Last Sunday in Australia, Leopard Racing rider Joan Mir scored a magnificent 9th win of the current Moto3 season at the Phillip Island circuit, thus becoming the new Moto3 World Champion. We will now make a short review of his season and of his performances prior to 2017.
Before making his debut in the Moto3 World Championship, Joan Mir competed in the Red Bull Rookies Cup in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He was a constant point scorer in 2013, also notching a maiden podium finish at Silverstone (2nd place). He finished the season 9th overall. Already with one year of experience behind him, Mir was a contender for the championship in 2014. In spite of having scored 3 victories and 3 other podium finishes, Mir finished the season as a runner-up to Jorge Martin.
For 2015, Mir moved to the FIM CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship alongside Machado Leopard Junior Team. He managed to win 4 of the first 6 races of the season, but his lack of consistency (Mir failed to score points in no less than 4 races) put him in only 4th place in the final standings of the season.
Also, in 2015 Mir was given the first chance to shine on the World Stage. He took part in the Australian GP as a replacement for Leopard Racing rider Hiroki Ono. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, he had to retire after an incident with John McPhee while battling inside the top 10.
However, his talent did not go unnoticed inside the Leopard Racing garage and he was offered a full ride with the team in 2016. He was a constant top 10 finisher in the first half of the season, with a best result of 6th on home turf in Jerez. Right after the summer break, Mir exploded on the then newly introduced in the calendar RedBull Ring, and took the win from eventual World Champion Brad Binder after starting from pole position. A second podium finish was scored in Misano, where he crossed the line in 3rd. After two consecutive retirements in Phillip Island and Sepang, Mir arrived at the season finale in Valencia with mathematical chances to clinch the Rookie of the Year title. The Valencian GP was Part Two of the Binder-Mir battle, with the Southafrican walking away victorious. However, with Bulega outside of the point zone, Mir finished 5th overall in the championship and clinched the Rookie of the Year title for five points.
Joan Mir remained in the lightweight class in 2017 and, with Brad Binder, Jorge Navarro and Francesco Bagnaia moving up to Moto2, he was considered a championship contender before the start of the season.
He rosed to the expectations and kicked-off the year with a stunning win under the lights of the Losail Circuit in Qatar, defeating John McPhee, Jorge Martin and Aron Canet after a hard-fought battle. He doubled up in Argentina, with the same 2 rivals alongside him on the podium, but in a more impressive manner, as he made his way up from P16 on the starting grid.
The American race held at COTA in Austin, Texas was a tough one for the championship leader, who crossed the line in 8th after qualifying 2nd on Saturday. However, the Spaniard did not let this result affect his morale and came back to podium ways in the next GP. In front of the home crowd at Jerez, Mir crossed the line in 3rd, losing out to winner Canet for only 0.155.
Only 9 points ahead of Romano Fenati before the French GP, the first place in the championship seemed in jeopardy as the Italian veteran took a flying start and got away at the front. However, Fenati crashed, throwing away crucial points in the championship. Mir took advantage and won the race for more than 4 seconds ahead of Aron Canet.
Leading the championship comfortably after Le Mans, Mir finished 7th in an insane Italian GP, before taking a magnificent 4th win of the season on home turf on Circuit de Catalunya.
A wrong strategy in the last lap of the Dutch GP caused an only 9th place finish for Mir on the TT Assen, but this motivated the Majorcan even more, as he went on to win the following 3 GPs (Germany, Brno and Austria). The pure domination of the Leopard Racing rider on the RedBull Ring, corroborated with Fenati s 13th place finish, increased the lead of Mir to 64 points with 7 races to go.
A red-flagged shortened British GP brought a 5th place for Mir, who still managed to finish ahead of key rival Fenati, who was 7th. In a rain soaked race at Misano Mir ran in safe mode, securing the 2nd place after the crash of Jorge Martin. In Aragon Joan Mir came back to the beast mode and clinched a record 8th win of the season, thus giving himself a first match point in Motegi.
Unfortunately, the Japanese GP was wet from start to finish and Mir was not able to repeat the performance from Misano. He crossed the line in 17th, which was his first race finished outside the point zone in 2017.
There was no reason to dispare for Mir as he came in Australia still with an impressing lead in the championship. In need of an at least 2nd place to wrap up the championship, Joan Mir took another resounding win in another race stopped by the red flag. Thus, he officially became the 2017 Moto3 World Champion, on the track on which he made his debut in the championship 2 years before.
Altough not so strong in qualifying sessions (Mir still lacks a pole position in 2017), most of the race days belonged entirely to Joan Mir, who now holds an absolute record in the Moto3 class – 9 wins in a single season. With 2 races to go, the Leopard Racing rider has the chance to equal the record for the most wins in a season in the lightweight class, which was established by Valentino Rossi in 1999 in the 125cc (11 wins).
Next year we will see the World Champion racing in the Moto2 class alongside powerhouse team EG 0,0 Marc VDS. Will he follow the steps of Maverick Vinales and Alex Rins and move to MotoGP with some wins in the class to his name? Or will he add his name to the list of lightweight class World Champions who turn from hero to zero after progressing to the intermmediate category? Time will give us the answer to this question, but, until then, we must leave in the present. And, in the present, Joan Mir is the new Moto3 World Champion.
photo credit – motogp.com