As excitable as he is composed, the genius that is Joan Mir is headed to grand prix’s intermediate category with one single goal: he wants to win
Joan Mir can be summed up in just one word: determined. The 20-year-old 2017 Moto3 World Champion possesses a unique mix of rage and control that can sway either way depending on what the situation requires. The swaying decisions made during pivotal race moments on his way to securing 10 race victories, and the 2017 title, belies his young age.
Mir is no one-trick pony, each of his victories were achieved with a strategy unique to the situation.
Sometimes he chose to battle within the pack, others times he checked out and built a gap which he held to the chequered flag. His competition were never sure which Mir they were going to come up against on race day, but the one thing his rivals always knew about Mir; he would be nothing but uncompromising.
Mir hails from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the same city as an equally determined five-time world champ named Jorge Lorenzo. But Mir’s idol is not a fellow Spaniard. Joan Mir’s hero harks from central Italy and has nine world championships to his name; it’s Valentino Rossi.
Joan Mir was born the day after Valentino won his first 125cc world title in 1997 and when Mir tasted his first victory champagne at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in 2016, Rossi invited him to join him for some training at the ranch, Rossi’s private flat-track facility where some of the biggest names in the sport hang out.
And he turned him down.
“Unfortunately, I had plans I could not change, and I had to say no,” Mir says. Another chance was offered during the lead up to the 2017 Misano GP, which is very close to Rossi’s home, but then the nine-time world champ suffered a double leg fracture less than two weeks before the race and was forced onto the sofa.
“Sooner or later I will find a chance to ride with him,” Mir concedes.
Discussing his idol’s many superstitions, Mir revealed breaking his own pre-race rituals coincided with his maiden win. During the first half of 2016, Mir always wore an orange coloured layer under his leather suit, but the day he chose to change to blue was the day he lofted his first winner’s trophy at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Smiling and kind in the paddock, but full of determination on the track, it often appeared Mir was toying with his opponents throughout the 2017 season. When he wasn’t gapping his rivals in a very un-Moto3 manner, he would wait patiently amid the leading group, or shadow a breakaway rider. With monotonous regularity, Mir would calmly let others lead races until the latter stages, before mounting an attack and leading the field across the line.
By the half-way point of the season, the series’ commentators were calling the race up front while continually checking where Mir was in the pack as they waited for his inevitable charge for the lead. Mir made it look easy – but reveals it was often anything but.
“From the outside it can look like I have everything under control, but that’s not the case,” he says. “I started from behind several times during 2017 and that required me to make a lot of overtakes, which is always risky. Probably qualifying was my weakest point.”
With just one pole position to his 2017 scorecard, qualifying was his weakest point, but for Mir, race day is payday.
His 13 podiums, including a score of wins, show a master of consistency with an uncanny ability to stay out of trouble. He finished every race of the season, and only finished outside the points on one occasion, at the rain-soaked Japanese round in Motegi, where he finished 17th.
Mir’s determination to settle for nothing less than a win was displayed during the last lap of the Aragon Grand Prix. He found himself leading the pack with a long straight and two corners left to run. The last place a Moto3 rider wants to be at Aragon is leading halfway through the final lap; you’re a sitting duck for the slipstreaming pack behind.
But Mir tucked everything behind the fairing as he fired down the long straight, then began to zig-zag in a wild effort to break the tow of his chasing rivals. He won the race, but he earned the disapproval of fellow racers. The stewards agreed Mir had overstepped the mark and punished him with a six-position grid penalty for the Japanese GP a fortnight later. Despite the controversy, Aragon was his eighth win of the year, a Moto3 record, and the Japanese round became the only blot on the Spaniard’s copybook. The penalty relegated him to 14th on the grid, and the diabolical conditions stifled any opportunity to catch and run with the leading pack.
He wrapped up the title at Phillip Island with two rounds left to run and finished the season 93 points clear of title rival Romano Fenati.
Fenati was another of Valentino Rossi’s protégés in 2016 before the mess that saw the-then 20-year old sacked by the Sky Racing Team VR46 mid-season for disciplinary reasons. But he bounced back the following season and was the only rider to consistently take the fight to Mir as the pair chased their maiden world championship.
“Romano is a good rider and has a different riding style compared to mine,” Mir explains. “I’m strong in the brakes and the exit, while he is very fast in the middle of the corner, carrying great speed.”
For Mir, the 2017 season has now been consigned to the history books. It’s time to look toward the next hurdle on his way to more championship glorying and that means conquering the intermediate Moto2 category.
Franco Morbidelli’s move to the MotoGP ranks has given Mir an opportunity to ride a proven championship-winning bike and for a proven team. But according to Mir, that’s just the start.
“The Moto3 title is not my ultimate goal; I am working to reach MotoGP and be competitive in the top-class,” he says with the self-belief reserved for a world champion. “This is only one step
of a long journey”.