Winless Mir feels pressure as MotoGP world title nears
Valencia (Spain) (AFP) –
Joan Mir admits the pressure is beginning to tell as he closes in on the possibility of becoming MotoGP world champion without winning a race.
With three rounds left, there are still 75 points available.
Only 32 points separate the top six after a roller-coaster season truncated by the coronavirus and thrown wide open by the absence of six-time world champion Marc Marquez.
The Spaniard hasn't raced since breaking his arm in the season-opener in Jerez.
"For sure, there is the feeling of a little bit more pressure because the championship is getting older, so every one of us feels like it's going to finish soon," said Suzuki rider Mir who has a 14-point lead over Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo.
"I don't care about the others, I just care about my feelings. I have a great feeling on the bike."
He may not have been a race winner, but Mir is the picture of consistency in 2020 with three second places and three thirds from 11 races.
French star Quartararo has three wins to his name in 2020 but the Yamaha satellite rider endured miserable back-to-back races in Aragon in October.
He was a lowly 18th and then eighth in races won respectively by Alex Rins on a Suzuki and Quartararo's Yamaha teammate Franco Morbidelli.
At the same time, Mir picked up a couple of third-place finishes in a perfect summary of his year so far.
- 'Anything can happen' -
The Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, just four kilometres in length, hosts the European Grand Prix this weekend followed by the Valencia GP seven days later.
The season will conclude with the Portuguese GP at Portimao on November 22.
"Anything can happen, 75 points in the game," said Quartararo on Thursday.
"I think all of the riders that are here can win the championship easily, we have to stay focused. Race by race is the only way to think about fighting for the title."
Yamaha factory rider Maverick Vinales, whose lone win in 2020 came at Emilia Romagna, is five points behind Quartararo.
He was fourth and seventh at Aragon, losing ground on Mir but closing in on his French rival.
"The last two races haven't been bad honestly," said Vinales who competed at Aragon without teammate Valentino Rossi, sidelined by Covid-19.
"Now we have three races where we can enjoy a lot, it's a track I love and also Portimao is a track I like."
He added: "Our strategy is very clear: finish ahead of those two guys (Mir and Quartararo). That will be the main strategy to close the gap in the championship."
Mir found support this week from Emilio Alzamora, who won the 125cc world title in 1999 without winning a race in the season.
"Sometimes because of the circumstances, you cannot win a grand prix but this does not mean you don't deserve to win the championship," he told motogp.com.
Meanwhile, Yamaha's hopes of winning the constructors and teams honours suffered a blow on Thursday when they were penalised for "failing to respect the protocol required for technical changes".
The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) said the Yamaha company have had 50 world championship constructor points withdrawn.
Their factory Monster Energy Yamaha outfit have had 20 world championship team points withdrawn and the satellite Petronas Yamaha SRT team lost 37 points.
© 2020 AFP