Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

Miller Time: Flying higher in France

Jack Miller writes about equalling a season-best with fourth at Le Mans, and how he feels about being higher in the MotoGP standings than ever before.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

It’s going to be a pretty good night here at Le Mans for the team after my fourth place and second for my teammate Danilo (Petrucci) – there were more than 100,000 people here today and the roads getting out are 100 per cent jammed, so either we stay and celebrate, or I need to find another way out … For me though, this was a pretty big result. Could be better, could be worse … But all things considered, maybe this was the most convincing race of my career in MotoGP.

I know, what about Assen 2016, I can hear you saying it. There’s never going to be anything that feels like that win, but it was raining, guys crashed out, etc etc. I was fourth this year in Argentina when I was on pole and pretty frustrated to be off the podium, but that was another weird race with that start (don’t worry, I’m coming back to that) and everything that went on. This one in France was different. Less than a second off the podium, six seconds off the win, a dry and normal day, no random stuff happening. Completely on merit. Maybe not the most exciting race for me, sure, but definitely one to be happy about.

All weekend I had good pace, and I was more hopeful of that rather than expecting it because Le Mans hadn’t been great for me in MotoGP, or for Ducati in the past – this is normally a Yamaha track. But I was within half a second of the session-leading time in every session except first practice, and never out of the top 10 after FP1. Qualified seventh, was fourth in the morning warm-up … it was a result there to get.

The track was the hottest it had been all weekend in the race, up to 45 degrees, and that maybe hurt me near the end when I was trying to chase Valentino (Rossi) down for the podium. I always seemed to be about 1.5secs behind him and could never really push as much as I wanted at the end, both me and Danilo went with the soft front/soft rear tyres and we had to manage them in those last few laps. I had a moment with a big tyre squish in the corner coming onto the back straight, missed the apex, got up on the kerb … that was the warning for me. Maybe if I don’t make that mistake, I’m there to battle with him on the last two laps. But anyway, you saw how easy it was to throw it down the road today with ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) and (Johann) Zarco crashing. So fourth for me is a great result, and two bikes in the top four for the team is awesome. The best GP17 here last year was ‘Dovi’, and he was 11 seconds off the win – a year later and on the same bike I was six seconds off, so that’s pretty damned good.

I’m up to sixth in the championship now – and actually only 10 points off Maverick (Vinales) in second, now Marc (Marquez) has run off at the front after winning again. It’s the highest I’ve ever been in MotoGP and it feels like it’s not a fluke, there’s not one crazy outlier result that has me up there where maybe I shouldn’t be. That’s eight top-10s in a row if you go back to last year, and twice the next-best off the podium in five races. I want one of them for sure, but I’m pretty optimistic it can come. Keep the run going, keep learning (I felt like I learned more being closer to the front today), and anything can happen. We’re not far from those guys at all.

I mentioned the race wasn’t the most exciting, for me anyway, but that’s fine when you grab a heap of points. I was in a train with Danilo and Vale from the beginning, and we all moved forwards as a pack, Danilo better than us other two, but we all moved up with the crashes ahead and then got past Jorge (Lorenzo), who went with the same tyres as me but couldn’t make them last as long. I passed him just after the halfway stage, and then we all got strung out a bit. Danilo couldn’t get to Marc, Vale couldn’t get to Danilo, I couldn’t get to Vale. But still. A bit boring can be pretty good …

I mentioned Argentina before, and you might have seen that there’s a new rule being brought in which some people are calling the ‘Miller Rule’ after what happened off the start there, where I was waiting on the grid while there was a huge mess behind me with guys changing tyres, going off the grid, starting at the back … it looked a bit ridiculous. From now on, any rider that doesn’t come to the grid after the warm-up lap will have to start from pit lane and do a ride-through penalty in the race. If you choose the right tyre on the sighting lap and everyone else comes in, then there’s more of a price to pay. Like what happened in Argentina, except for the price to pay bit … Would have been handy to have had that on that day (I probably would have been in front by 30 seconds on the first lap), but at least it’s sorted out for next time, and there’ll probably be a next time.

