Mir seeks to wrap up MotoGP title in Valencia

Valencia (Spain) (AFP) –

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Joan Mir will be crowned MotoGP world champion with one race to spare on Sunday if he can produce a top-three finish in the Valencia Grand Prix.

Suzuki's Spanish rider returns to the scene of his maiden premier category success last Sunday with the title now his to lose.

That long-overdue MotoGP victory in the European Grand Prix gave the Mallorcan a 37-point lead in the riders standings with Valencia and then the final race in Portugal to come.

"The victory came in the perfect moment," he said.

"It's important now to be more clever than ever. The championship's not done, but it's a lot better" than before his win, the first of his career in MotoGP.

"I will try to repeat it next weekend, if not, I'll try to score points."

Fabio Quartararo, who won this coronavirus-disrupted campaign's opening two races, had often looked the most likely inheritor of the title left vacant by Marc Marquez's season-ending injury.

But the Yamaha-SRT rider's championship hopes suffered a likely lethal blow when he hit the deck in the first lap of last weekend's race.

The Frenchman is tied with Mir's teammate Alex Rins on 125 points, this duo four clear of Maverick Vinales.

- Model of consistency -

The only other two riders in with a mathematical shot at the title are Franco Morbidelli and Andrea Dovizioso, tied on 117 points.

As this often chaotic and memorable season enters its end game Mir has emerged as a worthy champion.

The 23-year-old has been the model of consistency with three second places and three thirds and now one win from 12 races.

Five-time former world champion Jorge Lorenzo was among those in no doubt that Mir was championship class, even before last weekend.

"When people ask me would Joan Mir be a fair champion without winning a race I say absolutely yes, now they will not ask me that question," Lorenzo tweeted.

In 2019, Mir raced 17 events, failing to make the podium and finished in 12th place in the standings.

The previous season, he went winless in Moto2, meaning his last victorious season was his world championship campaign in Moto3 in 2017.

His Suzuki stable celebrated their first 1-2 finish since 1982 last Sunday, and with a seven-point lead over Ducati could clinch their first constructors' title in almost four decades.

Despite his looming career-defining moment Mir is unlikely to let the enormity of it all unbalance him.

"I don't have pressure, this is my job, I'm privileged. People who can't pay their rent because of coronavirus, people who can't bring food home, that is real pressure," said the champion elect.

This week Honda confirmed that Marquez, who has not raced since fracturing his arm in the season-opener, will also sit out the final two races.

One rider who will not be competing against him in 2021 is Dovizioso, who announced he is taking a sabbatical but hopes to return in 2022.

Another member of the MotoGP grid who won't be riding any time soon is Andrea Iannone who on Tuesday was suspended four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for an anti-doping violation.

Iannone, 31, tested positive for an anabolic steroid in a urine sample collected at an in-competition test at the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang last November.

Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi will however take part in Valencia after Covid-19 tests established he did not have the virus, despite what his Yamaha team said was a "weakly positive" result in an initial test on Tuesday.