Mir over the moon as MotoGP title nears after Valencia triumph

Valencia (Spain) (AFP) –


Spain's Joan Mir won Sunday's European MotoGP in Valencia on Sunday, his first victory in the premier category, to close in on the title after rival Fabio Quartararo crashed on the opening lap.

Mir took advantage of Quartararo's spill to widen his lead to 37 points with just two races left as compatriot Alex Rins ensured a one-two finish for Suzuki, the first for the Japanese manufacturer since 1982.

Frenchman Quartararo recovered to trail home in 14th but saw his championship hopes suffer a potentially fatal blow. He is level on 125 points with Rins after losing considerable ground on Mir, who is top on 162.

"I'm super happy. This (a victory) is what I was missing and it came at the perfect moment," said the 23-year-old Mir, the Moto3 champion in 2017.

Mir became the fifth first-time winner at MotoGP level this season and the ninth different rider to take the chequered flag in 12 races.

A podium finish for Mir on the same Ricardo Tormo circuit at next week's Valencia MotoGP would secure the title, ending the injured Marc Marquez's four-year dominance.

"We've had a very good weekend," said Mir.

"Now we need to be more intelligent than ever. Even with this victory the championship is not over, but I'm in a much better position than Friday. If I'm not able to fight for the win, scoring points will be enough."

Pol Espargaro of KTM, who started the race on pole, came third ahead of Japan's Takaaki Nakagami of the Honda-LCR team.

Quartararo, who qualified outside the top 10 for the first time, slid off his Yamaha-SRT on the opening lap at the same turn as Aleix Espargaro, who never remounted after losing control of his bike.

While Rins led the first half of the race, Mir overhauled his fellow Spaniard and continued to stretch his advantage to finish over 0.6 seconds clear.

"I missed a gear and that cost me first place," said Rins, who stood on the podium for the fourth time in five races having overcome an injury that hampered him at the start of the season.

"I wanted to wait a bit to overtake him," said Mir. "But you never know when is the best time and I seized the opportunity. That was the key to victory."

Italy's Marco Bezzecchi won the Moto2 race as Britain's Sam Lowes lost the championship lead after falling at the Valencia race track.

Kalex rider Enea Bastianini of Italy has now edged ahead of Lowes in the race for the world title with just two races remaining. He is on 184 points with Lowes on 178.

Spain's Raul Fernandez took his maiden win at the Moto3 level after championship leader Albert Arenas was disqualified for riding into the back of a rival.

Japan's Ai Ogura came third on the day to climb to second in the championship just three points adrift of Arenas.