Mugello is next, and my first Italian Grand Prix on an Italian bike. That’ll be cool, and the Ducati usually flies there too. I’ve generally sucked there (three races, one point), but this year so far has been all about fixing those circuits where I haven’t done well before like Jerez and now Le Mans. Why not there too?

Cheers, Jack

Advertisements

Miller Time: Stepping up in Spain

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about finally overcoming his Jerez hoodoo, and offers his thoughts on the dramatic crash that took out three big names at the front of the field.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

That one had been a long time coming. Like four years a long time coming. Jerez has pretty much sucked for me since I got to MotoGP, and I hadn’t even managed to score a point here until this year, not one. So to get 10 points, finish sixth and be right up there all weekend makes me feel, let’s say, content. Could have been better, but really happy anyway.

I can’t help wondering what would have happened if I’d qualified better, and definitely if I’d started better, I had a bit of a shocker. I fell down to 16th at one stage on the first lap, so to pass a heap of guys and work my way though, that was pretty satisfying.

In the end, I was three places off the podium, but just 1.5 seconds behind (Andrea) Iannone who finished third, so that’s a bit frustrating. What if I’d been able to qualify further up, probably where I should have been? I easily got through to Q2 on Saturday – I was sixth-fastest in the overall practice times – so 12th in qualifying was a fair bit less than I wanted. That 1.5 seconds to someone who started five places ahead of me … yeah, frustrating. But only a little bit. Nine seconds off the victory, that makes me happy because it shows we’re making improvements.

It was a pretty warm one by the time we raced on Sunday, and this wasn’t a race you could do well in on the early laps, you had to have tyres that would last. I’d barely done any laps on the hard Michelins all weekend, so I popped a rear one in to get a feeling for it in Sunday morning warm-up. The track was only 16 degrees then and it ended up being 40 in the race at 2 o’clock, so maybe not the best preparation. But there was no way, for me anyway, you would have been able to race the medium and push it all the way for 25 laps, and the soft tyre, forget it. It was a bit of a step in the darkness, but really happy with the decision.

Everyone saw the crash that took out ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) and Jorge (Lorenzo) along with Dani (Pedrosa), and I was the third bike in a train with my teammate Danilo (Petrucci) and Valentino (Rossi) at the time, so it was crazy to see those guys all off their bikes and on the side of the track as we came through soon after – actually Dani’s bike was in the middle of the track, so we were a bit lucky there, especially as I was the last one of us to see it.

The whole thing was a bit odd. Dani, being a smaller guy like he is, was probably hanging off the side of the bike and didn’t see Lorenzo cutting back in, because Lorenzo does that sometimes. He should have been able to see Dani coming beneath him as he was cutting back, out of his peripheral vision he should have been able to spot that. ‘Dovi’ getting caught up in that, that sucks for him because he’s a championship contender, so to have points taken away like that is pretty harsh.

It was later that lap when I figured ‘hang on, we’re all top six now’ and that maybe a podium was on. Turn 6 where those guys went down is one the best passing spots and I was able to get Vale there to get up to fifth, but he got me back at the last corner with three laps left (my slowest lap of the race) and I didn’t get another shot at him the last two laps because I’d taken too much out of the front tyre coming back through early on. I was having a few moments, so it was time to mellow it down a little bit and bring it home. In the end, none of us got Iannone anyway – Danilo passed him for a lap, but Iannone came back. Fourth and sixth is a great result for the team though, for sure.

That’s four top 10s out of four for me now this season and I’m still top 10 in the championship, which was definitely the goal coming in this year after just missing last year, and being with a new team and all of that. Seems to me that it’s realistic to stay there, too. All weekend at Jerez I felt good, my injuries from before Austin didn’t bother me and I had really consistent pace at a track that probably doesn’t suit our bike and definitely hasn’t suited me in the past. That’s a really good sign.

