It was hard being a MotoGP rookie in 2019. It was probably the strongest rookie class we have seen in many years: Pecco Bagnaia and Joan Mir, two world champions; Miguel Oliveira, who has runner up in both Moto2 and Moto3; and Fabio Quartararo, the young man they changed the Moto3 entry rules for. Yet even these exceptionally talented youngsters faced probably the most talented MotoGP field in history.
Quartararo's meteoric success dominated the headlines, but it overshadowed some strong debuts by the other three. Ecstar Suzuki's Joan Mir, for example, crossed the line in eighth in his first ever MotoGP race, and went on to become a regular top eight rider. By the end of the season, he was challenging his more experienced teammate Alex Rins, and scoring his best result of the season at Phillip Island, finishing fifth in the group battling for the podium.
Before the Japanese round of MotoGP at Motegi, top Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura talked to Joan Mir about his first thirteen races – Mir was forced to miss two races due to the lung injury he suffered in the huge crash at the Brno test. The Suzuki rider spoke at length about his rookie season, about his rapid progression through the Grand Prix ranks, and about what he learned. He also talked to Nishimura-san about racing against his teammate, and how making your debut on a Suzuki compares to the Ducati and the Yamaha.
It was an insightful and long conversation, and so it has been split into two parts. Part two will be published tomorrow, but here is part one:
Q: We have completed fifteen races and four races to go, including here. I think you have started this season very well, especially in the first race in Qatar. But after that, there were some ups and down. How do you evaluate yourself in general in this season?
Joan Mir: I evaluate myself really as a rookie. This one word. I will say rookie, because in a lot of races if you look on paper, I was really fast to fight, to be in the top seven, top six in all the races, but we made some mistakes. I crashed. We had some bad laps sometimes. In Argentina with the rear tire, with a bad rear tire this can happen. Then I had the injury in Brno after the race. A lot of things happened. Rookie year, I have to say.
But what is important is that where we were fighting in Barcelona, in Sachsenring, even before, for top six positions, top seven, fighting with Ducatis also for top five positions at the end. Then I had the injury in Brno, and then I was out for two races. Again in Misano, I was in eighth position. So this is important to be in eighth position. Then in Aragon, I had a problem the first laps. I went wide. I came back and I recovered time. You see lap times, again on the top five I would be on the lap times. So, everything good. In Thailand, seventh.
We are quite constant, but for some reasons that happen, we are not able sometimes to show our potential. This is what we miss. We miss a bit of time, of luck, to be fighting for the podium because FP, free practice, qualifying, we are there with them. We miss a bit of time, and a bit of luck, and to work more to be with them at the end this year. Our goal for next year is to be fighting for top positions.
Q: So, in terms of the results you get so far this season, is it just as expected?
JM: Better than my expectations. At the end of the first year I thought top fifteen, to be fighting for top fifteen, at the end of the season top ten. Next year, another step and top five. This was the goal. In the first race I was in the top eight fighting for a top position. So, better than what I expected by far, but I want more always.
Q: The more you get a good result, the more you need.
Q: You have quite a lot of things to learn in MotoGP because you are a rookie. You have to learn how to save the tire and how to use it and how to manage it. The characteristics of the bike are completely different from Moto2 and Moto3, so there are many things you have to learn. Session format is completely different from your Moto2 days. How much did you get used to the MotoGP in the premier class?
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