Last season saw Joan Mir become only the sixth rider in history to win a 500cc/MotoGP World Championship for Suzuki.

Of those, only one Suzuki champion has so far been able to repeat the feat, Barry Sheene winning both the 1976 and 1977 500cc crowns.

Meanwhile, Marco Lucchinelli (1981), Franco Uncini (1982), Kevin Schwantz (1993) and Kenny Roberts (2000) had to be content with a single title.

At the age of just 23, time is certainly on Mir's side as far as eventually joining Sheene as a multiple Suzuki champion, should the Spaniard elect to remain at the Hamamatsu factory for future years.

On the other hand, circumstances mean 2021 currently looks as good a chance as any for Mir to add title number two.

Firstly, the unique Covid technical freeze banning engine development until next season reduces the chances of Suzuki's rivals pulling clear of the well-balanced and proven GSX-RR package over the winter.

Although chassis development remains unhindered, any major chassis changes nearly always involve altering the engine.

"The engine is an important part of the bike, also in terms of chassis, so it's really difficult to change completely the chassis without also changing the engine," explained Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna.

The second boost to Mir's title defence is the news that six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez will unfortunately miss at least the opening two rounds of the season, as he continues his lengthy recovery from complications to a broken right arm.

After so long off the bike, even if Marquez makes a comeback at round three in Portimao, he is expected to need at least several races to get back to his usual speed.

Mir was ranked seventh on the 2021 Qatar pre-season testing timesheets, but his average pace looked a match for anyone. And if the #36 can score even a single point at Losail on Sunday, that'll be a better start than he managed in last year's campaign, where he crashed out of the Jerez season-opener.

“It’s great to get back to racing after the winter break," said Mir, who finished eighth on his only previous Qatar MotoGP appearances; his 2019 MotoGP race debut.

"Qatar is quite a good circuit for me, and although we didn’t race here last year, I’m pretty familiar with it right now due to all the testing and training we’ve done here.

"I’m ready to give my all to kick off this new season in a good way, and I’m just counting down the hours now!”

Team-mate Alex Rins also has reason to feel optimistic for the new season, arriving fully fit after battling shoulder problems throughout 2020.

“The atmosphere in Qatar is always amazing; when you see the sun go down and all the floodlights come on, you know it’s something special," said Rins, who like Mir took one race victory last season and went on to finish third in the world championship.

"Everybody is ready to battle after the off-season so I think the race will be an exciting one and I feel ready for it! I got fourth here in 2019 but I’d like to go higher and aim for a podium."

Shinichi Sahara, Suzuki Project Leader and now Team Director after Davide Brivio's departure, added:

“We are excited to start this new season. We are the only team with an unchanged line-up, and I think that is a big help because we have a lot of stability within our team and with our two riders.

"Both Joan and Alex are very strong and they have completed a great pre-season preparation, training hard and gaining good feelings with the GSX-RR.

"The whole team decided to put in the effort to remain in Qatar instead of going home to their families during the break, and now all that remains is to start our job on the track!”