I’ve got family over from home at the moment plus I’ve been spending some time with Billy Van Eerde as he did his first Red Bull Rookies races this weekend (give him a follow, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and I reckon he’s going to go really well), so there’s been a bit on. But we’re straight back into it tomorrow with a test at Jerez for Monday, and then it’s time to go back to Le Mans for the French GP. I feel closer to being a podium contender all the time now, and it’s all the small details where we’ll improve the most – the starts, first laps and that sort of thing. Tidy that up, and we can challenge for podiums in the future.

Cheers, Jack

The five MotoGP lessons we learned from the flyaways

MotoGP returns to Europe this Sunday for the Spanish Grand Prix – but what did the races in Qatar, Argentina and Austin tell us about what’s about to happen next?

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

After three races in faraway places, the MotoGP calendar begins its European swing this weekend with the Spanish Grand Prix, the first of 11 straight events in the sport’s heartland before the Asian flyaways to (nearly) end the season. But what happened in Qatar, Argentina and the United States gave us plenty of food for thought, and some pointers of what’s to come from Jerez this Sunday onwards.

We’ve had three race winners already (Andrea Dovizioso at Losail, Cal Crutchlow at Termas and Marc Marquez – who else? – at COTA), and there’s five riders within eight points at the top of the standings. But what the numbers don’t tell you on face value is the story behind them. New title contenders have emerged, perennial front-runners look shot for the season already, and the sport’s benchmark might (gulp) be further ahead of his rivals than ever before.

What have we already learned about 2018 just three races in? Plenty. But we’ll restrict ourselves to these five findings.

The metronome keeps ticking
Marquez almost laughed when he realised, after dominating in Austin to win his sixth straight MotoGP race at COTA, who he trailed in the championship standings by a single point as the sport returned to Europe – none other than his 2017 sparring partners, Dovizioso and Ducati. “‘Dovi’ is the most consistent rider,” the Spaniard said, and nobody was arguing with him. The Italian hasn’t changed his approach this year after the best campaign of his long career 12 months ago; in a world of high-speed chaos, ‘Desmo Dovi’ is the constant, winning when he should (Qatar, where the Ducati was a rocketship on the straight), and doing the best he could when he couldn’t (he was last on the timesheets after a dreadful opening day of practice in Argentina, but finished sixth in the race and banked 10 precious points). It’s a potentially title-winning approach if he can pull it off for the entire season, but one that’s fraught with risk – one down race last year (Australia) all but killed off his championship charge, and he’ll need his trademark metronomic approach to last all 19 races against the spikiness of Marquez’s results. Dovizioso is unlikely to beat himself, but can he really beat …

The fastest rider is still the fastest rider
With four MotoGP titles in his five years in the premier class, Marquez has hardly been hanging about – but it was one race where he was classified 18th this season that best shows the advantage he seemingly has over the rest. Sure, we could dissect Austin and his superiority there, but poring through the lap times from Argentina – yes, the same race where he copped so much criticism after three penalties and a certain coming-together with one Valentino Rossi – shows that the rest of the field should be very, very afraid of Marquez in full flight.

Looking at every lap from the 24-lap race in Argentina isn’t the best indicator, given Marquez was stuck in traffic at the back of the field after serving a lap seven ride-through penalty – but the excellent MotoGP website motomatters.com found that if you extrapolated the fastest 20 laps of his race, he was over six seconds clear of race-winner Crutchlow, and light years ahead of those riders expected to mount a challenge to his championship dominance (nearly 14 seconds to the good of Maverick Vinales, and over 21 seconds ahead of Rossi and Dovizioso). Like we said, terrifying. As, some would argue, was his conduct coming through the pack in the race, not to mention the ferocity of the vitriol coming from the Rossi and Marquez corners of the internet in the days afterwards …

It remains to be seen if Marquez’s modus operandi for the remainder of the season will be to do what he did in Austin – clear off at the start of the race and try to leave any controversy behind – but if there were any doubts as to who the fastest man (still) is in MotoGP, Austin – but, more strikingly, Argentina – answered that question.

