In a year full of weirdness, here’s something else that we didn’t see coming in January: Marc Marquez, Honda’s dominant MotoGP force, has been dethroned, and Joan Mir is the 2020 MotoGP champion.
It was a wild year for Mir; the Suzuki factory rider joined the premier class in 2019, after battling his way up through MotoGP feeder series, then Moto3, then Moto2. He won the 2017 Moto3 title, and was obviously fast by the time he got to MotoGP last year. Now, he’s taken Suzuki’s first Grand Prix title since returning to MotoGP competition in 2015.
At the start of 2020, Marc Marquez and brother Alex were teamed up on the factory Honda squad, and it looked like Marc would repeat as world champ, as long as his oft-injured shoulder held together. Unfortunately for Repsol’s golden boy, a crash at the first MotoGP race of 2020 (in Jerez) basically blew up his right arm, and his season’s chances.
From there, it looked like Fabio Quartararo was “the guy.” Quartararo was one of few riders to truly challenge Marquez’s dominance in 2019, and he took his Petronas Yamaha to early successes. As the season went by, though, his results evened out; some mid-pack finishes and DNFs took him out of contention, and on Sunday, Mir’s steady riding sealed the deal. At this point, Mir only has one win in MotoGP (the first 2020 Valencia race), and he did have a couple of early-season DNFs, but he’s had solid finishes the rest of the way.
Mir finished seventh at Valencia, and that was enough points to rule out any other competition—but realistically, nobody else was within striking range at this point, barring disastrous injury to Mir. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso had also faded out of the chase, and at this point, Franco Morbidelli is second overall on his Petronas Yamaha.
It’s fantastic news for Suzuki and Mir, but probably a welcome scenario for MotoGP as well. MotoGP’s organizers have long seemed to favour Spanish riders, and Mir’s Majorcan roots will console the series’ massive following in that country.