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Match point Mir: can the resistance stage a final stand? 37 points clear, the Suzuki rider has his first shot at the crown and its far from a long one
Posted by: ASkyler on Nov 12, 2020 - 06:49 PM
Match point Mir: can the resistance stage a final stand? 37 points clear, the Suzuki rider has his first shot at the crown and its far from a long one

For months, the fight for the 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship has seemed too close to call, with almost half the field in with a mathematical chance at the crown. With 15 different riders on the podium and a record-equalling nine different winners, five of them first timers, there have been more twists and turns than anyone would have predicted when competition re-started in Jerez. Yet here we are, on the verge of more history and with one man now firmly in the driving seat: Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar).

The Majorcan is now 37 points clear of the competition and he arrives into his final stand with that last box finally ticked: a premier class victory. Not only that, he ticked that box under likely the most pressure he’s had all year, not that anyone would have been able to tell. “People who can’t pay rent, that’s real pressure. This is my job,” is what Mir told the media after the race. Next time he faces them after the flag, it may well be as the first fresh face to win the title in seven years, the first Moto3™ Champion to become premier class Champion, and the first Suzuki rider to do it in two decades.

The pressure to win, with a 37-point advantage, may well be less in the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana than the pressure on those who stand to lose, however. This weekend, Mir needs a mere podium to wrap up the crown and as the most consistent man in the field for some time, arriving back at the venue where he just took his first MotoGP™ win, the Majorcan’s higher ground is more mountain than molehill.

The resistance won’t throw in the towel without a fight though. Mir’s closest challenger is, was, and has been for quite some time Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), with the Frenchman retaining second overall by virtue of his win count, now equal on points with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Quartararo crashed out of the first race at Valencia, and it’s now or never for ‘El Diablo’. Will that see him come out swinging to bounce back? Or does it put him on the back foot as he tries to regain some serious ground?

Rins, in third, is on the back foot in terms of points but on a roll in terms of momentum. A win followed by two podiums – and having the measure of his teammate at MotorLand – makes for some good reading of late for the number 42, and he was back on the podium to complete the first Suzuki 1-2 since 1982 last time out. Can he find what was missing to stay on a par with Mir and beat him? Having overcome a serious shoulder injury this year, it’s an impressive achievement for Rins to even be in with a shout. But he is, and he’s also in the best position to observe the man at the top because Mir isn’t behind enemy lines… he’s on the other side of the garage.

Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), meanwhile, arrives with a deficit of 41 points and it’s very much last call for ‘Top Gun’. After exceeding his engine allocation, he had to start from pitlane last time and we didn’t get to see what he can do at the front round the Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Pretty much accepting of the fact the fight for the title is over, Viñales can gas it first and think of points later, which could be interesting. That's also true for Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), who had a tough time out in the Europe GP. But a full race distance is lessons learned, and he’s already a two-time MotoGP™ winner.

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) is now sixth overall although equal on points with Morbidelli, the two men 45 off Mir, so there’s little Championship pressure – although Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is coming in hot, now just 11 points further back, and he was on the podium last time out. For Dovizioso too though, Valencia is his penultimate race before taking a planned sabbatical in 2021, so that could have an effect. Will there be another shuffle in the tightly-packed fight for the top five? Or will another weekend with more track time see Dovi move forward?

Moving forward is something on the agenda for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) too, although he had a stunner last time out as he equalled his best result in fourth. Traditionally though the Japanese rider has been quicker on take two at the same track and that bodes well. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) are well within striking distance of Nakagami or higher in the title fight too – and both were the next men up the road in the Europe GP. Can they move forward? And can Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) leapfrog them? The South African fought back from a Long Lap Penalty to end up seventh – and stunningly, set the fastest lap of the race. That sees him get back ahead of Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in the fight for Rookie of the Year, too… so there’s a lot on the line.

