Joan Mir: the quickest MotoGP champ since Nicky Hayden

Story by: Max Oxley

The Spanish youngster took biking’s biggest prize in only his fifth grand prix season, during which Joan Mir had to beat Covid as well as his rivals

“I want to go the disco!” cried Joan Mir on Sunday after becoming the 27th rider to be crowned MotoGP world champion.

But there was no painting the town blue in a sweaty Valencia nightclub into the early hours of this morning, because this season has been like no other.

The 23-year-old’s biggest worry during the last month or so wasn’t crashing out of a race or breaking an engine, it was contracting the virus that has transformed the world.

Sunday’s Moto2 and Moto3 race winners Jorge Martin and Tony Arbolino had their title challenges badly dented by the virus – Martin tested positive in September, forcing him to miss two races, and Arbolino had to miss last month’s Aragon GP, due to Italian quarantine rules.

Unlike many young racers Mir’s not all hair-gel and sunglasses, so he’s fully focused on being fast.

Mir knew he was in just as much in danger of the virus destroying his dreams, which forced him to live like a hermit whenever he went home between races.

“Normally you have pressure at the track, not at home,” said Mir on Sunday afternoon. “But even at home I wasn’t able to disconnect, because I had the pressure of trying not to get the virus and this made the situation much more difficult.”

The 2020 MotoGP championship has been the most topsy-turvy in history, with nine different winners from 13 races and title challenges ebbing and flowing according to crashes, tyre woes and chilly conditions, the result of the Covid-delayed calendar. Mir’s secret has been consistency – stacking up the points aboard his Suzuki GSX-R while his rivals were up one weekend and down the next.

The Suzuki isn’t the fastest motorcycle on the MotoGP grid but it works the tyres better than any other, which is the secret to spec-tyre racing.

Mir is one of the quickest MotoGP title winners in history. He commenced his full-time grand prix career in the spring of 2016, so this is his only his fifth season at world level and only his second in the premier class.

Very few riders have climbed motorcycle racing’s highest peak in less than five years on the world championship trail. Thus Mir joins the exalted company of men like Nicky Hayden, Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood who all came, saw and conquered in double-quick time.

Mir is bright, friendly and just about as normal as it’s possible to get for a MotoGP rider. Unlike many young racers in today’s image-obsessed world he’s not all hair-gel and sunglasses, so he’s fully focused on being fast.

He hails from the island of Mallorca, birthplace of three-times MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, whose father Chicho Lorenzo taught his son and now teaches other youngsters how to ride. Mir took his first steps to being a racer at Chicho Competición.

Chicho’s teaching doesn’t involve kids tearing around dirt tracks faster and faster until they fall off; it demands endless repetition of low-speed riding exercises around cones and go-kart tracks until perfection becomes the rider’s subconscious self.

No surprise that Mir’s riding style is very Lorenzo – glass smooth, totally at one with the motorcycle and utterly committed.

He climbed rapidly: from the Balearic championship to victory in Spain’s 125cc PreGP series and second place in the Red Bull Rookies. In 2015 he contested the CEV Moto3 series, dazzling with his speed and making his GP debut at Phillip Island, replacing an injured rider.

He won his first world title in only his second season of grand prix racing, when he utterly dominated the 2017 Moto3 championship, before graduating to Moto2 in 2018. He was immediately on the pace, just missing out on a podium in his third race on a big bike, at COTA in April 2018.