Is it a race in two already?
Are we set for Marquez v Dovizioso Mk II for the title? Sure, the early standings have Vinales (five points behind Dovizioso) as well as Crutchlow and Johann Zarco (eight points adrift) right there as we head into Jerez, but it’s hard to see the latter pair, for all their skill, speed and smarts, making a championship charge for the entire season on satellite machinery. Jorge Lorenzo is struggling mightily on the second Ducati (more of which later), and while Rossi is, well, Rossi, he’s won just one of the past 31 Grands Prix since 2016, which is no recipe for a title tilt. Which might mean it’s up to Vinales to stay in the mix if the biggest prize isn’t to be decided by a one-on-one battle again in 2018.

A pole (inherited, but a P1 start nonetheless) followed by a second-place finish at COTA was a step in the right direction for Vinales, but finding a development path with the Yamaha that both he and Rossi seem happy with seems to be an impossible task, and both riders constantly talk of the compromises they have to make with a bike that isn’t quite ‘there’ for either of them and their preferences. Can a middle ground be reached that enables one – or both – riders to stay in the mix with Dovizioso’s consistency and Marquez’s velocity? Which way do Yamaha lean? The next few races will tell us plenty.

Jack Miller, the wise man of MotoGP?
The internet more or less melted in the wake of Marquez v Rossi in Argentina, with memories of Malaysia 2015 quick to surface with the various fanbases, and media doing all it could to light the touchpaper for extra eyeballs and attention. By the time the riders had assembled in Austin, the media debriefs of both protagonists broadcast by the sport’s official website in an unprecedented move (just think of the clicks!), Jack Miller had heard enough.

A participant in the pre-event press conference, Miller spoke like a man who had been waiting for the opportunity to vent for a week. “We are all here racing and risking our lives, and I think for these fans and also riders to fight against each other, I think is quite silly and immature,” Miller said, metaphorically wagging a finger at those who stoked the fire. “They are quite old and they have to remember life is short and we are risking our lives here. I have seen this situation unfolding with a lot of people and people picking sides, and I just want to refresh people’s memory of Marco Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa and how that ended …”

Miller, the wise old head of MotoGP? There’s still plenty of ‘Jackass’ in the 23-year-old Australian – there was a reason he and no other rider dared to take on the slick circuit in qualifying in Argentina and roll the dice the way he did, which paved the way for his amazing first career pole position – but there’s also an increasing maturity to his riding in his first season on a Ducati with the Alma Pramac team, which, when allied to his natural talent and bravery, means he’s a man on the rise.

Three top-10 finishes in succession to start the season shows that things are pointing in the right direction. Now, if only Miller can successfully navigate the weekends between races without hurting himself …

The silly season starts earlier than ever
We’re three races into a 19-race 2018 season, yet we’re already talking about 2019 and beyond. Zarco off to KTM to get the full factory ride Yamaha can’t provide because of the Rossi/Vinales pairing that will last until at least the end of the 2020 season? Lorenzo to escape his Ducati hell and sign with Suzuki? In three races, he has six points and is in 16th place in the standings, 40 points and 15 places behind his teammate … Dovizioso rejecting Ducati’s initial offer for a contract extension (as he might, given reports that his current deal pays him one-sixth of the money being spent on Lorenzo)? There’ll be more as the northern hemisphere summer nears. Some weeks we might even talk about the racing …

Miller Time: A battle in Texas

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes from Austin about overcoming a shoulder injury and a bad qualifying to sneak into the top 10 again.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Another top 10 finish? Yeah, I’ll take that – that’s six in a row for me now. It was a tough old weekend for us in Texas and definitely a bit of a let-down after how good Argentina was, but sometimes you have to make the best of a shitty situation and get what you can out of it, so ninth place is a pretty positive end to what wasn’t the most positive of weekends.

I expected more coming into the weekend, but we struggled with the bike set-up from the get-go (as the Americans would say), and I was struggling with a shoulder injury that I carried into the weekend as well. Not ideal.

