MotoGP

Miller Time: Not too low after Misano

Jack Miller writes about a ‘stupid’ mistake that proved costly at Misano, and why he still has plenty of optimism after a pointless but promising weekend.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Well, that was 24 hours of extremes, that’s for sure. It’s hard to have a lot of perspective and be all bigger picture after you’ve just screwed up and crashed out of a race where you’ve started on the front row, but I’m doing my best. It’s an hour or so since I got off the bike here at Misano and I’m not going to lie, I’m massively disappointed in myself. Completely my mistake. But I can’t get too low after this one, and there’s a lot of reasons for me to be optimistic. It wasn’t that long ago that being optimistic was the last thing I was thinking about.

I came 18th in Austria too in my last race before Sunday’s at Misano (we got rained out at Silverstone, remember), but there’s finishing 18th, and finishing 18th. Same result but they’re not the same thing, nowhere close. Austria, we were lost, I couldn’t make the tyres last, I’d qualified nowhere, it wasn’t a surprise. This one today was a bad surprise I didn’t want, but they’re not the same weekend. Here we had pace, it was consistent, I felt good, the bike was great and there was nothing fluky or lucky about qualifying on the front row … I just made a stupid mistake at the worst possible time.

There’s no sugar-coating what happened. The track was still pretty fresh and I was just trying to stay with the guys at the front after Andrea (Dovizioso) and Marc (Marquez) passed me in the first two laps. I knew they were coming, sure, and it was realistically going to be hard to me to keep those guys behind me for the whole race, even if I did manage to get them both in qualifying. But I was right there and we had a gap to the others behind. Fourth felt good, and felt like I could keep it.

I felt like I was losing a little bit too much in drive and speed, and I guess I was working the tyre too hard in the corner. And down she went – bottomed out in the middle of Turn 14, tucked the front, and that was that. There’d been a few warning signs leading up to it, but really, at that part of the race, we’re all having those warning signs, you’re just trying to react to them and catch them.

There’s ways to look at this. I’m crashing out of fourth position three laps into the race on a year-old bike, and the only riders ahead of me are two factory Ducatis and the championship leader. So you have to look at the positives. When I picked the bike up, it had no windscreen because it was smashed, and the handlebar was bent, and still my fastest lap of the race was only about a tenth (of a second) slower than (Valentino) Rossi with a bike that was clearly pretty damaged after a crash. I got back up, worked my arse off to catch the guys in front and pass some of them, so I don’t want to over-think the negatives.

The pace this weekend wasn’t a surprise in some ways because we were quick at Silverstone in the dry (when it actually was dry), and then we had a test just afterwards at Aragon where I did 88 laps, about three race distances in the one day, and we pushed all day and were quick. The track was pretty dirty too that day and we still did strong lap times, so that was a good sign for the next race in two weeks.

Misano, the whole weekend was strong – in the top 10 most sessions, obviously second on the grid – so this is a minor hiccup, and no more than that. It won’t take much to bounce back from this to continue the good pace for Aragon next, and then the races as we lead into Australia. We’ve got six races left and I’m massively determined to finish this year out strongly and get some good results for the team. On Sundays as well as Saturdays …

Cheers, Jack

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Who’s winning the MotoGP teammate battles in 2018?

Which two-wheel teammates rule the roost in their respective garages? We’ve crunched the numbers.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

MotoGP teammates come in all shapes and sizes; some who work well together, some who achieve results despite barely-concealed (or not concealed at all) disdain for the rider on the identical bike in the sister garage (buongiorno, Ducati), and some who know their place as the junior partner of a two-bike effort pairing machinery of varying ages and expectations. All valid, and all can work.

Eleven races into the 2018 season, which teammates have the internal bragging rights over one another? Which are the closest battles, and which would be called off early if they were a title fight? We’ve run the rule over all 12 squads (in teams’ championship order), excluded wildcards who come in for occasional races, and crunched the numbers. Here we go.

Repsol Honda Team

Qualifying head-to-head: Marc Marquez 9, Dani Pedrosa 2
Races head-to-head: Marquez 8, Pedrosa 0
Best result: Marquez 1st (five times), Pedrosa 5th (twice)
Points: Marquez 201, Pedrosa 66
Podiums: Marquez 9, Pedrosa 0
Average grid position: Marquez 3.2, Pedrosa 9.82
Average race finish: Marquez 4.36, Pedrosa 7.75

Summary: Marc Marquez has had his way with the entire field this season as his 59-point championship lead – more than two races’ worth of points with eight Grands Prix remaining – attests, but the extent of his margin over Dani Pedrosa has been alarming all year. Pedrosa, who is heading into retirement at season’s end, hasn’t beaten his compatriot in a race both have finished yet, while in terms of average race finish, Marquez’s stats are skewed by the fact he remounted after crashing in Argentina and Italy and saw the chequered flag, but outside of the points. Lorenzo really is walking into the lions’ den next season as Pedrosa’s replacement …

Ducati Team

Qualifying head-to-head: Andrea Dovizioso 6, Jorge Lorenzo 5
Races head-to-head: Dovizioso 4, Lorenzo 3
Best result: Dovizioso 1st (twice), Lorenzo 1st (three times)
Points: Dovizioso 129, Lorenzo 130
Podiums: Dovizioso 4, Lorenzo 4
Average grid position: Dovizioso 5.09, Lorenzo 5.64
Average race finish: Dovizioso 3.63, Lorenzo 5.55

