Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

Miller Time: Why I’m moving to Ducati

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes from Austria about a race that was cut short, and why he thinks he’ll be better off red next year.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

There’s been some pretty big news this week with my future as you’ve all probably heard by now, but before that, there’s a race to talk about. Saying that, there’s not heaps to talk about when you qualify on the ninth row and don’t finish, but Austria was better than that, all things considered.

It seems a strange thing to say when you crash and don’t make the end, but there were a few positives from Sunday even though it won’t look like it. I didn’t hurt myself in the crash for one, so compared to what happened to me last year there, that’s a big plus. We were the top satellite Honda when I went down which was pretty good all things considered, and my race pace was decent considering where we started way back in 19th. I got a good start, gained six places on the first lap, and then the race pace was solid – I only did one lap in the 1min 26s, the rest were all 25s. The slower one was when (Karel) Abraham basically ran me off the track. I had a really good rhythm and felt comfortable, so it was shame the feeling with the rear tyre just kept getting worse and worse.

The tyre on the right-hand edge just started chewing out, and that was what caught me out in the end. I kept losing the rear on the entry to that corner, Turn 9, and it finally got me on lap 20. I lost the rear, and when it straightened up, the front went away on me, and that was it.

Austria is just about the toughest track of the year for our team and our bike with the long straights and the slow corners before them, we tend to wheelie and struggle out of the slow-speed stuff on the Honda, and that’s what this place is all about. It’s a complete horsepower track, basically. It’ll be good for us to get back to some more ‘normal’ tracks like Silverstone next, Misano and some of the others before the end of the season where our bike doesn’t work too bad.

Anyway, the bigger news of the week was – finally – I could tell everyone what I’d be doing for 2018 by going to Pramac Ducati to be teammate to Danilo Petrucci. The discussions have been going on since Jerez so it has been a long process for sure, but I’m really happy with how it has all worked out. It feels good to have the news finally out there, and it means I can now focus on the job for the rest of this year before starting something brand-new next year. We’re equal 12th in the championship now and I set myself a goal of top 10 before the start of the year, so it’s time to really pull my finger out. It won’t be easy, but it’s still possible. And then it’ll all be about Ducati and 2018. That’s for the future, but I’m definitely excited for it.

The move to Pramac just feels right, the right move at the right time. Something different that has come along at a good time in my career when I’m ready for that. We saw today with ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) that Ducati has a winning bike this year, and their satellite program clearly works pretty well too – that’s the bike I’ll be on next year. So I’m excited to get over there, and I have a good feeling about the staff there and how I’ll fit in. I had the option to continue with Marc VDS and there would have been nothing wrong with that at all, but at this point in my career, I think it was time for a change, and the offer and the opportunity felt right.

Saying that, I’ll never forget what the Marc VDS team did for me, and Assen last year is something all of us will remember wherever we end up for the rest of our careers. I’ll leave there on good terms and it’s a good little team that gets on – with Austria coming as a back-to-back with the Czech Republic, we actually did a little bit of team bonding and rode from Brno to the Austrian border. Here’s some of the bits you’re allowed to see …

With the contract stuff and then the two races in a row coming after the break when I did the Suzuka 8-Hour either side of going home to Townsville to be at my brother’s wedding, things have been a bit crazy lately – I haven’t actually been home to Andorra since before Assen, and that was back in June. So the plans for the next week are a whole lot of not much. Get home, pick up my dog, do some training but mostly chill for a few days. There’s been a lot happening, so I reckon I’ll need it.

Catch you after Silverstone in a few weeks.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Rolling the dice

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about a Czech GP longshot that didn’t pay off, and weighs in on his contract status for 2018 and beyond.

THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Sometimes you have to take a gamble when you’re not looking very likely to get a good result by doing a ‘normal’ race, and Sunday at Brno was one of those opportunities. It’d rained a fair bit in the morning, and being back on the fifth row of the grid like I was, there was absolutely no point playing it conservative and doing what everyone else did – all that would have guaranteed was that I’d finish where I started. So we pitted early for slick tyres, I made some ground … and then slid back to more or less where I started. Sometimes you look like a genius, other times an idiot. Sunday was more somewhere in the middle. Worth a shot? Of course. Did it work? Not really.

Getting back on the MotoGP bike this weekend after doing the Suzuka 8-Hour in Japan last weekend on a Superbike took some getting used to, maybe more than I expected it to. I’d done that many laps on the Superbike through July when we were on our summer break that I needed to readjust. Japan was hot, Suzuka is a tough track that I’d never been to before, I was sharing a bike with two other riders and we were on Bridgestone tyres. Brno was mostly wet, I’d not ridden there for two years because I missed last year with injury, I was back on Michelins and on a MotoGP bike … there was a bit going on.

The track was too wet to start on slicks on Sunday, but that didn’t last long, so we dived into the pits for slicks early on with a few other guys who were brave at the start like Marc (Marquez), and it worked out alright for him … For me, I got up inside the top 10 but knew there were some fast guys that had come in (probably wrongly) later than me, but we’re not going to be able to hold off Vale (Valentino Rossi) and Maverick (Vinales) and those guys once we get into a more normal dry-weather race. I was hoping to finish on the edge of the top 10, but the two Tech 3 boys (Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger) got me in the final laps, so 14th was what it was. Not a heap to get excited about, but like I said, we didn’t have much to lose by trying what we did. Wasn’t great, wasn’t terrible, just a bit of a nothing result. Put it this way, it’s always good after a race like that to have another one as soon as we can, and that’s what we have with Austria next weekend.

Back to Suzuka and the 8-Hour, and that race was one I’d wanted to do for years but never had the right offer or the opportunity, so I really enjoyed it. I rode with Takumi Takahashi and Taka Nakagami (from Moto2) and we came in fourth, which was a bit of a shame as a podium would have been good, but we had a crash and some damage to deal with, so couldn’t quite get there. But as an event, really enjoyed it. I’d heard heaps about the track and obviously from when GP raced there and it was cool, very technical and hard to get your head around, but a pretty amazing layout. The whole thing was a good experience for me with Honda and I’d have another go at it if I got asked, for sure.

Before that I was back home for a while in the break in Townsville for my brother’s wedding, so that worked out pretty perfectly with timing for Suzuka and the month off from GPs. And of course there were heaps of questions from family, mates, fans, media people … well, one question really – where was I going to be riding for 2018? Truth is I thought I knew the answer and that I’d have something to say at Brno, but things have changed a bit and I still don’t have anything to announce. There’s a bit to weigh up and I’d like to get it done sooner rather than later to have it secured and move on with the season, but at the same time you want to make sure you’re happy with the decision and know it’s the right one, so there’s no news yet. Soon, hopefully.

The main thing for me at the moment is working out which of the options I have that’ll give me the number one priority, a competitive bike and one I can move forward with. Having more than one option is good, it’s good to be talked about. I’m not going to do it for nothing of course, I’m a professional sportsman these days and it’s my job, and I need to make money from my job like anyone. But it’s more about what I’m riding than the dollar signs at this stage of my career, and being more competitive is worth more than anything. So, I know I said that I’d have something to announce soon last time after Sachsenring, so I’ll say that again – yes, it’ll be soon, and yes, I want it done as soon as possible. You’ll know pretty soon after I do!

Austria is next weekend with the quick turnaround, and we’ll be aiming for better than Brno for sure – I’ll speak to you from there.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: In the Sachsenring spin cycle

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about a German GP that was a let-down, and talks about his contract chats for next year.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind to finish up the first half of the season. The Sachsenring has always been pretty good to me and it’s somewhere I’ve had some good memories – I had my first world championship race here way back in 2011 – and I’ve won here before in Moto3 and had a strong race in MotoGP last year too. Was pretty optimistic I could do the same today as well. So 15th wasn’t what I was expecting, and it’s a pretty crappy way to go into the break to be honest.

