same but even more happy,” Mir said when asked about how he felt in having secured his first win. “This is what I was missing, one victory. I think it came in the perfect moment. I’m so happy because the team make a memorable job this weekend. We worked so well, and I felt really good on the bike. Thank you to all of them because they made an awesome job, and if you do, you’re on top of the podium.”
His win has launched Mir into the lead of the championship by 37 points. The previous points leader, Fabio Quartararo, crashed and was able to remount his bike, but he was so far back in the field that he was no longer in contention. He’ll have a strong uphill battle to take on Mir for the championship in these last two races, but nothing is impossible.
Polesitter Pol Espargaro shot into the lead right from the start with Alex Rins and Takaaki Nakagami following behind him. Rins took the lead on the second lap. On the fourth, Mir just barely got by Rins. The two riders were nose-to-tail until a mistake by Rins saw the rider slip back. From the 11th lap to the end, Mir was unstoppable.
Not everyone had a great race, though. Valentino Rossi was able to make his return after a near-monthlong absence when he tested positive for COVID-19. He had a technical issue on lap five that saw his race end.
Rins held onto second place, giving Suzuki its first 1-2 finish since 1987, and has tied Quartararo in the championship standings with 125 points. Espargaro finished third.
“It was a very fast race. When I was leading, I was feeling good. In corner 11, I was wrong with the gear, and I ran a little bit out,” Rins admitted. “For this reason Joan overtook me. I tried to follow him but he put up a very high level on track. I was trying to find a compromise with the rear tire, with the front. Congrats to Suzuki team. Let’s see if we can adjust the bike better for the next race.”
Espargaro was all smiles despite a difficult race:
“It was hard. It was tough. With the blue rockets, they were really fast, especially on the right corners with the medium tire, but I was catching back on the brakes. I was just using the full performance of the hard tire, but I was losing on the corner speed and especially on the turning and the apex of T3. I think it was a perfect choice. We went in this race on the hard front and medium rear all weekend. Even last year, we had zero data with the front hard. But we gambled, it worked, I was getting on the brakes just enough to catch back the time they were gaining. I felt on the limit every single corner behind these guys and by the end, Taka was pushing so much.”
Next week sees the second race in a row at Valencia. It will be the penultimate race of the season.