Summary: Four races into the season, this was shaping up the same way as 2017 ended, with Andrea Dovizioso the undisputed top dog at Ducati while Jorge Lorenzo flailed around looking for answers. Remarkably, Dovizioso had a 40-point lead over Lorenzo after Spain; following the last race in Austria, Lorenzo’s third victory in the past six Grands Prix, the Spaniard now just leads his Italian teammate amid an atmosphere of simmering tension. Whatever happens here until Lorenzo leaves, it’ll be compelling.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP

Qualifying head-to-head: Valentino Rossi 5, Maverick Vinales 6
Races head-to-head (where both riders finished): Rossi 7, Vinales 3
Best result: Rossi 2nd, Vinales 2nd
Points: Rossi 142, Vinales 113
Podiums: Rossi 5, Vinales 3
Average grid position: Rossi 6.91, Vinales 7.36
Average race finish: Rossi 5.18, Vinales 5.9

Summary: It’s been a difficult year for Yamaha, without a race win and with Valentino Rossi (second) and Maverick Vinales (fifth) only in the top five in the championship by virtue of their consistency. Rossi keeps pulling rabbits out of hats (a horrible 14th on the grid in Austria became a respectable sixth at the flag) in races, while Vinales keeps suffering from poor starts after middling qualifying efforts. Frustration is mounting, but at least Rossi’s comes from a position of internal superiority.

Alma Pramac Racing

Qualifying head-to-head: Danilo Petrucci 10, Jack Miller 1
Races head-to-head: Petrucci 6, Miller 2
Best result: Petrucci 2nd, Miller 4th (twice)
Points: Petrucci 105, Miller 61
Podiums: Petrucci 1, Miller 0
Average grid position: Petrucci 7, Miller 12.36
Average race finish: Petrucci 6.3, Miller 9.67

Summary: The 2018 iteration of the Ducati is a far superior beast than its predecessor, which goes some way towards explaining the gap between Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller, each rider enjoying their best seasons yet while riding totally different bikes. It took a remarkable pole in Argentina for Miller to deny Petrucci a Saturday clean-sweep, while the Italian can always be counted upon to bring the bike home in races, with the occasional outlier podium. Miller’s season has been one of two inconsistent halves; after 49 points in the first five races, he’s managed just 12 in the six since.

Team Suzuki Ecstar

Qualifying head-to-head: Andrea Iannone 7, Alex Rins 4
Races head-to-head: Iannone 2, Rins 3
Best result: Rins 2nd, Iannone 3rd (twice)
Points: Iannone 84, Rins 66
Podiums: Iannone 2, Rins 2
Average grid position: Iannone 7.09, Rins 9.36
Average race finish: Rins 6.5, Iannone 8.3

Summary: With Andrea Iannone off to Aprilia next year, Suzuki will be buoyed by the fact teammate Alex Rins has been the faster of the pair this season … when he can actually stay on the bike. No rider has as many non-finishes as Rins’ five, meaning a strike rate of two podiums in six finishes isn’t too shabby. Iannone can blow hot and cold – as is his custom – and this will be one to watch for the rest of the year before Joan Mir comes in from Moto2 to partner Rins.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3

Qualifying head-to-head: Johann Zarco 11, Hafizh Syahrin 0
Races head-to-head: Zarco 8, Syahrin 0
Best result: Zarco 2nd (twice), Syahrin 9th
Points: Zarco 104, Syahrin 24
Podiums: Zarco 2, Syahrin 0
Average grid position: Zarco 5.6, Syahrin 16.73
Average race finish: Zarco 6.8, Syahrin 13.56

Summary: Jonas Folger’s illness-induced late withdrawal from the 2018 grid saw Hafizh Syahrin drafted in hastily as the German’s replacement, and Johann Zarco has predictably ruled this garage as the Malaysian gets his MotoGP feet wet. Zarco was electrifying early in the season before his results flattened following a fall at home in France, while Syahrin has been making gradual and commendable improvement, strides that saw him rewarded with a contract for next year in June as Tech 3 prepares to switch to KTM machinery.

LCR Honda

Qualifying head-to-head: Cal Crutchlow 11, Takaaki Nakagami 0
Races head-to-head: Crutchlow 7, Nakagami 1
Best result: Crutchlow 1st, Nakagami 12th
Points: Crutchlow 103, Nakagami 11
Podiums: Crutchlow 1, Nakagami 0
Average grid position: Crutchlow 6.77, Nakagami 17.09
Average race finish: Crutchlow 6.33, Nakagami 15.56

Summary: Armed with a factory Honda, Cal Crutchlow is well on track for his best MotoGP season in five years, and a win at a chaotic race in Argentina was fitting reward for the searing speed he’s shown in most races. Takaaki Nakagami was never supposed to match his teammate on inferior machinery and hasn’t, but Crutchlow has said the Japanese rider’s rookie season has been more impressive than his own debut campaign back in 2011.

