VAMOS!

Joan Mir IS the 2020 MotoGP World Champion, the Suzuki rider’s steady - or perhaps nervy - run to seventh in the Valencia MotoGP giving him the velveteen cushion he needed to celebrate an unlikely title victory on home soil with one round to spare.

It’s a day he won’t forget and we’re not sure we will either in a season that has taken the erstwhile formbook, popped it under a tyre and completely shredded it with a burnout.

There was also a race, of course, and it was a last lap thriller that almost stole the show, so allow us to pick through our big winners - some more so than others of course - and our losers from the Valencia MotoGP.

2020 Valencia MotoGP Winners & Losers

 

 

The Winners

Joan Mir

So there we have it, Joan Mir and Suzuki are your 2020 MotoGP World Champions… words we have to admit we weren’t expecting to say just a few short months ago when the season kicked off in Jerez.

In fact, with more twists and turns than a lap of Cadwell Park, you couldn’t have called this as recently as two rounds ago, but while it takes years to fashion a title win, it takes just moments to lose them too.

In fact, almost anyone else on the grid would agree to that because in a year where the difference between good days and bad days set the foundation for this road, while Mir didn’t have the best day all too often with just a single win to his name, he rarely left a track unhappy with his performance.

And that was the key, Mir’s metronomic consistency - seven podiums in 13 races thus far - getting the job very much done. Yes, there will be those that point to the compacted 14-round season and yes, there will be those who will throw in Marc Marquez’s absence, but Mir’s season demonstrates the importance of being solid as much as being quick. Just ask Fabio Quartararo

Much ink and words have been spilled over Mir’s unconventional route to the title already, so we will just conclude here by saying ‘muchas felicidades para Joan Mir y Suzuki’!

Suzuki

If anything, this title is as much - if not, more - a credit to Suzuki, which has meticulously thought its way to title glory. This is a team that had a plan and firmly stuck to it.

Returning to the series in 2015, Suzuki operates on a smaller budget than say Honda or Ducati, while it is unique - some would say mistaken - in focusing its resources on just a single factory team. But while that means less data, with laser-like focus on what it has, it has created a tight, efficient set-up.

Indeed, this title hasn’t been achieved in 2020 alone… this is years in the making so shout out to Alex Rins, Maverick Vinales and Andrea Iannone for playing their part too. 

The Suzuki GSX-RR has always been quick, certainly, albeit lacking some of that final finesse worth, say, around two or three tenths a lap. As such, though Suzuki looked quick in pre-season testing, no-one was quite ready to call it a contender.

However, it would transpire the 2020 GSX-RR had retained the strengths of its predecessors - namely its sweet handling, ability to conserve tyres and simply never break down - but a punchier engine, together with an increasingly confident rider has wiped out that margin to the top..

That said, while tyre preservation was a key component of this title charge, it did come at a cost, with Mir often having to make up ground in the races because the gentle Suzuki cannot get the tyres working over a single lap in qualifying. 

So here is a quite remarkable fun fact for you… Joan Mir has won the 2020 world title with an average starting position of ninth (well, 8.7)!

Something for Suzuki to work on for sure, but that doesn’t matter today. Sixty years ago Suzuki made its GP race debut… Anniversary tributes do not come more poignant than this.

Franco Morbidelli

After around 18 months being forced into the shadow of Fabio Quartararo, this right here is Franco Morbidelli’s moment to shine.

Of course, Morbidelli is becoming accustomed to the top spot, this being his third win, which alone draws him level with Quartararo for the largest number of wins in 2020.

However, on a day the Frenchman’s increasingly slim title hopes disappeared into a black hole of gravel stones, Morbidelli appears to be getting better and better.

Whereas his Misano and Aragon wins were largely dominant, Morbidelli demonstrated his racing mettle to not only resist Miller but fight right back at the crunch moment, something we perhaps didn’t know he would be capable of before today.

It also lifts him past Quartararo in the overall standings to place him a provisional runners-up spot in the standings.

Quartararo might have blown him into the weeds in 2019, but while Morbidelli’s trajectory has been flatter, on the strength of his second-half season form, it could very well go on further than his superstar-in-waiting team-mate…

Jack Miller

If there was one way for Jack Miller to describe his 2020 MotoGP season it would be… excusing the typical stereotype… ‘strewth!’

Ups and downs, missed opportunities, grasped opportunities, there was a point on the final lap where it looked like Miller’s 2020 trudge would finally reap rewards. If it wasn’t for that pesky Morbidelli...

Regardless, this was a result Miller needed to remind everyone of his credentials ahead of his big move to the big factory in 2021, while it’s worth noting this was perhaps his most complete MotoGP weekend yet - quick in practice, front row, saving the tyre and launching a final lap attack. 

Had he not run wide at Turn 1 at the start, he might have taken the spoils… but otherwise, Ducati bosses will sleep a little easier tonight.

The Losers

Yamaha

There is an argument to suggest Yamaha lost the 2020 MotoGP title as much as Suzuki won it, but we won’t get bogged down in semantics.

Suffice to say, the Valencia MotoGP couldn’t have typified Yamaha’s 2020 season more succinctly… 

On the day Joan Mir wrapped up the title, Fabio Quartararo’s dreams were officially over on lap nine with a crash. It was the sorry but perhaps not entirely unexpected conclusion to a truly torrid weekend.

Quartararo was way off the pace, even over a single lap where the Yamaha can be quick without a good set-up. After running wide on lap one, Quartararo made ponderous progress back up the order before then losing it altogether with a clumsy crash.

The outcome comes against the backdrop of some internal discontent between riders and engineers over the direction, or lack thereof, with the Yamaha M1. Having started the year looking arguably the strongest overall, the 2020 M1 would turn out to be a flawed package, with indifferent reliability ultimately landing it in hot water with the regulators, while that dominant pace over a single lap betrayed the fact it was still vulnerable in race in terms of top speed.

Then came the tyre issues, which nixed the Yamaha’s primary strength in handling. Let’s just say Maverick Vinales can feel a little more vindicated having fended off persistent criticism of his backward route in many races.

As if to rub salt into the wounds, on a weekend in which both Quartararo and Vinales complained the 2019-spec Yamaha was ultimately better than their current equipment, Franco Morbidelli wins on that very bike from pole position to ascend to second in the standings.

So Yamaha will celebrate today, but it’s a bittersweet hangover for Monday…

Fabio Quartararo

In many ways, Fabio may feel a huge weight has been lifted off some rather bruised shoulders following a crash that saw his Yamaha collapse in the very manner of his title challenge.

To his credit, Quartararo - riding into the 2020 season on the back of huge expectation - didn’t exactly disappoint this year, but it has been a rather sobering season of two halves.

While Mir was the angelic example of consistency, Quartararo was the devilish antithesis. Three wins, yes, but after that his best results are a fourth, a seventh and two eighths. If Mir had an unconventional route to the title, this would have been even more so.

Inexperience has played its part evidently, Quartararo being sucked into a downward spiral that wasn’t always whipped up by himself alone, the Frenchman hampered by Yamaha’s set-up headaches without perhaps having the prior examples to draw upon in order to contribute to a change.

That said, Joan Mir’s title win comes in only his second MotoGP season too but while this outcome will sting a bit for a rider that scored 50 of his 125 points in the opening two rounds, there could be a silver lining here… if you squint hard enough.

Indeed, this could ultimately be the true measure of his credentials as a burgeoning MotoGP legend… if he can recentre himself and come back fighting in Yamaha blue next season, he will look back on 2020 as a necessary evil on the road to glory.

 

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