Why Joan Mir - not Fabio Quartararo - is the 2020 MotoGP title contender we should be watching

We've all hailed Fabio Quartararo, but Joan Mir is the second-year MotoGP rider we should all be paying much closer attention in the 2020 MotoGP title fight

Joan Mir - Suzuki Ecstar

A lot of ink has been spilled over the past year or so regarding Fabio Quartararo’s emergence as the super surfer riding the crest of a new generational wave ready to take on Marc Marquez.

But as the strangest of MotoGP seasons continues to unfold it’s possible we’ve been looking at the wrong title contender altogether.

Ahead of this weekend’s Catalunya MotoGP, four riders split by just four points reside at the top of the table; experienced pedallers Andrea Dovizioso and Maverick Vinales, with youngsters Quartararo and Joan Mir.

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We’ve written plenty about Quartararo’s superstar status and as the only rider to win two races this season, the Frenchman gives a good impression of his burgeoning title favourite status. 

Except he’s had a more troubling time in recent rounds, not so much because he’s buckling under the weight of expectation, but because - as someone who didn’t get close to the Moto2 or Moto3 crown - he is finding himself in a very alien position with no reference points to call on.

It’s why, 2017 Moto3 Champion Mir’s sudden appearance towards the head of field should be giving rivals some food for thought and why he could - against expectations - be more of a genuine title contender than anyone would have predicted as recently as two rounds ago.

Like Quartararo, Mir is in the midst of his second MotoGP season with the factory Suzuki team, but unlike the Frenchman his ascendency this season has been linear, his form and confidence growing with every race… and by all accounts there appears to be more to come.

Joan Mir and Suzuki - the combination MotoGP rivals fear most

While Quartararo was writing headlines around the world in 2019, Mir was grappling to find his feet in MotoGP and finding the gravel trap on too many occasions, the effect of rising from Moto3 to Moto2 to MotoGP in just two years. 

However, his form was coming to him by the season end, while he was the unsung star of pre-season testing as he matched highly-rated Alex Rins throughout. However, while Rins was considered a title contender, Mir was merely second string in comparison.

Fast-forward to now and while Rins looks a little at sea on the Suzuki GSX-RR, Mir is coming on leaps and bounds, beginning with his podium in Austria, followed by an agonising fourth in Styria, a race he would have won had he not been nixed by a red flag stoppage.

Nonetheless, Mir has bounced back with two immensely convincing podiums in Misano - highlighted by the sweetest last lap pass on Valentino Rossi that to date is arguably the best overtake of the year so far.

With five top five finishes in six races, it means Mir is the only rider currently with a modicum of consistent form. Better still, there is definitely more to come.

Mir - like Rins - continues to lack in qualifying due to a fundamental issue with the Suzuki turning its tyres on quickly enough, so much so that it also leaves it vulnerable during the early laps too.

However, on the flip side the Suzuki’s tyre preservation is substantially better than its rivals, which is why you’ll often see Mir and Rins coming on strong in the final laps as they make up for lost ground. Fortunately for Mir, he has developed a knack for overtaking manoeuvres to the extent rivals accept they can’t challenge if a Suzuki launches an attack late on.

It’s no coincidence both Quartararo and Dovizioso have identified the Suzuki as arguably the strongest bike on the 2020 MotoGP grid, at least in race trim.

Why Joan Mir’s achievements outshine Fabio Quartararo’s

Quartararo may have been relatively unknown coming into 2019, but Mir arrived in the premier class with quite a bit less experience than the Yamaha man. 

In fact, this is only Mir’s fifth GP season in total (2 in Moto3, 1 in Moto2), which not only demonstrates his rapid rise to the top but is a credit to Suzuki for spotting him early and taking a punt.

Rivals have seen it too, with Ducati reportedly sniffing around over the winter as they considered options to replace Danilo Petrucci.

A push for the 2020 MotoGP title might be a stretch - at least until he secures that first win - but given the fanfare around Quartararo’s achievements, Mir’s emergence is arguably the more credible and more unexpected...