A two-wheel interlude: Honda happy with Miller

Note: this story originally appeared here

Repsol Honda team principal and Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) communications director Livio Suppo has declared himself content with Jack Miller’s progress as the 20-year-old Australian adjusts to life in MotoGP.

Miller made the big jump from Moto3 last season, where he finished runner-up to champion Alex Marquez, to MotoGP this season on a three-year contract with HRC, which placed him with the LCR Honda outfit for his rookie campaign.

Miller’s season has been predictably inconsistent as he adjusts to racing a bike twice the weight and with four times the power of last year’s Moto3 KTM, and he sits 18th in the world championship at the mid-season break with 12 points, an 11th at Catalunya the best of his four points-scoring efforts in nine races.

Speaking to motogp.com.au at Indianapolis, Suppo said 2015 was always going to be a learning year for the Australian, who has impressed HRC with his approach.

“We are reasonably happy,” Suppo said.

“I think Jack did his best race in MotoGP in the third race in Argentina (where he finished as the best Open-class rider in 12th). We knew it was a very difficult jump from Moto3 to MotoGP, and we always said that this is a season where he just has to learn what he could have learned in Moto2. So there’s no expectation on our side for results.

“The good point is that he’s learning; maybe he’s taking a bit more time than expected to adapt to the style of MotoGP, but it’s easy to speak and difficult to be on the bike.”

Suppo says comparing Miller’s telemetry to that of Cal Crutchlow, the vastly experienced lead LCR rider on a factory-spec RC213V, has thrown up a few surprises.

“If you look at the data and compare to his teammate, in some parts of the circuits Jack is already as fast as Cal, in others he’s losing (time), basically in braking, so this is something he should learn.

“But I’m happy, and he’s showing a good attitude.”

Miller, who spent some of his mid-season break back at home in Townsville barramundi fishing with good friend and Moto3 series leader Danny Kent, admits his learning curve has been steep this season.

While he’s frustrated at not scoring bigger hauls of points more consistently, the depth of the MotoGP field has caught him by surprise.

“HRC have been pretty good, and they’ve been happy because I’m still on the upward slope and learning every weekend,” he said.

“Before the season, I expected that I’d be doing better, but what I wasn’t prepared for was that the level is as high as it is. It’s amazing how high the level is, and I probably couldn’t have picked a more difficult year to start in MotoGP.

“You probably wouldn’t have seen the top 20 within 1.8 seconds in qualifying like we’ve seen a few times this year in the last 20 years. All the guys are fast and the level has been really competitive, so that’s what I’ve noticed the most.”

Miller’s LCR team has fielded two bikes this season after an off-season injection of funds from London-based foreign exchange trading firm CWM FX. That sponsorship has come into question in recent weeks after reports broke that CWM chief executive Anthony Constantinou is set to face trial on charges of sexual assault, with the company under investigation for fraud and money laundering.

Should CWM’s sponsorship deal with the team cease, it is likely Lucio Cecchinello’s outfit will revert to one bike for 2016, leaving Miller’s ride under a cloud.

With Miller under contract with HRC until the 2017 season, well-placed paddock sources openly speculated in the mid-season break that the Australian may be placed with the Aspar MotoGP team for next season if his LCR ride dries up.

Aspar, which runs Open class Honda machinery for 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden and category debutant Eugene Laverty this season, lost Malaysian energy drink Drive M7 as its title sponsor on the eve of the 2015 campaign.

With HRC effectively paying for Miller’s place on the grid as it grooms him for the future, the Australian’s services are sure to be highly coveted if he comes on the market at the end of his rookie season.

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