until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Mir must relaunch his MotoGP career - or see it start to end

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

At age 26 and with just 80 MotoGP starts under his belt - fewer than any of the other riders in that rookie class - Joan Mir has already had what amounts to a full career arc in MotoGP.

Early rise? Check. Culminating in a title? Check. An apparent consolidation of frontrunner status? Check. A sudden sharp decline? Unfortunately, check.

Oh, and contemplating retirement? Check.

MotoGP has already seen several Joan Mirs - the injured rookie with untapped potential, the canny Sunday operator maximising points, and then, suddenly, the crash-happy disappointment.

That started in his final Suzuki season already - he was, after all, a brutal 15th in the standings, even though injury was of course a big part of that. Then, after a switch to Honda following Suzuki's withdrawal, even the relative highs of that 2022 disappointment were completely unavailable.


Over the course of 2023, whenever a crash message on live timing or the broadcast came up on the screen, there was never a shred of surprise when it was accompanied by #36.

Mir wasn't actually that slow on that RC213V, certainly not to begin with - he showed intermittent bursts of pace, but they were intermittent because he was too busy shrugging off crash after crash, nursing injuries, losing every bit of confidence.

On the other side of the garage, Marc Marquez was shunting at a similar rate, but Marquez was always able to rebuild his performance. When both stayed on (a rarity), and particularly over one lap, he more often than not left Mir in the dust.

But in 2024 Marquez is no longer casting his shadow over the Honda line-up - at least, not in the same way - and the bike is more compliant, which means the absurd crashing has been provisionally curbed. Mir did come up with a crash when he went to push on the final day of testing in Qatar - but he had been vomiting that day and in no physical condition for anything to be extrapolated from his fall.

Meanwhile, in terms of performance on the 'healthy' days, he has generally looked like the best Honda rider - albeit maybe being given a run for his money by LCR new boy Johann Zarco.

"It's not that I forgot how to be competitive. It's just, we need a little bit of time to get ready," said Mir at the Qatar test.

"Also, in terms of the rider, personally, technically, I need a little bit of time. I think that I've been, let's say, a bit injured last year mentally. And I need a bit of time to get out of this. Confidence, laps... results... and I think that I can be where I was.

"But it's a process. [For] Honda and [for] myself. Two different things."

For all intents and purposes, Mir's 2024 has to serve as a re-launch of his MotoGP career - either that or the beginning of its end.


Even in his sickly state, Mir was 1.1s faster in the Qatar test than he had been in the race weekend at the same track in November. Sepang? Another 1.1s gain from the November race to the pre-season test.

Considering he should have been even faster in Qatar, simple track conditions don't really explain this.

"The bike overall feels better," Mir reiterated in Qatar.

"The feeling with the front is much better.

"We still have probably the same issues, but making faster laptimes. This is a little bit the thing. The top speed is a little bit better - for sure it's not fantastic if you check the others, but we made an improvement.

"The acceleration we've made an improvement in respect of last year - but it's true that at the moment it's our weak point, that.

"And yeah, I think we improved in this test the aerodynamic side, we have less wheelie. They've brought another fairing with more downforce and it's positive."

So, more downforce, more power, more usable power, more feedback. A thumbs up not just from Mir but from the rest of the Honda camp - long-timer Takaaki Nakagami and Ducati converts Luca Marini and Zarco, the latter particularly ebullient.

And yet there remains a question mark over whether all this will translate to much at least in the early going in 2024. For all of Honda's gains, competitively it looks to have only made an incremental step.

It should be reflected in the points - in particular, if the bike truly does offer more feedback than its predecessor, there will be a lot more scoring thanks to fewer DNFs and fewer injuries - but the general consensus is it's still not a bike for the top spot.

So if the new RC213V is still a marginal top-10 bike at best, how long will that satiate Mir when/if he's back to anywhere near his champion form - and how much value will Honda and other prospective employers perceive in him finishing 11th/12th/13th in the meantime?


Mir is in the awkward position at Honda of being its sole works rider with a contract expiring this year - as new team-mate Marini is committed through 2025.

Given you wouldn't expect Honda to break contracts, even if Mir outperforms Marini he is the rider in danger if Honda wants to make a splashy signing.

Publicly, though, no pressure is being put on Mir by team boss Alberto Puig.

"We know [the] Joan from the past - and we know last year he struggled a lot with the bike," Puig told MotoGP.com. "But this year he recovered his confidence.

"He's a very fast rider, he's a two-time world champion [across Moto3 and MotoGP], so we have no question marks on him.

"Let's see how this bike can help him to deliver his potential."

But as for Mir himself, there is clearly a question mark as to how he sees his MotoGP future playing out - given he was somewhat equivocal when asked by The Race about whether he would be ready to commit to Honda longer-term.

"This, honestly, I don't know. I don't know.

"It's true that they made a complete change. For me it's very important to understand if it's enough or not. And I will decide it when I feel it.

"At the moment I don't feel it, I don't know. It's very early to speak about this.

"I want to enjoy racing. If I'm able to enjoy the first part of the year, for sure I'll want to stay. But we have many questions to answer at the moment."

Whether his best-case-outcome future is as the anchor of the Honda project or, say, as a top-tier satellite rider maximising his talents on a more complete, polished package and parlaying himself back into 'elite' status and works offers, Mir's path to either starts now.

At the very least, he has to lead Honda from the outset in Qatar - and stay on the bike in the process.

There will always be MotoGP team bosses who believe they could coax out the world champion version of Mir. But such will be the competition for seats in 2025, that belief alone won't be enough.

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