Angel Nieto Team

Qualifying head-to-head: Alvaro Bautista 8, Karel Abraham 3
Races head-to-head: Bautista 7, Abraham 0
Best result: Bautista 5th, Abraham 13th
Points: Bautista 57, Abraham 4
Average grid position: Bautista 16.91, Abraham 21.18
Average race finish: Bautista 10.3, Abraham 17.5

Summary: As the Spanish team prepares to step back to Moto2 for next year and vacate its grid spot in the premier class, Alvaro Bautista’s future remains murky, while Karel Abraham and his significant funding looks like heading to the Reale Avintia Ducati effort further down the grid. Bautista has conjured six-straight top-10 results from Italy to Austria, but it appears the 33-year-old’s ninth MotoGP season will be his last, irrespective of the thrashing he’s administering to his teammate.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Qualifying head-to-head: Pol Espargaro 5, Bradley Smith 5
Races head-to-head: Espargaro 5, Smith 0
Best result: Espargaro 11th (five times), Smith 10th
Points: Espargaro 32, Smith 15
Average grid position: Espargaro 17.6, Smith 17.36
Average race finish: Espargaro 11.43, Smith 14.5

Summary: It’s been an injury-ravaged campaign for KTM’s factory outfit, with Pol Espargaro’s nasty crash in Sunday warm-up at Brno ruling him out of the Czech Republic and Austrian GPs with a fractured left collarbone and other injuries besides. When he’s been upright, Espargaro has been consistent – so much so that he’s finished 11th five times in nine races. Bradley Smith has the best individual finish of the pair (10th in Germany), but in the races, Espargaro has generally held sway.

Reale Avintia Racing

Qualifying head-to-head: Tito Rabat 11, Xavier Simeon 0
Races head-to-head: Rabat 6, Simeon 0
Best result: Rabat 7th, Simeon 17th (twice)
Points: Rabat 35, Simeon 0
Average grid position: Rabat 12.1, Simeon 23.1
Average race finish: Rabat 11.63, Simeon 19.13

Summary: It took eight world championship seasons in his 28 years for Xavier Simeon to make it to the premier class, but the Belgian’s stay looks set to be a short one with Abraham likely to take his ride for 2019, and with Tito Rabat beating him in every on-track session that has mattered. The gap between these two in qualifying is the biggest on the grid.

Aprilia Racing Team Gresini

Qualifying head-to-head: Aleix Espargaro 11, Scott Redding 0
Races head-to-head: Espargaro 4, Redding 0
Best result: Espargaro 9th, Redding 12th (twice)
Points: Espargaro 17, Redding 12
Average grid position: Espargaro 15.1, Redding 20.55
Average race finish: Espargaro 13.83, Redding 15.63

Summary: Scott Redding’s season-long frustration with the Aprilia exploded in Austria, the Briton commenting that “you cannot make a piece of s**t shine” after starting and finishing in 20th place. Redding is on the outer for next year as Aprilia brings in Iannone from Suzuki, while the man who’ll be retained, Aleix Espargaro, has comfortably been the best rider for a team that has endured more non-finishes (seven) than any other.

EG 0,0 Marc VDS

Qualifying head-to-head: Franco Morbidelli 8, Thomas Luthi 1
Races head-to-head: Morbidelli 6, Luthi 1
Best result: Morbidelli 9th, Luthi 16th (three times)
Points: Morbidelli 22, Luthi 0
Average grid position: Morbidelli 16.22, Luthi 20.55
Average race finish: Morbidelli 14.44, Luthi 17.75

Summary: Franco Morbidelli is off to the new Malaysia-sponsored SIC Yamaha outfit for next year, while Marc VDS teammate Thomas Luthi will step back to Moto2 with the Dynavolt Intact squad. What will become of their team for this year in 2019? That’s still uncertain, but in their time together on the big bikes, it’s been all Morbidelli, even accounting for the two races he missed after fracturing his left hand in an Assen practice fall. Luthi has come agonisingly close to the points, but only he and Simeon haven’t cracked the top 15 so far.

Miller Time: Banking points in Brno

Jack Miller writes about a “strange” race in the Czech Republic, where he survived tyre woes and some midfield mayhem to stay inside the top 10 in the MotoGP championship.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

It’s pretty hard to feel lonely after a MotoGP race, but that’s how Sunday was for me at Brno. I was only 16 or so seconds off the win – not great, but we’ve been further back before – but was in the middle of a big gap from the guys just inside the top 10, and then the rest of us fighting for the points that were left. Some of that was explainable, and some of it was a bit of an unknown at the moment.

One bit that made sense was the first lap, or more specifically what happened to me three corners into it. I got caught up in the crash on the first lap because of where I started (I’ll get back to that), and (Stefan) Bradl, Bradley (Smith) and Maverick (Vinales) all went down, and I had to get myself out of the firing line. After that? For me, not a lot happened.

The race at the front was pretty intense, but mine was just, I don’t know, strange. I got past (Hafizh) Syahrin and (Franco) Morbidelli quickly enough, and I went past (Alvaro) Bautista, and he was on the soft tyre, which I figured wasn’t the right one to be on as it had been so hot here all weekend. Doing 21 laps around here made me think the hard tyre was the only way to go, but after about six laps or so I was dropping four-tenths (of a second) a lap, and there was no way to push harder and actually stay on. Bautista came back past me on the softs and just left me, it was like he had an extra gear which was pretty impressive. Definitely didn’t see that coming.