We kept pretty quiet about the shoulder all weekend, but now we’re done, I can admit that it wasn’t great. I was out training in California after Argentina, and I fell off doing some mountain biking. The injuries are nothing that some rest time and recovery can’t handle, but I ended up with some muscle damage, some bruising and a little tear on my rotator cuff on my right shoulder. And a crack in my collarbone as well. I tell you, sometimes the time between the races can be more dangerous than the race weekends themselves …

I had a crash in final practice just before qualifying and had to use my second bike for Q1, so that was partly the reason I struggled and only started from 18th. Saying that, 18th and not hurting myself again after the injury I came in with actually wasn’t a bad result – there’s no small crashes here because of the nature of the track, as I found out the hard way a few years ago when I had to miss the race here. So, 18th sucked, but being upright and not too sore afterwards was a win of sorts.

I would have liked to have finished in front of my old teammate Tito (Rabat), but he got me in the end after I passed him for eighth with about three laps to go. We had a good last-lap battle and I think we both enjoyed it a lot, but he got me this time. He passed me at the end of the back straight on the last lap but ran a little wide, so I got back through. But then he got me at the left-hander soon after that; I ran narrow to try to block the inside kerb, but as I did that I saw his front tyre coming out of nowhere, so I guess he was pretty set on coming through. He got me by about a tenth of a second at the line by the end. But a good battle anyway, and I’ll have to make sure I get him back next time.

The Circuit of the Americas is an amazing facility and they’ve clearly spent a heap of money on it, but the track itself doesn’t tend to produce great MotoGP races for whatever reason. Part of that is because Marc (Marquez) clears off and wins every time we come here, but the track layout doesn’t give you as many passing chances as you’d think. I did most of my passing at Turn 1 up the hill, because it’s so wide there that you can take all sorts of different lines and still get the bike stopped up the top. I always try for a tighter line there, and that made my race in some ways today because I got a few spots on the first lap of the race, and I was able to get past Jorge (Lorenzo) there later on too.

It’s Turn 1 and the corner before the long back straight, they’re my preferred spots. But it’s funny, passing is way harder than you’d think here. There’s some good passing spots in theory, but if you pass you can run wide so easily, and then the other guy cuts back on you, squares the corner off and stays ahead anyway. It’s a wide track with a lot of run-off, so that’s the result. It’s a bit one-line, follow the leader, that sort of thing.

The other big talking point about the track was how bad the surface was, especially on Friday when we realised what had happened to it after they’d tried to remove some of the worst of the bumps from when we were here last year. Friday was definitely the worst it has ever been, it was filthy. It’s time to resurface the whole thing really, you can’t keep sticking band-aids on it and expect the problems to go away, it just won’t happen. It’s gone past being able to be fixed and patched up, and I reckon it needs a fair bit of work.

It’s back to Europe now after a long few weeks away, and it’ll be good to get back “home” and do some training, and try to get the shoulder more right for Jerez. I’ve got young Billy Van Eerde near me in Andorra at the moment, he’s the young Aussie who’s doing the Red Bull Rookies Cup this year and has been there a couple of weeks, so I’ll spend some time with him and get him ready for what he has coming up. And maybe ease up a bit on the mountain bike …

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: A rollercoaster in Argentina

Jack Miller writes his first pole position, a podium near-miss and Marc Marquez’s antics after a crazy second race of the year.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

I’m speaking to you about an hour after finishing fourth in the race in Argentina and it’s hard to really know where to start. I mean, a bit went on as you probably saw … So let’s start at the start. I don’t completely know myself what went on, so bear with me … It was chaos, to be honest.

We went to the grid, and I felt it wasn’t going to rain anymore and stayed out there on slicks. The others didn’t feel that way, I guess – and they all peeled back into the pit lane and left me out there by myself. For me, slicks was the way to go, there’s no way we should have started on wets and the weather afterwards proved that. Once I saw how quickly the track and the pit lane were drying, it was for sure slick tyres. So the others all peel back in, I’m sitting there on pole position wondering where the hell everyone is, and then they delay the start by 15 minutes. Everyone else made the wrong call by choosing the wrong tyres; we didn’t. So why I do I get penalised for that? I understand the guys in charge of the series are under a whole heap of pressure, but it’s a shame for us because we made the right choice and got dicked around for it.

