Joan Mir admits the pressure is beginning to tell as he closes in on the possibility of becoming MotoGP world champion without winning a race.
With three rounds left, there are still 75 points available.
Only 32 points separate the top six after a rollercoaster season truncated by COVID-19 and thrown wide open by the absence of six-time world champion Marc Marquez.
The Spaniard has not raced since breaking his arm in the season-opener in Jerez, Spain.
“For sure, there is the feeling of a little bit more pressure because the championship is getting older, so every one of us feels like it’s going to finish soon,” said Suzuki rider Mir, who has a 14 point lead over Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo. “I don’t care about the others. I just care about my feelings. I have a great feeling on the bike.”
He might not have been a race winner, but Mir is the picture of consistency this season with three second-place finishes and three thirds from 11 races.
French star Quartararo has three wins to his name this year, but the Yamaha satellite rider endured miserable back-to-back races in Aragon in October.
He was a lowly 18th and then eighth in races won respectively by Suzuki rider Alex Rins and Quartararo’s Yamaha teammate, Franco Morbidelli.
At the same time, Mir picked up a couple of third-place finishes in a perfect summary of his year so far.
This weekend, the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain — only 4km in length — hosts the European Grand Prix, followed by the Valencia Grand Prix just seven days later.
The season is to conclude with the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao on Nov. 22.
“Anything can happen — 75 points in the game,” Quartararo said on Thursday. “I think all of the riders who are here can win the championship easily. We have to stay focused. Race by race is the only way to think about fighting for the title.”
Yamaha factory rider Maverick Vinales, whose lone win this year came at Emilia Romagna, Italy, is five points behind Quartararo.
He was fourth and seventh at Aragon, Spain, losing ground on Mir, but closing in on his French rival.
“The last two races haven’t been bad, honestly,” said Vinales who competed at Aragon without teammate Valentino Rossi, who was sidelined by COVID-19. “Now we have three races where we can enjoy a lot. It’s a track I love and also Portimao is a track I like.”
“Our strategy is very clear: finish ahead of those two guys [Mir and Quartararo],” he added. “That will be the main strategy to close the gap in the championship.”
Mir found support this week from Emilio Alzamora, who won the 125cc world title in 1999 without winning a race in the season.
“Sometimes because of the circumstances, you cannot win a grand prix, but this does not mean you don’t deserve to win the championship,” he told motogp.com.
On Thursday, Yamaha’s hopes of winning the constructor and team honors suffered a blow when they were penalized for “failing to respect the protocol required for technical changes.”
The International Motorcycling Federation said that Yamaha have had 50 world championship constructor points withdrawn.
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