By the end, the bike was giving me a strange feeling in a straight line, not even the corners, so we just needed to get it home really, and then analyse why that happened with the rear tyre. We had much better pace in the practices than that, so I’m pretty disappointed on that side. But I was happy to finish again, and while 12th doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually better than I’ve gone here on a MotoGP bike before, so that’s a positive. Bank some decent points, keep the bike straight, keep myself out of trouble, and get to somewhere that better suits me and the Ducati.

The tyre thing is a mystery at the minute, so that one’s out of my hands. But I could have avoided the first-lap stuff if I’d qualified better, and that’s completely on me. I had a lap going in Q1 on Saturday that would have definitely put me in Q2 but I crashed at Turn 9, completely my fault, and I ended up in 17th on the grid, as bad as it’s been all year for me.

Back there off the start, you’re kind of asking for trouble, and there’s more of a chance you’re ending up in someone else’s drama. That happened to me in Germany when I fell right to the back of the pack after very neatly getting taken out. At least it wasn’t that bad here, but it was something I could have done without. Nobody to blame but me for that one. You start the race on the back foot, and that’s what happens. Getting to the points and staying inside the top 10 in the championship when you start that far back was a pretty good save, really.

It’s a busy week this week, because we’re back out on track at Brno on Monday for a test day, and then straight to Austria for the race next weekend. For the test, we don’t have any new parts to try, we’re working only on new tyres, and we’re not throwing new things at the bike because we’re back out in four days for practice at the Red Bull Ring. That’s much more of a Ducati track than Brno is, Red Bull Ring is basically three long straights out of slower corners, so that should suit me and the bike, and Ducati has some success there in the last few years. So I’ll be expecting a lot more from next Sunday than what this one gave me, that’s for sure.

I’ll speak to you from Austria next week.

Cheers, Jack

“It’s been sensational”: Wayne and Remy Gardner talk MotoGP in 2018

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MOTOGP.COM.AU

Nine races of the 2018 MotoGP season down, 10 to go – which makes the mid-season break the perfect time to catch up with the state of play in the world championship with Australia’s 1987 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner, and Wayne’s 20-year-old son Remy Gardner, who is riding for Tech 3 Racing in this year’s Moto2 series.

Wayne, Remy, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Let’s keep it simple to start. What do you make of the 2018 world championship so far, and how things have shaken out in the first half of the season?

Wayne: I think the MotoGP season has been sensational, and it’s becoming more like Moto2 in that the races and the grids are so close, and that has to be a good thing for us watching. The gaps have closed, there’s a lot of competitive riders and a lot of bikes close to one another. That’s why you get races like the Assen race, which was absolutely amazing – I’ve not seen a motor race like that in 20 or 30 years. Assen will go down in everyone’s minds as one of the greatest races of all-time. So the racing has been great and the crowds show that, which has to be a good thing as we look forward for Phillip Island, and we have Jack (Miller) right in the middle of all of that too with him having his strongest year so far. It’s taken a while for him, but he’s on a good bike with the Ducati and he’s made some big steps off the bike, and he’s improving all the time which is exciting for the Aussie fans.

Remy: I’d agree on Assen, that’s the one we all remember from the season so far, probably for a few more seasons too. Just an incredible race, passes every lap from lap one until the end, it was just full on. But the racing generally seems to be great every weekend now, we’ve had some awesome races already so everyone’s enjoying it.

Marc Marquez has a 46-point lead at the mid-season break and has already won five races this year – is there anyone or anything who can stop him making it five world titles in six years before the end of the year, or maybe before we get to Phillip Island in October?

Wayne: Marc looks like he’s well on the way to the championship again, and you know that he’s always pushing, he never gives up. There’s no limits to Marc, he’s an incredible talent. He rides beyond the limit in practice and throws it down the road, picks the bike and himself up and then races, and he has to be the favourite in almost every race he goes to.

Remy: Yeah, you’d think Marc is going to smash it again unless he hurts himself somehow. He’s just got an extra level compared to everyone else. (Jorge) Lorenzo is the one for me that, if he gets a couple more wins and stays there in the podium places, he could be the one who could take advantage if Marquez crashes out a couple of times because you can see that when Lorenzo gets up the front, he’s pretty hard to stop.

Has anyone surprised either of you, good or bad, in 2018?

Remy: Lorenzo winning those two races after not being anywhere near it would normally be the biggest surprise, but then he signed with Honda which was even more of one! I’m not sure how that’s going to go for him because he’s up against someone who might be a five-time world champion on that bike by then. It might be tough for him, but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes, and I’m hoping he can prove me wrong.

