It’s been coming for a while, but finally Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was able to pocket his first MotoGP™ podium thanks to a brilliant display at the myWorld Austrian Grand Prix.
Qualifying has been a problem for Mir and Suzuki in 2020. Two P10s and a P9 in the Czech Republic gives Mir – who has always shown great race pace – more work to so on a Sunday afternoon. A collision with Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) in Brno was proof that Saturday afternoon performances needed to be better, so the sophomore could be in the lead group from the get-go.
And in Austria, Mir produced the goods in Q2 to line-up sixth – alongside pre-race favourites Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Surprisingly, Mir’s P6 was just his second Row 2 start in the premier class, his P5 grid slot at the Dutch GP sitting as his best so far.
With qualifying sorted, Mir had a very realistic chance of securing a podium – or at least fighting for one. Both he and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) were the only riders who were capable of taking the battle to Dovizioso and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) after the restart. And with Rins slipping out of contention, it was left to the 2017 Moto3™ World Champion to be the lone ranger in a Ducati vs Suzuki scrap. The superior Desmosedici grunt made it incredibly difficult for Mir to pass Miller in the closing stages, with the Australian defending well.
But on the last lap, at the penultimate corner, Miller made a mistake. The Pramac Racing rider thought Mir was closer to him and the defensive line of the GP20 compromised his exit, allowing Mir to sweep through and take the flag in P2.
“I feel amazing! It was hard to get the first podium,” explained Mir. “Like you said, as of a couple of races ago we’ve had the speed to be faster and here finally we got the result. I’m so happy, and also happy for the team, both those here and in Japan. I cannot ask for more today.
“Honestly, I think that if we had started on the first row, if I had been further in front, probably I would have had something more, but you know, fighting with Ducati is not easy here, but anyway, I’m really happy.”
Rins has been using Suzuki’s new holeshot device in Jerez and Brno, with Mir trying it for the first time this weekend. And the 11-time Grand Prix winner clearly liked it, suggesting Sunday’s two race starts were the best of his life.
“Yeah, in Brno Alex used it [the holeshot device] and I saw it was super fast and here I also used it and, yeah, amazing. A good start, the best one in my life, for sure. I used it in both races, not only in the first one. Now, if we can get everything together like today, then we will be able to fight at more tracks for sure.”
And what about the competitiveness of the 2020 GSX-RR? Finishing 1.3 seconds off now three-time Red Bull Ring race winner Dovizioso is a phenomenal result, and proof that Suzuki have a magnificent package this season. In the 2019 Austrian GP, Rins finished 8.6 from the victory and in the two years prior, the leading Suzuki was 16.6 and 20.1 seconds off the pace. Finishing just 1.3 seconds shy of victory around a track that Ducati have a 100% win record at is a fine achievement by the Hamamatsu factory and Mir. And they’ll get to try and go one better in less than a week’s time at the same circuit.
“When the track is not so hot like in Jerez the bike works so well, at every track. And like you said, it’s hard to fight with the Ducati here, they are so fast in sector 1 and 2 but we are fast in sector 3 and 4. For sure, for us, it's more difficult for us to overtake, and also the KTMs were...Pol was super fast on the straights also, and to fight against these guys with those engines was hard today. But our bike is good in other points and I think we played our cards well,” finished Mir.