As the year draws to a close, join us for a look back at a 2020 MotoGP season that will live long in the memory.
A shaky start...
After picking up two victories last year and missing out on a championship top-three finish by six points, 2020 was supposed to be the year Alex Rins became a title challenger, while for his teammate Joan Mir, a MotoGP rookie in 2019, it was to be a year he built on that experience and asserted himself as a front-runner.
Yet the year didn’t get off to a great start. Despite positive preseason tests, the opening round at Qatar only saw the running of the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, thanks to Covid-19, and then when the MotoGP championship finally kicked off at Jerez, Alex Rins title hopes took a hit with a fast crash in qualifying that left him with fractured and dislocated shoulder. Unfit for the first race, Mir was flying the Suzuki flag solo but crashed out on the second lap.
Rins returned for round two, but was clearly hampered by his injury, while Mir took a solid fifth place at Jerez #2. But Mir’s campaign took another hit at Brno for round three, when he was taken out by another rider. Rins, however, kick-started his season with a strong fourth, two tenths off the podium, despite his injured shoulder.
Four podiums in six races
After the wobbly start to the season, Mir began to demonstrate the strength that would see him go on to challenge for the championship - consistency. After being wiped out at Brno, he went on a run that saw him notch four podiums in six races. He finished second in Austria, and so nearly won the second GP in Austria a week later; he was two and a half seconds up the road when a red flag halted the race. With no new front tyre left to use for the restart, he finished fourth.
Rins, too was showing the pace that made him a title favourite during the preseason, as he battled for the win in Austria #1, though he sadly crashed out after just taking lead.
After the Austria double-header Mir took back-to-back podiums at Misano, a third and a second, before both Mir and Rins were on the podium in Catalunya, Suzuki’s first double podium since 2007.
A blip at Le Mans followed; the rain meant Mir was to take part in his first ever wet race in MotoGP, and he finished 11th (but won bonus points for best crash recovery in practice) while Rins battled for the lead but crashed out of second place. However, things would pick up again in Aragon.
A win for Team Suzuki Ecstar finally came at Aragon, when Alex Rins raced to victory. Starting from 10th on the grid he made up a huge number of places off the start, before picking off the remaining riders in front of him to take the lead, going on to take his third MotoGP win. There was jubilation for Mir, also, as he finished third, making it another double Suzuki podium and with it he assumed the lead of the championship, and Team Suzuki headed the team championship standings.
A second double podium followed at Aragon #2, with Mir again third, behind Rins in second. It was also Mir’s sixth podium and he extended his championship lead.
Two weeks later the run-in began at Valencia, the first of three races in a three week period to finish the season. Mir led the championship but was still to taste victory, and faced the dilemma of focussing on that lead, and also the desire to get the monkey off his back and take his first MotoGP win.
In the race Rins and Mir sat one-two, but a mistake from Rins allowed Mir through into the lead, and from there he pulled away to take the win, and extend his championship advantage to 37 points. Rins finished second, and also moved to joint second in the championship behind his teammate.
Mir said at the time, "I’m just so happy, the team and I put together a perfect weekend. It’s difficult to give 100% when you’re fighting for a title, because you always have to be a bit cautious, but today I saw the chance for my debut victory and I had to take it."
With the win in the bag, Mir's focus was set solely on winning the 2020 championship. With a healthy points advantage, he could play it safe at Valencia #2, ensuring he stayed safe to claim just enough points to be crowned champion.
And that was exactly what he did. 10th would have given him the title, but he crossed the line in seventh to become the 2020 MotoGP world champion.
"It’s really hard to find the words at the moment," Mir said after taking the chequered flag, "but I must say thank you to so many people; to Suzuki for this opportunity, I’m so happy to give them a title. To be the person who brings them another crown after 20 years is an unbelievable feeling and a true honour.
"The entire team did an incredible job, and I’m just so overjoyed with this championship win."
Team Suzuki Ecstar would also go on to clinch the team championship at the final round at Portimao, while Rins secured third in the riders championship standings, marking an excellent comeback after the injuries sustained at the beginning of the year.
Mir's title made him the sixth rider to lift Suzuki's seventh premier class crown, all in the firm's 100th anniversary and 60th anniversary of Grand Prix racing.
It also came in a year that SERT lifted another EWC crown, highlighting the GSX-R1000's race and championship-winning pedigree.