Mir wins first MotoGP title at Valencia Grand Prix

CHESTE, Spain (AP) — A week after winning his first MotoGP race, Joan Mir is now celebrating his first title.

Mir, who earned seven podium finishes in 13 races, clinched the MotoGP title on Sunday with a seventh-place finish at the Valencia Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old Spaniard won last weekend at the same Ricardo Tormo circuit near Valencia.

“It’s amazing, I’ll never forget this day … I achieved my dream,” said Mir, who won the Moto3 title in 2017. “I probably need a couple of hours to understand the situation.”

Pole-sitter Franco Morbidelli won the race for his third victory of the season, but it was not enough to keep Mir from securing the title ahead of the season-finale in Portugal next week.

“I can’t believe this has happened,” Mir said. “I’m so tired that I don’t have the strength to celebrate. I don’t have any words for this moment.”

The Suzuki rider, only in his second MotoGP season, started from 12th place on the grid and gradually made his way to the front as most of his title contenders struggled. He needed a top-three finish, or to cross the line ahead of his rivals, to clinch the title.

Mir entered Sunday’s race with a 37-point advantage over both Suzuki teammate Álex Rins and Fabio Quartararo of Yamaha. Morbidelli, Maverick Viñales and Andrea Dovizioso also had a mathematical chance to win the title.

Quartararo, a three-time winner this year who started 11th on the grid, went wide early and dropped to the back of the pack. He then crashed out of the race with fewer than 20 laps to go. Rins finished fourth, Dovizioso eighth and Viñales 10th.

Morbidelli moved to second in the championship standings, with Rins third.

Mir became the fourth Spaniard to win the top title, after Àlex Crivillé, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez.

Mir’s success also gave Suzuki its first MotoGP riders’ title in 20 years.

This year’s title race was wide open after six-time champion Márquez was sidelined because of an injury. There have been nine different winners this season, with five first-time winners.

The MotoGP season was shortened and had its calendar severely altered because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johann Zarco, who started fourth on the grid, crashed early in the race, while Takaaki Nakagami fell near the end while seeking his first podium finish.

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