Nov 13 (Reuters) - Suzuki's Joan Mir never imagined winning a race at the start of the season, but finds himself one podium finish away from lifting the MotoGP title before this weekend's Valencia Grand Prix.
The Spaniard won his first premier class race at last weekend's European Grand Prix to open up a 37-point lead in the standings and position himself to become Suzuki's first world champion since Kenny Roberts Jr two decades ago.
"Honestly, this isn't something I imagined at the start of the season," Mir told Reuters.
"I was only focused on trying to be on the podium for the last few races. Just wanted to learn and adapt.
"But it's completely different now. We have been very consistent and fast at all the tracks, every single session."
The season was shortened and restricted to Europe due to the COVID-19 pandemic and got off to a chaotic start in Spain where reigning world champion Marc Marquez suffered a season-ending arm injury.
Petronas Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo emerged as the early favourite to end Marquez's four-year title reign, while Mir's season got off to a terrible start as he failed to finish two of the first three races.
"It was pretty difficult because you cannot prepare for such a season," Mir said. "It has been like a sprint race where you cannot make any mistakes."
Mir, who won the Moto3 world championship in 2017, offered the first glimpse of his title pedigree in the premier class by finishing second in Austria.
The 23-year-old Mallorcan then turned the tide firmly in his favour with a breathtaking last-lap overtake of his childhood idol and seven-times MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi to finish third at the San Marino Grand Prix.
"It was a special podium and I enjoyed the manoeuvre a lot," Mir said. "Race by race we got closer to the top and then we were trying to increase this lead."
That result galvanised Mir's title bid and he finished on the podium in five of the next six races, with his victory in the European Grand Prix making him the ninth different winner of the season.
"Till the last race we didn't see a clear favourite for the championship," Mir said. "But you can see a contender now, even if it's a bit late."
The only thing on the Spaniard's mind is finishing on the podium in the penultimate race of the season to wrap up the title.
"Honestly, I want to end it here," he said. "I don't like to do my homework at the last moment." (Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru Editing by Toby Davis)