moto3 / The triumphant ride of Joan Mir and Leopard Racing
Let’s look at the strength of the Leopard Racing structure, the Majorcan rider’s career and the highlights of the 2017 season.
A few hours ago in Australia, Joan Mir ended his champion’s speech as the new Moto3 World Champion. A moment a year in the making. The 4.4 km of the Phillip Island circuit was the backdrop for Mir’s moment in history, able to deliver on years of promise, having amazed racing enthusiasts along the way and earning the title of ‘Miracle-Mir’!
The Spanish talent, leader of the Moto3 Championship with a 55-point advantage over his rivals, had the second match-point available for closing the championship. For Joan Mir, this fascinating circuit is a special reminder: right here, the 20-year-old Majorcan made his debut in the World Championship in 2015 as a replacement rider, qualifying 18th on the grid but was involuntarily involved in an accident when he was charging to the Top Five and a potential podium.
Despite the weather conditions, the professionalism of engineers and mechanics delivered a fast NSF250RW to Mir’s hands, which allowed him to complete the attack on his opponents, setting off from the front row to cross the line in 1st position before the red flag and take the ninth victory of the 2017 season that means Moto3 World Championship.
The first title of the Majorcan’s talented career, and the second in just three years of racing for the Leopard Racing Team. A story that begins in 2015 and is heavily connected between Joan Mir and the structure led by Miodrag Kotur and Christian Lundberg: two figures who have been able to imprint a winning-mentality into a new-team in a very short amount of time.
After joining the mini-bike championships and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (ending as vice champion in 2014), in 2015 Joan Mir joined the Leopard Junior Team for the FIM CEV Repsol, taking four wins and earning himself a place as a replacement rider at the Australian Grand Prix of the Moto3 World Championship, substituting for the injured Hiroki Ono. 18th on the grid, the Spanish talent became the author of an extraordinary comeback to the Top Five, before finishing his race early. Two rounds later in Valencia, Leopard Racing Team won the title in their first season in the world championship with Britain’s Danny Kent.
The Majorcan’s performance did not go unnoticed in the eyes of the Leopard Racing management who decided to put their full confidence in him by promoting Mir to the Moto3 World Championship. The Spaniard learned quickly and often showed flashes of his undeniable talent, but mid-season 2016 came the first major turn of his career: at Red Bull Ring in Austria, Joan Mir crushed the competition by winning pole position and the race. From that moment on, the Majorcan’s talent exploded with a rampage of podiums and positive results, cruising to the title of Rookie of the Year.
For its third year of history, the Leopard Racing Team returned to Honda, entrusting the NSF250RW to help carry them back to the top of the Moto3 world. The Majorcan did not disappoint expectations and began the 2017 season with two victories in Qatar and Argentina; in particular at the Termas de Rio Hondo the rider and team became aware of what was possible. Not just due to his positions in the race, but also from his recovery from 16th position. Qualifying would almost always be his Achilles heel, but it was clear to everyone that on Sunday the Spaniard becomes a ‘racing animal’. On Sunday, the only thing he knows and likes to do is attack! This is the trend that arose and soon too did the nickname of ‘Miracle-Mir’.
A red flag in Texas and some physical problems forced the Spaniard to pick his battles in Austin, but Joan returned in perfect shape for the return to Europe by claiming the podium at Jerez de la Frontera and consolidating his leadership in the standings. The points advantage saw another increase in the Le Mans race in France, thanks to a fall from his chief rival Romano Fenati, Mir taking his third win in the Leopard Racing Team’s first five races of 2017.
Engineers and mechanics grew around Majorcan’s talent, growing and improving together with the drive of a world title. The climb of an impervious summit is never easy, and along the way you have to deal with many variables, from the competitiveness of adversaries to the changing climate. Mugello did not cause Mir to blink an eye, backing the results up again just seven days later in Barcelona. On the Montmelò track and surrounded by his fans, Miracle-Mir performed a masterpiece over the last few meters for the season’s fourth win.
A mischievous strategy saw him just miss victory in the esses of Assen. But the Majorcan is a different rider from the others, and above all seems psychologically more ruthless. Supported by the technical staff and team around him, he learned to analyze and metabolize mistakes in order to become stronger than before. This is how Joan Mir put an impressive hat-trick of wins together at Germany, the Czech Republic and (again, 1 year after his first career win) in Austria.
The points started to stack further and further in the favour of Mir, his rivals faltering as the pressure increased. Another red flag in Silverstone just a few laps from the end, deprived him of the opportunity to make the decisive attack on the podium. In the box, under the careful guidance of Christian Lundberg, Joan Mir prepared for the two critical races that awaited him before the Asian trip: Misano and Aragon. The Spaniard came out with full marks and conquered the podium at a flooded San Marino, hunting his eighth win in the season (no rider had won so much in this category born in 2012) in front of his fans at the MotorLand.
Opponents were simply unable to withstand his impressive score, and the team arrived in Japan with the greatest advantage (+80 points), but after Saturday’s unsuccessful qualifying, and an aggravating penalty of six grid positions, saw the Majorcan failed tp fonosh in the points for the first time all season. In Australia, with two races remaining, the team and Mir faced their second match point. The rest is history. Because today, Sunday October 22, 2017 season, another beautiful page of modern motorcycling history has been written. The Leopard Racing Team showed itself as the best team Moto3 category, with two world titles and a rookie title in just three seasons, confirming quality of a winning project.
Next year the roads between the creators of this beautiful fairytale will consensually diverge, with the Majorcan leading to the intermediate class. But Joan will always be part of the Leopard Racing family, and from today, we can definitely write … ‘Miracle-M1R‘!
Moto3™ Race – Australian Grand Prix 2017:
1 – Joan Mir / SPA / Leopard Racing / Honda / 23 Laps
2 – Livio Loi / BEL / Leopard Racing / Honda / +0.351
3 – Jorge Martin / SPA / Del Conca Gresini / Honda / +0.359
4 – Gabriel Rodrigo / ARG / RBA Racing / KTM / +0.388
5 – Enea Bastianini / ITA / Estrella Galicia 0,0 / Honda / +0.408
6 – Romano Fenati / ITA / Marinelli Rivacold / Honda / +0.808
Moto3™ World Standing 2017:
1 – JOAN MIR 296
2 – Romano Fenati 226
3 – Aron Canet 184
4 – Jorge Martin 151
13 – Livio Loi 67