Despite a seventh-place finish at Valencia, the Suzuki Ecstar racer bagged the 2020 MotoGP crown
After a seventh-place finish at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana that saw Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) beat Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) in a phenomenal last-lap battle, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the podium. However, the big news comes in the form of Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking the crown as the 2020 MotoGP World Champion. Further, Mir’s win has given the Suzuki team its first rider title since 2000.
The eagerly anticipated Valencia GP got underway with both Morbidelli and Miller getting great launches off the line, but the Australian grabbed the holeshot. However, Miller went wide into Turn 1, allowing Morbidelli to take the lead heading into the tight Corner 2 as Pol Espagraro climbed into P2. Just behind, it was a nightmare start for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), as he went to avoid Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Mir, and ended up running wide and dropping to the last place.
Mir made a steady start from P12 and was up to P10, as Miller grabbed P2 from Pol Espargaro and locked his radar onto the back of race leader Morbidelli. Elsewhere, Rins had made a fantastic start from P14 to slot himself into P8 – crucial for the Spaniard. Miller set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 2, shadowing Morbidelli, but on the next two laps, it was Morbidelli upped the pace.
Further back on the road, Rins was entangled in a battle with Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and attempted a move at the final corner. Rins ran wide and the GP19 bullet cruised past Rins on the straight, but ended up going down in Corner 1. Rins was now up to P6 and Lap 6, Mir was P9. As things stood, Mir was World Champion.
Morbidelli was now starting to stretch his legs at the front. On Lap 8 his lead was creeping up and going with Miller was third place Pol Espargaro, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) just 1.3 seconds away from his KTM counterpart. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was keeping Rins at bay for now, but the Japanese rider received a track limit warning on Lap 9 – incredibly early to be getting one of those. In P6, Rins was looking – understandably – eager to get through.
From on top of the world in Jerez, Quartararo’s title-chasing season ended on Lap 9, when he tucked the front at Corner 6, putting him out of the World Championship. On track, P9 was ok for Mir but 10th place Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was swiftly reeling him in, with Mir right behind Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
On Lap 11, Morbidelli’s lead still wasn’t over a second, with Miller and Espargaro giving chase and the gap between the orange KTM and Nakagami coming down, and Rins also now past Oliveira – P5 now for the number 42. Mir then passed Aleix Espargaro for P8 to strengthen his title grip, knowing that Dovizioso was now right on his tail. Lap 12 was then completed and Morbidelli’s lead was now over a second, with Nakagami making inroads to Pol Espargaro.
On Lap 14, Mir was still in a title-winning position. As things stood, race leader Morbidelli would be 28 points behind with a race to go in second place. But Mir wasn’t breaking clear of Aleix Espargaro and Dovizioso, the trio 1.6 seconds behind Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in seventh.
Things then started to get very interesting in the podium scrap. Nakagami was lapping four tenths faster than Pol Espargaro and the gap was now down to a second. With 12 laps remaining, Rins was 1.5 seconds back from Nakagami and not able to stick with the Honda at that moment in time. At the front, Miller had reduced the gap back down to below a second with 11 laps to go.
Miller, on Lap 17, then slammed in a 1:31.378 minute laptime to set the fastest lap of the race. Sensational from the number 43 who was on the medium front tyre, unlike a lot of the other riders who had gone for the hard. Pol Espargaro had his hands full as Nakagami swarmed in on a maiden MotoGP podium, Rins remained P5. Morbidelli then responded to edge his lead up to nine tenths, but the gap was remaining at just under a second.
With nine laps to go, Nakagami went for a pass on Pol Espargaro at the final corner. He had so much more grip around the famous left-hander but Nakagami’s race then ended, the number 30 tucked the front and crashed, narrowly avoiding Pol Espargaro. This was aiding Mir, who moved up to P7.
Something else which would aid Mir was Miller overtaking Morbidelli. The gap was down to 0.6 seconds with eight to go and now, as things stood, Mir would hold a 29-point lead over Morbidelli with one race remaining. With six laps to go, the World Championship crown was heading the way of Mir as Rins had to start fending off Binder. Miller was now 0.4 seconds away from Morbidelli, it was between these two for the win as Pol Espargaro was nearly three seconds back.
With five laps to go, the gap was three and a half tenths as Morbidelli dropped into the 1:32s. The title looked to be heading Mir’s way, but all eyes were focused on the lead duo of Morbidelli vs Miller who were giving absolutely everything. With three laps to go, Mir was still P7, Dovizioso was less than a second behind the Spaniard, and Rins had some last-minute pressure to deal with from Binder. There were now two laps left and the gap was now as close as it has been between Morbidelli and Miller, the latter was almost two tenths faster than Morbidelli on Lap 25.
Heading onto the front straight for the last lap, Miller blasted past Morbidelli to take the lead into Corner 1, but the Aussie went wide, allowing Morbidelli back through. Corner 4 then saw Miller chuck it up the inside of the Yamaha, but having absolutely none of it, Morbidelli snapped straight back to grab P1 again at Turn 5. Miller then pulled alongside Morbidelli down the back straight and showed a wheel, but there was no way through. Miller then set himself up for a dive up the inside at Turn 11, however, there was no way through as the duo got very close for comfort.
Attention then turned to the final corner, but Miller wasn’t close enough to lunge. Could the number 43 get the power down and use the extra grunt to scream past Morbidelli on the run to the line? Not quite, Morbidelli emerged victorious for the third time this season in a magnificent battle with Miller, the Italian now sits second in the Championship. The gap over the line was just 0.093 seconds, tantalisingly close for Miller but it’s a great third podium of the season. Pol Espargaro goes back-to-back in Valencia for his fifth podium of the year, another fantastic effort from the Spaniard in his penultimate race for KTM.
Rins’ comeback ride was staggering from P14, but the Suzuki man ran out of steam and eventually missed out on the podium by six tenths. A fantastic effort from the Spaniard who helps Team Suzuki Ecstar claim the Team Championship, but his dreams of becoming 2020 World Champion are now over. Binder returns to the top five for the first time since the Austrian GP to strengthen his grip on the Rookie of the Year title, Oliveira finishes three seconds behind Binder to make it three KTMs in the top seven.
Then, Mir took the chequered flag. Pandemonium raged on the pit wall as Suzuki witnessed their rider come across the line to win the 2020 MotoGP World Championship, the young Spaniard joining Barry Sheene, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Kevin Schwantz and Kenny Roberts Jr. as Suzuki title winners.
Below are the final results of race 13 of the MotoGP season
Valencia plays host to yet another Championship-deciding MotoGP race, handing Joan Mir and Team Suzuki Ecstar the 2020 MotoGP crown. With Suzuki and Ducati sitting level on points in the fight to become Constructor Champions, we now head to Portimao for the next week’s showdown, with the triple crown in sight.