Jack has been really good too, he’s having a great year which I guess isn’t a surprise as we all know how talented he is. The move from the Honda to Ducati has been a big one for him and he’s doing really good, really improved and he’s really consistent, he’s always up there around the top 10. I’m really happy for him. Hopefully he can get on the podium before the end of the year. Maybe the surprise with Jack was the pole in Argentina and how that race started with him up the front and everyone else down the back of the grid, nobody would have seen that coming! They should have started the rest of them from the back of the grid – they made the wrong tyre choice, so it was their fault. Jack would have won the race if that had happened …

Wayne: Lorenzo winning those two races and then signing with Honda was the biggest surprise for sure, that one really came out of the blue. I know it’s next season, but it’ll be really interesting to see how he goes there alongside Marquez. It’ll probably make Marquez push even harder, if that’s possible! Other than that, the rider who has probably surprised me a bit is (Johann) Zarco, who started so strongly but has dropped his pace a bit more recently.

Remy, it’s been a tough year for you so far given you missed Spain, France and Italy after your big motocross accident when you broke your legs – how’s the fitness coming along, and can you get back to 100 per cent before too long?

Remy: I’m getting better week by week at the moment. Obviously, the legs aren’t perfect and they still hurt when I try to do certain things, but it’s not too bad. I’m not able to run or anything like that yet, but I’m getting closer. Sachsenring before the break was a good test for me because that circuit just goes left and left and left … riding generally hasn’t been too painful, but by the end of the race and 28 laps around there it was pretty sore where the bone is calcifying on the tibia.

Wayne: The accident was a huge shock, but to give him credit where it’s due, Remy’s worked really hard to get back after an operation to put pins and plates in, he’s done the hard work with the physio, and he was back on track six weeks after the accident and having good results. The Moto2 championship is so difficult and so competitive – look at somewhere like the Sachsenring, he was eight-tenths of a second off pole but 20th on the grid, which is quite amazing. So I think he’s done a great job to get back, and hopefully can get his body back towards 100 per cent and push on from here the rest of the season. Moto2 might be the most difficult championship of them all because of how even the bikes are and how such small margins can means rows – not just a single row but rows on the grid – after qualifying.

Remy, you get two clear weekends off between Germany and the Czech Republic next week – what does a rider do when they actually get some downtime away from the track?

Remy: It’s only a two-week break this year, so there’s not that much of a break compared to usual. For me, I’ve not done any riding because of the rehab and trying to give my body a bit of a break, because it’s been a tough year for that. So I’ve been doing some spear-fishing, bit of wake-boarding, hanging out with some mates and not doing a lot. I’ll get back on the bike next week before Brno to get back in the groove.

We mentioned Brno coming up, and that’s one of 10 races left with a few in Europe, the swing through Asia, Australia … besides Phillip Island, where are you looking forward to going in the back half of the year?

Remy: Thailand will be interesting as it’s our first time there. I spoke to Jack about the track in Thailand after the MotoGP guys did their pre-season test there, and I’m not sure that the track will be anything amazing, but the place itself and the crowds there will make that weekend pretty crazy, there’s definitely a real love for bikes there. From what I’m hearing it’ll be even hotter than Malaysia is, so that’ll be interesting! It looks like a hard-braking type of a track, so that should suit us.

Wayne: Thailand is one race I’m looking forward to see what happens for the second half of the season, because it’s a new market for MotoGP and the sport has just exploded in popularity there, in Asia generally but there in particular from what I’m told. It’s great to see the popularity of the racing getting bigger in places we haven’t been before.

And the Island itself – the Australian round is one all the riders circle on their calendars, isn’t it?

Remy: Oh, for sure. Everyone asks me ‘what’s your favourite track?’, and when I say ‘Phillip Island’, they say that I’m always going to say that because I’m Australian. But it’s not that at all, it’s just a bloody awesome track. The sea in the background, it’s so fast and ballsy … I just love the place. Can’t wait to get back there.

Wayne: The whole paddock likes coming to Phillip Island, all three classes, and that’s because we know that track throws up great racing in Moto3, Moto2 and of course MotoGP. Last year’s MotoGP race there was a classic, it’s one of the races that, as soon as it was finished, people were talking about it being one of the all-time greats, like Assen was this year. I’m hopeful that Remy will go well there too, it’s a place where he’s gone well in the past and he’s strong there, so we’re looking forward to getting down there again.

And finally, Wayne, we have your new documentary ‘Wayne’ coming out soon with the premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Tell us a bit about it, and what it’s like to see your life played out on the big screen?

Wayne: Watching it is actually quite an emotional experience, because you’re looking back which us racers don’t tend to do, we’re always facing forward to the next race and the next result. You get so used to working like that, and then your whole life is like that. So with the movie, you sit back and look at the big-screen production of your life … it’s pretty emotional. I’m proud of what’s been achieved, and the producer (Matthew Metcalfe) and GFC Films have put together an amazing show. It’s beyond my expectations, and I’m excited to see what people think about it when they get to see it for the first time. It’s taken us three years to do, from the moment Matthew approached me with a copy of my biography under his arm and saying he wanted to make a film. He’s been true to his word and I’m very proud of it.

Remy: I haven’t seen the whole thing yet, I’ve only seen a few snippets. Really impressive though, and I can’t wait to see the whole thing. The trailer is great, they’ve done really well with it and it definitely made me want to watch!