My tyres were pretty knackered towards the end of the race, but I’m more annoyed that I made two mistakes that almost certainly cost me a podium, or maybe even a victory. Who knows, the other guys, Cal (Crutchlow), Johann (Zarco) and Alex (Rins), they were all struggling with their tyres and maybe a win could have been on in the final laps. But saying that, I’ve just finished fourth in a race, it’s the second-best result I’ve had in MotoGP, so there’s a lot to be happy about. Us motorcycle riders are wired to always want more and you can’t help but think about that, but if you’d given me fourth from pole before the weekend started, I would have said ‘you beauty, thanks’ and snapped that up, and probably told you that you were dreaming too … So to have that happen was still pretty cool.

As you can imagine, everyone here has an opinion about Marc’s (Marquez) race, and I don’t even know if I’ve caught up with it all yet – I know about his incident with Valentino (Rossi), but apparently there were more, even though that one will rumble on for probably, well, forever.

All I know is that when he came past me on lap two I was pretty happy, because it gave me someone to follow and a reference for how hard I could push, you’re always a bit of a pioneer in the sketchy track conditions when you’re out the front. It was a bit disappointing when he had to pull in for the penalty off the start from that side of things. It’s not often you see someone get penalised three times in 24 laps though, I’ll say that.

On the grid, when he stalled it and then was going backwards, forwards, doing three-point turns or whatever he was doing, that was a bit weird. I was more thinking about my tyres and how they were cooling off waiting for him to get himself organised. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ was a polite version of what was going through my mind at the time …

Anyway, it was an exhausting race to be in, and probably the same for everyone watching it. There’s definitely a bit to process after a race like that, so maybe it’s just as well it takes forever to get back from here, the circuit is in a pretty remote part of Argentina and we all had stories of the journeys we took to get here last week.

Between now and the race in Austin I’m going to head out to California to do some training and some cycling, so that’s something to look forward to. We’ll talk again after the next one, which surely won’t be as crazy as that was …

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Going down the long road

Jack Miller writes about a Qatar GP that produced a top-10 finish on his Ducati debut, but showed there’s plenty more in the pipeline.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

It’s a long season. It’s a long season. It’s a long season … yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but that’s what I’ve been saying in my head since I got off the bike here in Qatar after the first race on Sunday night. Starting 10th and finishing in the same position after 22 laps isn’t going to get anyone that excited, especially me, and especially after how well the pre-season went for me – I was expecting quite a lot more. But it’s a long … you get the drift.

The whole weekend was one of those ‘nearly, but not quite’ weekends where you feel you can just about touch a good result, but it never quite gets there. Friday, I had some dramas with tyres in practice and it didn’t look good back in 14th, especially seeing as though I’d been six-tenths of a second faster  in the test a couple of weeks back. But I knew I had more pace than that, there was a reason I was back there, and it was nice to show I was right on Saturday in qualifying. I finished top of Q1 and made it through to Q2, and then did a 1:54.449 on my last Q2 lap and managed personal bests in three of the four sectors, so really happy with that. Felt like a lap that could have been on the second row of the grid, to be honest. But the pace was crazy fast and I was back in 10th; not terrible, but could have been better for the first race.

Tyre wear at Losail is always an issue on this surface and being in the middle of the desert like we are, so it wasn’t the first few laps that would set up everyone’s races on Sunday, it was the last seven laps or so. I was in OK shape hanging onto the main group for the first bunch of laps, but got a bit of a warning at the second-last corner eight laps in when I had a decent moment, and you could tell I needed to manage the front tyre life a bit more. That was when my pace dropped off, I never did do a lap of 1min 55secs after that, and the pack got further away from me. I was hardly the only one to drop back; Johann (Zarco) led the race for most of it from pole and fell back massively at the end to finish eighth, while someone like Maverick (Vinales), who started behind me and was a fair way back from me in the early laps, ended up flying through and finishing sixth. How much tyre you had left at the end was the deciding factor, really.