That is, course, true up and down the field, and no more so than at the top. After five months of madness, mayhem and magnificent MotoGP™ races, it’s all come down to this: Joan Mir, with 37 points and a new trophy in his pocket. Tune in on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +1) as the field take on the Circuit Ricardo Tormo once again; you’re guaranteed either a coronation or a stunner of a last stand.
MotoGP™ Championship Standings
1 Joan Mir - Team Suzuki Ecstar - Suzuki - 162
2 Fabio Quartararo* - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 125
3 Alex Rins - Team Suzuki Ecstar - Suzuki - 125
4 Maverick Viñales - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 121
5 Franco Morbidelli* - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 117
*Independent Team riders
Bastianini back in the hot seat as Lowes looks to respond
The Brit crashed, the Italian capitalised... and so did third overall Marini. What awaits on take two?
From record-breaking wins in a row to a crash, the Europe GP ensured Sam Lowes' (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) has now had a rollercoaster few races. And with that, it's Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) back on top in the standings as the Italian did some solid damage control after qualifying 15th, coming home fourth to take back the lead. Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), after some tougher races, put in a solid performance too - taking sixth to keep himself in the hunt, now 19 points back with 50 on the table. So what awaits on take two at Valencia?

Lowes, despite the mistake, was the man with the best pace of the top three in the title fight - and he crashed out of a podium position. So if the Brit can keep calm and carry on, there should be a solid chance to hit back and keep the fight rolling to the season finale. But Bastianini seems unflappable and now has a whole race of data under his belt - valuable indeed after a weekend of mixed conditions and then a dry race. He'll also have a first shot at the crown...

Marini is also back in the hunt, however, as he took the first important step towards reversing his negative momentum. Sixth isn't the wins he's already taken this year, but it's both good points and a good finish to calm his nerves. The pressure is less than it was, so can he move further forward this time around? He'll need to if a real challenge is to come in Portimão.

The man with the serious speed last time out though was Marini's teammate Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46). He needed an ace card to stay in the title fight and the Italian played one in style as he dominated the race, putting him 29 points off the top. Can he do it again? Will Lowes, Bastianini or Marini have an answer? Or can the riders just behind him catch him with a little more track time?

Those riders were Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in second and Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) in third, and they can't be counted out from challenging again either. The title is now mathematically over for them, so it's gloves off and no pressure - and no stake in who they're overtaking or when.

Bastianini has his first longer shot at the title this weekend, but it's likely far from a done deal with his rivals still very much in touch. Can Lowes, Marini and Bezzecchi pull something out the bag again? Or is 'Beast' mode on? Find out on Sunday at 12:20 (GMT +1) as the lights go out for Moto2™.
Moto2™ Championship Standings
1 Enea Bastianini - Italtrans Racing Team - Kalex - 184
2 Sam Lowes - EG0,0 Marc VDS - Kalex - 178
3 Luca Marini - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex - 165
4 Marco Bezzecchi - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex - 155
5 Jorge Martin - Red Bull KTM Ajo - Kalex - 125
Nothing in it: Ogura homes in on Arenas
The Japanese rider is back within three points of the top – and was back on the podium last time out
Last week it seemed the ball was firmly in Albert Arenas’ (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) court but after another dramatic Grand Prix, the fight for the Moto3™ crown is almost back at deuce. The Championship lead is now just three points after the number 75 was caught in a crash, sustained damage, took to pitlane and headed back out… only to get Black Flagged for irresponsible riding, battling despite being a number of laps down. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) capitalised on the open goal, taking yet another podium in third, and now it’s both three points at the top and fast becoming a two-horse race.

In the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, Arenas’ goal will be to bounce back quickly, put the Black Flag to bed and stamp some authority back on the standings. Ogura, on the other hand, arrives at maximum attack – and says he’s mentally back on his game. That may be a warning shot for Arenas, as the Japanese rider has more podiums than anyone and at times has made that look effortless. But then Arenas has made race-winning tactics look effortless sometimes too…

Although it’s fast becoming a two-horse race, on the way into Valencia second time around there nevertheless remain seven contenders for the crown. Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) is third overall; 20 points back, Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) is fourth with a deficit of 23 and Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) is fifth, 24 off the top. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) faces a longer shot from 38 points in arrears, and Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is the last rider in with a mathematical chance, 39 points behind Arenas. Some are more likely than others, but nobody expected the drama that befell Vietti, McPhee and Masia last weekend – so there’s plenty time for another twist.

Will Ogura strike while the iron’s hot? Can Arenas take the pressure as he gets his first chance at the title? Or will another contender make life difficult for the two at the top? Find out on Sunday at 11:00 (GMT +1)!
Moto3™ Championship Standings
1 Albert Arenas - Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 - KTM - 157
2 Ai Ogura - Honda Team Asia - Honda - 154
3 Celestino Vietti - Sky Racing Team VR46 - KTM - 137
4 Tony Arbolino - Rivacold Snipers Team - Honda - 134
5 Jaume Masia - Leopard Racing - Honda - 133

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