The MotoGP 2018 mid-term report

Which MotoGP rider is dux of this year’s class? Who gets extra detention or has to write lines? Who deserves a gold star for encouragement? It’s time to name names …

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Disclaimer, before we start: it’s hard to come up with a MotoGP mid-season review that lands smack-bang in the middle of the 2018 season, with the 50 per cent point coming halfway around the 11th racing lap of the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic on Sunday August 5. So you’ll have to forgive us as we go a few laps early on what has become an annual tradition – the half-term grades for the good and great of two wheels this season. And in a season like 2018, there’s plenty of material to pore through.

We’ve had insanely close races (Qatar and Assen, the latter instantly – and appropriately – hailed as one of the greatest Grands Prix of all time), the customary annual Marc Marquez masterclasses in Austin and Germany, the absurdity of the start of the race in Argentina (hello to all Jack Miller fans), and the frankly bizarre sight of Jorge Lorenzo, who was nowhere early in the season, winning back-to-back races on a Ducati at Mugello and Catalunya, the latter reprising memories of his most dominant Yamaha days where he broke the spirit of his rivals with one devastatingly metronomic lap after another.

Nine races down, 10 to go – so near-enough to halfway. Who has stood out, for the right and wrong reasons? Who has exceeded expectations, and who has fallen short? Who needs to finish the second semester of the year strongly? And who might be getting extra detention if the travelling MotoGP paddock was a school classroom?

Here’s our take on who has earned what so far.

Dux of the class

He’s become a regular in this spot, so perhaps the better way to make a case for Marc Marquez is to give you time to think who should be here in his place. (Waiting). See, told you. His wins have gone from utterly dominant (COTA) to calculatingly brilliant (when he broke up the pursuing pack with two spectacular laps to end one of the bigger brawls for a win the sport has ever seen at Assen), but it’s two races he hasn’t won that show why, barring something unforeseen, he’s likely to become a five-time MotoGP champion in his first six seasons by the time November rolls around. One was his controversial ride in Argentina, where he was in a different league in practice before a sketchy track caught him out in qualifying, and then his race … well, that, and the contact with several riders (particularly Valentino Rossi) that sparked a war of words wasn’t his finest moment, but one that showed the pace he has over the rest when he’s pushing as hard as he can. The other was Barcelona, when he realised he couldn’t safely keep up with a blistering Lorenzo and settled for second when Andrea Dovizioso, who looked to be his primary title rival at the time, crashed out early in the race. There’ll be the odd race like Mugello, when he fell (and didn’t manage to save a slide for once) and couldn’t get back into the points, but his rivals are going to need a lot more of those if they’re to deny the Spaniard a high five at (or perhaps before) Valencia.

Honourable mentions: One for Lorenzo, for his Mugello/Catalunya double after being basically invisible on a red bike for a year and a bit beforehand. Watching such consistent excellence in a sport with so many variables lap by lap is mesmerising when it happens. And another for Johann Zarco, who (before his home GP in France) looked the Yamaha rider most likely to snap the manufacturer’s losing run (more of which later) with a series of searing performances.

Others have had flashes in a year where 10 different riders have already made the podium, but nobody has been as fast for as long as Marquez has this year, and it isn’t close.

Encouragement award

Rossi deserves a reward ribbon here for his persistence, hauling a bike that isn’t at race-winning pace into podium contention time and time again with (typically) canny racecraft and decisive overtaking that overcomes his (alas, also typically) underwhelming qualifying efforts; he had a dramatic pole at home at Mugello and was on the front row at Assen, but he’s often having to fight recovery missions from the third row or further back.

Danilo Petrucci is worthy of a mention here as well, the Italian nabbing a podium at Le Mans and nabbing a factory Ducati seat for next year after Lorenzo’s shock defection to Honda to be Marquez’s teammate in 2018.

His Alma Pramac Ducati teammate Miller gets kudos too, finishing the first five Grands Prix of the year in the top 10, taking a big-balls pole with the lap of his life in Argentina, and riding an immaculate race in France, where fourth was arguably his most convincing big-bike result yet (even more so than his win at Assen 2016, as he conceded himself).

Elsewhere, Alex Rins has been fast when he’s stayed on the bike long enough; in the first nine GPs of the year, the Spaniard had two podiums (second at Assen and third in Argentina) and a fifth place in Italy, but five race-ending crashes. And Rins’ compatriot Tito Rabat has nearly scored as many points already (30) as he has in his best MotoGP full season (35 last year), turning his career trajectory around on a satellite Ducati after leaving Marc VDS Honda behind at the end of ‘17.

Could do better

Maverick Vinales was expected, along with Dovizioso, to be Marquez’s main roadblock to the title this season, but the Spaniard has been up and down in temperament as well as results, a pole in Austin (after Marquez was penalised) and just three podiums in the first nine races seeing him sit third in the title chase through persistence more than any real pace, and with his frustration mounting by the race. Rossi has done marginally better on the same equipment, but perception is everything – and the sight of Vinales getting swamped in the early laps of races on cold tyres and with a full fuel tank has been depressingly common in 2018.

Dovizioso winds up here too, if only for the strange way his season has shaken out – so, so consistent when he challenged Marquez for the title all the way to the line last year, he’s already crashed out three times in 2018 to make his chance of the crown the longest of long shots by the halfway mark.

