In a season that was full of ups and downs, Suzuki’s Joan Mir finally took the 2020 MotoGP world championship title.
2020 has been a wild, unpredictable, and a very weird year. And given how topsy-turvy MotoGP turned out to be this year, you could say that it stuck to the memo quite diligently. Since the very first race of this year’s condensed season, thanks to COVID-19, MotoGP has been anything but predictable. There were 9 different winners in a season that got truncated to just 14 races this year. While every race virtually produced new winners and podium contenders, it was Suzuki’s Joan Mir who bagged the ultimate prize – the 2020 MotoGP rider’s championship.
In many ways, Mir’s championship title was quite significant. First, it marks Suzuki’s first MotoGP title in two decades – the last one was won by Kenny Roberts Jr. in 2000. And second, it marked the end of Marc Marquez’ reign at the top, bringing a halt to his relentless winning streak since 2016. It’s a different story that Marquez never really got the chance to ‘defend’ his title, as he missed the entire season after suffering an arm injury at the first round in Jerez.
Of all the contenders, Mir was the proverbial dark horse. With Marquez out, most fans expected that the title fight would be between last year’s runner-up Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and rising star Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha). In fact, Fabio won the first two races at Jerez in a dominant manner, taking an early lead of 50 points. However, it all changed in no time, and how!
Mir didn’t have an ideal start to the season – he crashed in the first round at Jerez and finished 5th in the second round. In the next round at Brno, he had another DNF. But after that, Mir began his championship charge. Between the fourth and 12th race of the season, Mir bagged 7 podiums, including his maiden MotoGP win that came in the 11th race of the season at Valencia. While others faltered, Mir made the best of the circumstances with consistent podium positions. Mir collected a total of 171 points to become the seventh-youngest MotoGP champion of all time.
Mir alone doesn’t deserve all the praise though – Suzuki deserves just as much credit. Amongst all the factory teams in MotoGP, the Hamamatsu squad spends the least money on its racing operations, thanks to budget constraints. And yet, despite being an underdog, it took on the might of bigger teams like Honda, Ducati, and Yamaha. Suzuki’s MotoGP machine, the GSX-RR, is probably the most complete racing motorcycle in MotoGP as of now. Not to mention, their hard work and efforts have paid handsomely, as they also managed to win the team’s title for 2020, while their other rider, Alex Rins, finished the year as 3rd overall in the championship.
Here are some of the main highlights of MotoGP 2020:
Marc Marquez’ injury was one of the main reasons for the unpredictable nature of the 2020 season. Repsol Honda struggled without its star rider and only managed two podium spots throughout the season. He’s expected to return in pre-season tests in 2021, but there are rumours that he may need another (third) surgery to fix his injured arm.
The arrival of KTM
KTM (including the Tech 3 Racing satellite riders) managed to bag 8 podiums, including three race wins. The first win came in Brno (Brad Binder), while Miguel Oliveira bagged two wins (Austria & Portugal) for Tech 3. Pol Espargaro was the most consistent rider, with five third-place finishes.
Binder and Alex Marquez made a name for themselves as promising rookies in MotoGP this year. While Binder won the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award, the younger Marquez proved cynics wrong by taking two dominant back-to-back 2nd place finishes in Le Mans and Assen.
The fall of Yamaha
From two back-to-back wins at Jerez to eighth in the championship, it was a humbling year for Fabio Quartararo and Yamaha. Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi struggled, too. On the upside, Franco Mordibelli turned out to be the most consistent Yamaha rider and finished second overall.
See you later
Andrea Dovizioso quit Ducati after 8 years, and Cal Crutchlow announced his retirement from full-time racing. Also, Rossi left the factory Yamaha team after 15 years with them. He will continue in MotoGP for another year with Petronas Yamaha satellite team .
Straight from the horse’s mouth...
autoX was a part of the final press conference (Portugal GP), thanks to EuroSport India, with the top-3 riders of the race – Miguel Oliveira, Jack Miller and Franco Morbidelli.
We asked Morbidelli what he thinks is the problem with factory Yamaha bikes and riders, as he finished 2nd in the championship on a satellite Yamaha and was the most consistent rider despite riding a B-spec motorcycle.
Morbidelli: ‘I can’t really say what’s the problem with factory Yamaha because I am not in their shoes. Usually, hybrid / satellite bikes (old spec bikes from a year ago) tend to be strong at the beginning of the season, as new bikes take time to develop, but it’s been different this year with Yamaha. The 2020 factory bikes started off well in the beginning, with Fabio and Vinales, but after that, they struggled, while we improved.’
Our next question was to both Miller and Oliveira about how things will change for them in 2021 as both will move to factory teams of Ducati and KTM, respectively.
Oliveira: ‘The factory and satellite bikes are more or less identical these days in terms of performance, but it’s the human capacity (resources) of a factory team that plays a key role. And I think it’s a necessary step up for any rider.’
Miller, being funny as usual, had this to say: ‘You obviously get more money being a factory rider. I mean, I don’t, but in theory, that’s the case.’