Until Sunday evening at the Barwa Qatar Grand Prix, both World Champion Joan Mir and Team Suzuki Ecstar teammate Alex Rins had been quietly going about their business in 2021. It was almost too quiet, as many didn’t have the GSX-RR duo noted down as podium contenders with Yamaha and Ducati looking in far superior shape.
However, as we saw in 2020, Suzuki really turn up the wick on a race day. Both riders showed why they were P1 and P3 in the World Championship standings last season, and if it wasn’t for some rear tyre wear and two Ducati missiles, we could have been talking about two Suzukis on the podium at Losail.
As it happens, neither Mir nor Rins sprayed the bubbly. You could argue the reigning World Champion deserved to, but that’s not how motorcycle racing works. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) rode brilliantly to give themselves a chance of steamrolling Mir on the run to the chequered flag, and Mir could do nothing but watch as a P2 finish rapidly became a P4 finish in a matter of metres. Nevertheless, the number 36 was in good spirits post-race and confirmed he and the team had found something to help improve performance.
“I feel good. It was a positive race for me. I get the feelings back a bit late, but finally we get it. So it's important,” began Mir. “This is the most important thing of this race. I tried to make the race from less and at the end to push hard, because I know that here the tyre drop is quite big, and I try to manage as much as I could. So it was positive overall. I'm happy, and now we have another chance.”
The Mallorcan then went onto explain what happened at the final corner and on the start/finish straight. Yes, Mir did run a bit wide, but he got a good run onto the straight. No matter how the last corner went for him, it seemed Mir was doomed to finish off the podium.
“Well, the ideal thing, was to not try to overtake Zarco and to have a slipstream on the straight and to try to defend the third position. But it's the start of the season and we have to take a bit of risk, and I overtook Zarco in the last sector, and I said if I finish second it will be great, but I know that I have two angry Ducatis behind, and it will be hard.
“And I saw the finish line really close and then both rockets overtook me. So it was a bit frustrating but I gave 100%. Next time I know what I have to do. It's true that I went a bit wide, but normally if you go wide and nobody overtakes you, then you can get more speed at the end. Because you stop the bike and you go wide and then you come back with more speed. It was not enough. So our bike today worked so well, and I would like to thank Suzuki for this.”
Did you enjoy the first race of the year?! Here’s some of the action as our boys in blue carved through the field ???????????? @MotoGP @JoanMirOfficial @Rins42 #AllForOne #SUZUKing #QatarGP pic.twitter.com/IrnIkThkko— Team Suzuki Ecstar (@suzukimotogp) March 29, 2021
So what did Mir find to help him salvage a good result from a weekend that was visibly frustrating? The 23-year-old explains he’d been struggling to stop the bike, and how lap times weren’t coming despite “pushing like an animal.”
“We found a way, because in the test you try a lot of things and maybe you get a bit lost in some parts. For some reason, I was not able to stop the bike, I had a lot of problems yesterday, in qualifying it was so difficult, I was pushing like an animal and the lap time was impossible, was never coming.
“So it was so frustrating and I was so angry. Today we found last night a setting that we used last year, and all the problems that we were having were quite a lot of sense with the specs we were riding at the moment, so we changed something that I cannot say, and everything came back.”
One of the things that helped Mir is knee supports attached to the fuel tank, a new addition to his GSX-RR that has aided him in the braking area: “This is something that helps me, because in the braking area, I like a lot to use the power of the legs. Normally I ride the bike a lot with the legs. I don't ride a lot with the upper body. And in this way, if you see the tank cover of the Suzuki, it's completely flat, so when you brake the knees go forward, and this is something that I never like, it's so uncomfortable. With this, it's more the natural shape of all fuel tanks. So it's a little bit the solution to work more with the legs.”
Rins was also able to show a wheel or two in the podium fight. Fading rear grip levels ultimately cost the Spaniard a chance at maintaining a rostrum scrap, but he too was pleased with his overall performance.
“The feelings... the middle of the race was not so bad, but let's start from the beginning. At the start I forgot to press the launch control, and was very difficult to manage all the power from the bike,” admitted Rins, who started P9 – one place ahead of Mir. “At least the start was not so bad, but usually I'm getting used to recover like two or three positions, this time it was so difficult.
“And I pushed a lot to recover this time, the time compared to the first guys, and I think we destroyed the tyres. Because six Laps before Joan overtook me, I was struggling with the rear tyre. For sure, I pushed so hard in the middle of the race to recover this time, but when I was arriving at my rivals, I was losing that time. I saw on the pit board Joan at 1.5 seconds, but when I was behind Miller, I was analysing which was the best place to overtake him and he not overtake me back. So we lost everything. But anyway, we did a really good race, a good pace, and let's work for the next one.”
If it wasn’t for starting on the back of the third row – start of the fourth for Mir – then it could have been a different story. But Rins did well to claw his way up to the Ducatis and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), before the rear tyre would no longer allow him to battle. With this in mind, is the race strategy going to change for this coming Sunday at Losail?
“Let's see. First of all I would try to push the launch control button! And then let's see how we start. For sure the strategy... we had the pace, when I was riding the bike, I saw Viñales trying to overtake Pecco, and I was saying, "Pecco, come on, wait two more laps!" Because I knew if Maverick overtook him he would go. I would to make the same strategy. To push, make intelligent overtakes. For example, if I have a chance to overtake a Ducati on the last corner, I will remain behind, because otherwise on the straight, the Ducati will pass me again, no?”
Mir, Rins and Suzuki: never write them off on a Sunday. With more data, knowledge and returning feelings, the GSX-RRs sound like they’ll be making more of a splash at the Grand Prix of Doha. A P4 and P6 to start the season with is much better than 2020’s opener for the blue corner, with Mir and Rins looking every bit as good as they did last season. Bring on Round 2.
4 years ago
7 years ago
7 years ago
New to motogp.com?Register here