Dovi’s compatriot, Andrea Iannone, completes our trio here, the Suzuki man showing why he should be pictured under ‘mercurial’ in the dictionary given how hot (back-to-back podiums in Austin and Jerez) and cold he can blow. In his sixth season (and his last one with Ducati before moving to Aprilia for next year), he’s nothing if not consistently inconsistent …

Needs a strong second semester

Vinales, for his own state of mind and Yamaha’s future given Rossi, 40 next February, won’t be (dare we contemplate) around forever. Dovizioso, who simply can’t afford to be out-scored by Lorenzo before the Spaniard splits for Honda, particularly as he had a 40-point lead over his teammate after four races. Miller, who will be hoping to rekindle the form from his first five races as he prepares to step up to become his team’s leader next year when Petrucci moves up and Moto2 front-runner Pecco Bagnaia moves in. And Alvaro Bautista, the Spanish veteran who sits 13th in the championship, who must prove his worth if he’s to be picked up by anyone for 2019 after the Angel Nieto Ducati satellite entry sold its grid slots to the Petronas Yamaha MotoGP team, to be run by the Sepang International Circuit. Which brings us to …

Extra detention

Dani Pedrosa’s body of work over a 13-year stint in the premier class didn’t deserve to end up like this, nor in this category. The Spaniard announced ahead of the German GP that 2018 would be his last lap, finally putting an end to persistent rumours that he’d switch to the aforementioned Malaysian-backed Yamaha project after spending his entire career riding for Honda. Once he puts a full stop on his career in Valencia, he’ll surely be remembered as the best rider never to have won a premier-class world title, and you wouldn’t bet against him riding with more freedom than he’s had so far this year and snaring another win before he leaves, extending his remarkable run of at least one victory in all of his MotoGP campaigns.

It’s testament to the esteem Pedrosa is held in that we’d even contemplate another victory after how underwhelming 2018 has been to date; on the same bike as the championship leader, remember, Pedrosa has a best result of fifth, has missed Q2 twice and is 116 points behind Marquez. Ten different riders have made the podium this season, yet nine races in, the 32-year-old isn’t one of them. Pedrosa’s legacy remains intact no matter what happens from here, but this isn’t the end we envisaged for one of the sport’s front-runners for over a decade.

Loyalty to Honda could have been one reason for Pedrosa not finishing his career on a Yamaha, but Yamaha’s wretched recent record could have been another, which is why they’ve also ended up in our mid-season naughty corner. Yamaha’s last win came when Rossi saluted at Assen last year, 19 races ago, and the most recent round at the Sachsenring represented an unwanted record for the manufacturer, as the drought became its biggest ever (Yamaha previously went 18 races without a win between Malaysia 2002 and South Africa 2004, Rossi’s first race with the marque). Three riders in the top five of the standings is one thing, but entirely another when they have zero wins between them …

Miller Time: The road to recovery

Jack Miller writes about being an innocent bystander in some first-lap chaos in Germany, and a comeback ride that left him happy but annoyed with himself in equal measure.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Started 14th, finished 14th – doesn’t sound like much of a German Grand Prix, does it? But there was a lot more going on in that race than what it looks like in the results, and while 14th isn’t going to get me that excited, it’s better than being where I was after three corners, which was last and almost in the fence.

It was a pretty chaotic start in the middle of the pack, and you probably saw what happened when Pol (Espargaro) ran into (Alex) Rins and I didn’t have any choice but to run off track at Turn 3.

It all actually kicked off before at Turn 2 when Pol hit me, he definitely rode a little bit out of control on the first couple of corners. He then hit (Andrea) Iannone and Rins, I forget in which order but he hit both of them, and I got tangled in it. I ran off through the gravel trap, managed to miss all the bikes and riders and got as far as the wall, managed to stay on and dug myself out of that, and there I was in last place, 29 laps to go and a fair way behind the rest of the pack for something I basically had nothing to do with. An innocent bystander, basically. So from there, it could only really get better …

From there it was head down, bum up and salvage what I could. I managed to get two points and somehow stay inside the top 10 (just, but I’ll take it) in the championship, and the good thing was that the pace was pretty decent. All weekend we’d been working on the race pace and that had been a challenge, because 30 laps around Sachsenring is a tyre management challenge as much as a race. The race pace felt good and my fastest lap for the race was ninth-fastest overall, so it probably shows you where I could have been without the incident. A pretty good recovery for me, really.

My pace was good enough to be well inside the top 10, that’s the annoying part. But part of that is on me too, because I’ve got to qualify better than where I did in 14th. That’s three races in a row I’ve missed Q2, and that’s the problem when you get buried for the start like that, you end up back in the pack with those sorts of guys and there’s always drama. For the second half of the season we have to recover some of the qualifying pace from the first half of the year; I was in Q2 for five of the first six races and you can avoid some of that other stuff when you’re ahead of it and they’re all running into one another instead of me. That’s got to be a focus for me because someone else’s problem can destroy your race like it did for me this time.

I’ve been coming to the Sachsenring for a while now, my first world championship race on a 125cc was actually here seven years ago, and while there’s some unknowns with whether we keep coming back here, I hope we do. It’s a small track, the shortest we ride all year and the race is the most number of laps, and it’s a strange place to ride a MotoGP bike because it turns left all the time and there’s no real straights to speak of. But I don’t mind it at all, it’s got a character of its own, and the place is always packed with fans – it was hot here today, there’s 90,000 people packed in, it’s a good look for MotoGP. It’s enjoyable because it’s different. It’d be pretty boring if all the tracks were the same with one kilometre-long straights and whatnot, so you wouldn’t want 19 tracks like that, or 19 like this. A mix is good, so for that reason I hope Sachsenring stays on the calendar.

