Joan Mir Interview
By Eric Johnson
The Principality of Andorra, a microstate of 77,006 inhabitants on the Iberian Peninsula in the Eastern Pyrenees and bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south, is a wonderful place and the locale where we tracked down one currently exiled MotoGP racer Joan Mir. Currently high-centered and not going anywhere soon during this fun-filled coronavirus lockdown, Mir, along with other world class racers such as Fabio Quartararo, Pol Espargaro, Maverick Vinales and Team Suzuki Ecstar team-mate Alex Rins, has been bashing out the laps on the principality’s humble Circuit Andorra de la Casa circuit. Located at 2,500-metres of elevation, it’s been on the Circuit Andorra where Runs has been whipping himself back into Grand Prix racing shape.
“I’m here in Andorra and I’m happy because we have recently started to use the bike,” explained the animated, good spirited Spaniard who dominated the 2017 Moto3 World Championship. “We have one track that is 2,500 metres and quite tight and we start to train a little bit with the Supermoto bikes. Today, though, is another story. Today was about waking up and going to the gym. Now, everything is much easier to do so we’ve been staying busy here. It’s been good.”
Going back to February 24 and the MotoGP Official Test at Losail, nobody on Planet Earth has been on a MotoGP bike turning laps in anger. Having fared well throughout the three-day test, Mir slotted placed a highly respectable sixth, one spot ahead of Marc Marquez, on combined times. Realising the potential of heading back to the starting grid at the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic come August, Rins, be it a Supermoto or Trials bike, has been fast at it.
“Yes, this was very important to know that a potential race date was coming for the motivation because if you train, but you don’t know for what reasons you are training for, you don’t train in the same way than if you are motivated and pushing yourself. Now, we have a date, the ninth of August from what I am told, and I think this is really good news. I was a bit frustrated because here in Andorra everything happened so slow. In Spain, they opened the tracks and started to open up everything much faster than here. I saw all these other riders wanting to train here in Andorra, and all of us, as a group, we started saying, ‘Well, what is happening here? We cannot train.’ It was very frustrating, but now it is different and we are training hard.”
While out and about in teeming Andorra and haunting the Circuit Andorra Pas de la Casa, Mir has seen and hang out with more than a few of his racing buddies he travels the world with.
“I’ve seen the guys a lot!” he exclaimed. “Today, we were training with Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins, Pol Espargaro and a lot of other riders. It’s nice to train together and to see where our level is at with the Supermoto bike and it has been really nice.”
As with other professional motor racers the world over, Mir, while in the throes of the coronavirus clampdown, has been forced to find other ways to burn time off the clock when he’s not riding or training. Just don’t ask him to ride a stationary bike.
“Normally, I don’t like to a static bike or indoor bicycle because it’s really boring,” mused Rins. “But then two weeks ago, I was able to train with a Trials bike with some of the top guys. I was having a lot of fun because this was something really technical, you know? It’s really important to have an opportunity like this to work on throttle control and brake control and everything like that. It was a good thing to start with a bike like this because if we start on the MotoGP bike after two or three months of doing nothing, it could be dangerous, no? In this case, it was very good.”
12th in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship for Suzuki and impressing the team all along the way, Mir was recently signed back up by the Japanese motor company to race for them through the 2022 racing season. Said Mir in the global media upon putting pen to the paper of his new contract, “I’m extremely happy to sign with Suzuki for another two years – renewing is the best thing that could happen and it’s a dream come true again. It’s really important for me to continue because now I have more time to learn and more time to show my potential. We have to work to get Suzuki where it deserves to be, like Kevin Schwantz did. Suzuki has a lot of potential.” Upon reading this very quote back to Mir, he nodded adamantly.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said. “We are trying because now I think Suzuki has a really good package because Alex is a top rider with experience. You know Alex is always going to be there and fighting for a top five position, for sure. As far as me, I was a rookie last year. I am pushing hard now and I’m starting to get top five positions now, so now it looks like everything is getting better. Now I am not a rookie anymore and I have started to push a little bit more and if I am pushing Alex, Alex is pushing me and then we gain speed and elevate our level and this is something really important.”
Highly regarded for its chassis, the 2020 Team Suzuki Ecstar works GSX-RR has become quite a weapon in the MotoGP wars, a newer, stronger engine and allows Mir to take more of a point-and-shoot approach on tighter turning circuits.
“Yeah, it’s a good bike and always improving,” Mir pointed out, citing the motorcycle’s enhanced grip and tractability. “And this is something that I really like about Suzuki. For example, in the pre-season tests, Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, they brought the new 2020 bikes straight away. Suzuki, normally they don’t bring the new bike. They bring some new specs and they are normally good, so it is a big improvement and really important. Testing went really good. Our target for the 2020 season is really good our package is really good. We are really close to being at the level we want to be at.”
With Suzuki strongly motivated and full committed to MotoGP in 2020 and far beyond and in possession of a Grand Prix-winning motorcycle, when asked to spell out his hopes and goals for whatever the 2020 race schedule ends up being, Mir thought it through a bit.
“Well, if you asked me this question after the test in Qatar, I’d say to you that I am ready to fight for the victory or for the podium right from the first race of the season,” he explained. “Now, after two or three months without the bike, I do not know; I don’t know the position of where we will be at. Normally, I think that we can do good and positive results. I think the podium is really close and that we can be fighting to be on it. When you get on the podium, you always repeat. You know that you can repeat this result. For example, in the 2017 season in Moto3 for me, it was my second year in the classification and I won a lot of races (10) and I won the championship. It will be really, really difficult to do this in MotoGP, but I hope It will be something similar! Normally, if you look at the past, all the riders need one year or one year and a half to understand these bikes. It looks easy, but it’s not. You have to understand how to ride the Suzuki and for that reason, I’m really happy with the potential we showed last year. It was a really, really good year for me, but we want we hope to do that when we get back to racing. .”
Joan Mir during Qatar MotoGP Test in February, 2020