MotoGP Portimao: Podium without crew chief ‘difficult but important’ for Mir| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
Perfect conditions for the PortugueseGP concluded with Joan Mir securing his Suzuki Ecstar team its a first MotoGP podium of the season at Portimão.
Recovering from a disappointing qualifying, Mir got off to brilliant start in the 25-lap early afternoon race, sitting fourth before swiftly sweeping into third and making up six places from his grid position in the opening lap.
Neatly behind his teammate Alex Rins, and hot on the heels of the race leader Johann Zarco, the Spaniard was feeling confident with his GSX-RR and aiming to chase for the coveted podium which had so far eluded him. As Fabio Quartararo took over the race lead, Rins was ready to tail him, while Mir was doing a good job of defending his podium position and by the 11th lap the Suzuki duo were holding strong in second and third.
With his colleague crashing out in the closing stages, Mir continued to battle on impressively, determined to place on the podium. Despite a late charge from Franco Morbidelli, he was able to defend, presenting Suzuki its first podium of 2021 in third, and jumping to fifth in the championship standings.
“It was a difficult race” Mir admitted. “I expected that I could have good race pace, because in warm up this morning I felt very strong, but I didn’t expect to have trouble in the middle of the race. I’m not sure why, but I started to struggle with the front of the bike, which is something we have to check and learn from. The temperature was higher, so it is possible that everything was not right with this temperature.
“Overall I’m happy because we put together a strong weekend and I managed a podium at a track which isn’t the best for me. We’ve been strong but we have to continue improving,
“This weekend was really important - without Frankie inside the box it was difficult” the Suzuki rider continued. “Tom made a really good job, also with Claudio, the electronic guy, and all the team performance, We made a strong weekend and we gave our 100%, we probably missed something, but this is racing, is really difficult to have everything under control, but we are on the podium so not bad!
“It was a really difficult race, so fast, also so hot! I’m happy over all, I think that we could make an improvement more. I was struggling with the front part of the bike in the middle of the race but then I found a good pace, I try to survive with what I had, and I gave 100%, so I have to be satisfied.”
Discussing the fight at the end of the race, Mir joked “I didn’t expect to do what they did to me in Qatar!” Before continuing “I already knew that if I was not able to overtake in the last lap, it will be impossible to overtake in the straight. It was a positive weekend overall, this probably is not the best track for me and I was able to finish on the podium, so I’m happy.
“Honestly, I think that now, Jerez, Le Mans, this is not the best start of the championship, for me, but Qatar and here we managed to fight for the podium. So it’s our goal to be fighting in Jerez and Le Mans too. Then I expect to be stronger but now we have to survive and we have to score as many points as possible.”
Saturday saw the first examples of the returning Marc Marquez and his mind games as he toyed with the Suzuki rider, with the pair continuing to fight as Sunday’s race got underway.
“In the first lap is true that we had a moment there,” the Spaniard explained, “and I wanted to overtake and then he closed the line and it was too late for me and then we both touch. Then is true that I feel some hit in the next lap or two laps after, and I didn’t know that it was Marc. To start in ninth position means this no? If I was not able to make the lap time in qualifying, I have to do this start, is like this. If we want to fight for the championship, we start in the first row or we have to be aggressive. I prefer to start in first row!”
Mir’s first podium brings with it the previous expectations of a championship title fight, so does the Suzuki rider feel this is where his defence begins?
“Last year, with the first podium, we got more speed and we were able to stay always in the podium, so the first step is to be on the podium. I think that the start of the season for the tracks that there are, are not easy because Qatar, here, then Jerez and Le Mans, these tracks are probably not the best ones for the Suzuki but we fight for the podium in both tracks. So if we got the podium here, in Jerez should be a bit better, maybe, and I will try. I’m not thinking now on the championship, I’m just thinking race by race and trying to be relaxed and try to give the 100%. Same mentality, like always but I’m looking forward to Jerez and hopefully getting another good result there, although it will be a very competitive race for sure.”