We’re nearly at the halfway stage of the championship now – nine races down, 10 to go – and I’m keeping to that pre-season goal of being inside the top 10. I’d probably hoped for better after how well things started with the pole in Argentina and the fourth place at Le Mans, but 10th so far is something to build on.

We have a mid-season break now, but it’s not as long as it used to be, just two weekends, so there’s no going back home to Oz for me. I’m at World Ducati Week at Misano in Italy next weekend which should be a bit of fun, and I’m going to drive my van there to do some dirt-tracking and whatnot. Then it’ll be a drive back to Andorra, eventually – there’s no real plans yet – before we have the back-to-back at Brno and Red Bull Ring. The Ducati should go pretty well at those tracks, so there’s two to look forward to.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Back in my good place

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about getting his season back on track at the Dutch TT, his new Ducati deal, and what really happened with those Honda contract rumours …

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve had something good to write about, as we didn’t manage to finish the last two races – one of them my fault in Mugello, one where we had a mechanical (failure) in Barcelona. So even to finish at Assen was good, and to be back in the top 10 again was better. But it would have been better still if I was a little bit further up the front.

The race for the win at Assen was pretty intense as you all saw, and the slightly frustrating part for me was that I had a better view of it than most of you because I was right there behind it, but never really close enough to get involved. Definitely looked like some fun up there. Those eight bikes up the front seemed to be changing places every corner and I could see it, but it was just a bit too far for me today.

I was happy to finish, especially with the way the rear tyre was dying on me at the end, but you always want more. Thirteen seconds behind (race winner) Marc (Marquez) at the front isn’t a lot, and 11 seconds off Alex Rins who was second is about four-tenths of a second a lap. But I didn’t think there was much more for me today, and looking back at the race 45 minutes after getting off the bike, it was hard to see where I could have gained much more time. I lacked a little bit of edge grip with the tyre for the whole race compared to the guys in front of me, and I just couldn’t hang with them at the pace they were running. Annoying a bit, but that’s the facts. I’ve finished six races this year and all of them in the top 10, so it was good to keep that run going.

My race was clean, and I expected the race pace to be a bit faster for the guys right at the front, so maybe the wind played a part there – it was a lot windier today than it had been all weekend, and they were carving each other up at the front which affected the lap times too. My pace was pretty stable and that was something after a difficult weekend – we just missed making Q2 on Saturday in final practice, and then I just missed getting out of Q1 and was a row back on the grid from where I probably wanted to be. Friday started rough for me and we really chipped away at the problems we had, so to bring it home in that sort of race – made a good start, didn’t make any mistakes, stayed calm – was as good as it was going to get. Did what needed to be done, basically.

I was ahead of my teammate Danilo (Petrucci) when he crashed out and I had (Andrea) Iannone in front of me, so I was getting ready to attack him in the final laps for 10th as I didn’t have a lot of pressure from behind. He was struggling with tyres or something and ran wide at the final chicane, but there was no penalty for him because he backed off and didn’t try to take advantage of the mistake. The first time, anyway. A couple of laps later he did the same thing and didn’t back off to hand back the time he gained, maybe he thought he’d get away with it and see if he could live with the consequences. I knew he had a two-second penalty, and he would have as well. So as long as I stayed closer than two seconds, he’d hand me a place for free. I was actually close enough to have a lunge at him if I had to, but there wasn’t a lot of point. Why risk it? I was going to get the position at the end anyway. So, 11th over the line, but 10th in the results.

I’ve not spoken not you all since I confirmed I’d be staying here at Alma Pramac Racing, which happened at the last race in Barcelona. I’m so stoked to be back here again next year and on a factory Ducati too, and there’s a lot of pressure off my shoulders for the rest of this year having next year sorted out so early. So it’s time to get down to business now, keep the momentum going from the start of the season where I’ve had a pole in Argentina and a fourth in the dry in Le Mans, and try to avoid races like Italy and Catalunya where we don’t make the most of things. The rest of this year is head down, keep learning and make myself ready for the factory bike and the extra responsibility next year. Knowing where I’ll be in 2019 already takes the pressure off and gets the distractions out of the way so I can build from here. It’s more than I could have hoped for this early in the year, normally things aren’t as settled as that for me, or at least they haven’t been much in the past.

The Repsol Honda stuff? You might have read that I’d signed to go there around Mugello time, and don’t worry, I read it too … So let’s clear that up: there was talk, definitely, but no contract negotiations. It’s a big step from talking about something to negotiating to signing … so I don’t know who said what to who or whatever to turn that into a story that I’d definitely be racing there next year. Talking … it’s always good to know what your options could have been over there. Signing something? That’s a lot different …

Germany is next in a couple of weeks, and we’re almost at the halfway stage of the season already. It’s a really particular sort of a track with left-handers one after the other, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Ducati goes around there – I’ll speak to you from Sachsenring.

Cheers, Jack