Compared to last year, I finished a tenth of a second (literally 0.108secs, someone told me) further back from first place than here in 2017, which isn’t great. But it’s not all bad, because last year I was pushing like crazy and maxed it out to get to eighth, and this year I know we have way more potential than that and I was still the same 14-ish seconds off the winner. Didn’t feel like I could have done much more last year, but there’s way more to come from me and this Ducati. It’s one race of 19. Long season … The team seemed pretty happy, and for me, it’s natural to be disappointed because us riders always want more, even the guy who wins wishes he could have won by more most of the time. But we’ll be OK in the long run.

Argentina comes next, but that’s three weeks away yet which is a bit frustrating. It’ll be my 50th MotoGP race too, so that’s a bit of a milestone. Should be a better one than it was here too. I’ll catch up with you then.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Saying goodbye

Jack Miller writes about finishing up his 2017 season with a strong result in Spain – and his first taste of Ducati power later this week.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

That was a pretty good way to end the year, that’s for sure. There was a lot going on for everyone at Valencia on Sunday – always is when you have the usual massive crowd there and there’s a Spanish rider in the championship fight like there was with Marc (Marquez) against ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) – but it was a big day in our garage too. And it was a pretty decent way for me to close out a couple of pretty memorable years.

I’d known I was leaving the Marc VDS team for a while now of course, because we all knew I was off to Pramac Ducati for next season for the last few months. But Sunday was different because this was it, the last time I’d ride for them after two years. After I broke my leg in September, my main reason for hurrying back as fast as I did was to get back for my home race and the Island, but being there at the end of the season for the team was important too. I mean, whatever happens to me from here, I won a MotoGP race with these guys, so I wanted to finish up properly with them. And to finish seventh in the dry at Valencia and have really good pace all weekend – great way to end up.

Valencia isn’t the easiest track for us MotoGP riders because it’s so narrow and you’re always turning the bike, there’s only one decent-length straight. It’s a short track too, so 30 laps around there feels like forever if the bike is hard to ride. I’ve never had a decent MotoGP race there before, so to be up there all weekend, making Q2 again, fighting with Vale (Valentino Rossi) and (Andrea) Iannone and them in the race for a decent result, that was pretty much perfect. Couldn’t really hold onto them and Alex (Rins) who came through at the end there, but seventh means I finished top 10 in the last three races of the year. That would have been decent even if I hadn’t busted my leg, so pretty happy.

By the time you read this we’ll probably be well on the way to have a decent celebration with the team – which is why I’m writing this now! It’s the last race here for my teammate Tito (Rabat) as well, so they have a pretty different look coming next year. These guys have been great for me, and to know I was the rider who gave them that first MotoGP win last year at Assen, that’s pretty special. They’ve done a lot for me and helped me grow up as a rider (even as a person, I know that’s hard to believe but they have), and I’ll always be thankful for that. The year I spent with my engineer Ramon (Aurin) this year has been huge for me, he’s a done a lot to make me a smarter rider and his experience has been great for a rider like me, what I needed for sure. He’s someone I’ll definitely miss working with day by day.

Of course, it all moves so quickly in MotoGP, and we’ll all be back here in two days with about 100,000 fewer people watching to get 2018 started with the usual post-race test. I remember how it felt two years ago when I left Lucio (Cecchinello) and his team to come down to Marc VDS, and as weird as that was, I was still on a Honda and things felt fairly normal. Thinking that I’ll be on a Ducati on Tuesday, in a new garage with a new team … it’s a lot to take in. Really up for it though, and then it’ll be time for a bit of a break and to get my body right.

Thanks for coming with me for the ride this year. Finishing 11th for the season in the end was just short of the top-10 goal I set myself, and that was after missing a race injured too. So, not too bad I suppose. But I’ll want more next year, and it’ll be good to let you know how it all goes.

Cheers, Jack