What happened? We’re still trying to completely get to the bottom of it as we pack up here now, but the grip just wasn’t there. I had a pretty cautious start by my standards and only managed to pick up one spot, but worse than that was that within a few laps, the rear tyre had been spinning up so much that it felt like I’d done all 30 laps, not three. The grip was gone, and I went backwards. I found myself scrapping with the KTM boys, and there were three of them this weekend with Mika Kallio in as a wildcard, so that made it harder. Bradley Smith got me on the last lap, and so I was 15th, same as Mugello as the worst result I’ve had this year when I’ve finished. I was pretty beaten up that weekend in Italy after the crash I had in Le Mans the race before, so that was a big factor there. Here, we just didn’t have it. I was 37 seconds behind Marc Marquez by the end, the biggest gap to the winner I’ve had all year and a bit of a let-down after how competitive we were at Assen last weekend. So, definitely disappointed with that.

I’ve come to the mid-season break with exactly one point less in the championship than I had last year after nine races which probably feels like a step back, but this year is going a lot better than the last one did. For one thing, I’m not fighting injuries the whole time like I seemed to be in 2016, and while I had the win at Assen last year and that was the majority of my points, I’ve been more consistent this time, and have managed to be in the points every time I’ve finished, even if some of those finishes have been a bit crap like today’s. I feel like I’m riding pretty well and we had the sixth at Assen which was really good, we beat some really strong guys there. So as much as today sucks, it’s been pretty decent, I can’t complain too much. I spent so much of the second half of last year hurt and missing races, so that’s not a road I want to go down again, that’s what I’m hoping to avoid when we get back into it from Brno.

Everyone else is heading off on a bit of a break now because we have four weeks between races, but I’m going the other way and packing heaps into the next few weeks until we get back into it with testing for the Suzuka 8-Hour, back home for my brother’s wedding and then back to Japan to race the 8-Hour before going back to Europe and the season. Suits me to be honest, I’d prefer to be riding and racing, but it’ll be good to do something different too. I’ve heard a lot about Suzuka, so it won’t be long until I get to see if it lives up to what people have said.

One more thing before I go, and that’s to mention the contact stuff that everyone seems to be talking about or has an opinion about. Some of it is close to being right, some of it is so far away from the truth that it’s ridiculous. The truth is that I’m close to being able to say what I’m doing next year but can’t confirm it yet, but it’ll be soon, I hope. And until you hear it from me or something official comes out, then it’s not true! We all want to get it locked away as soon as we can, believe me, but you have to work through the process and it’ll be make sense why soon hopefully – then people can stop asking me and hassle someone else!

Catch you for the second half of the year in a few weeks.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Stoked with sixth at Assen

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller reflects on a season-best result at the Dutch TT, and why he can’t wait to tick another great track off his bucket list late next month.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Sixth on Sunday at Assen felt like a result that had been coming for a while. We’ve had some top-10 finishes this year and I reckoned I should have got one when we were at Catalunya a few weeks ago, but sixth was just what we were looking for. It was a pretty eventful race – when isn’t it eventful at Assen? – so to get a solid top-six result and feel really comfortable was a big one for us. It’s the best result of the season so far and we seem to have been getting closer and closer each time, so I couldn’t be happier with that.

Funny thing is, Assen hadn’t been that good to me until last year when I won there. I was leading in Moto3 there one year and stupidly crashed out, and then year one in MotoGP in 2015 I didn’t even get through the first lap before crashing, and some of the other riders were pretty pissed off with me as some of you might remember. Last year made up for all of that, but this year was pretty good too, considering it was a more ‘normal’ race than last year when the rain made things pretty crazy.

The weather in Assen seems to change by the minute sometimes, so I wasn’t surprised that we ended up with a bit of rain late in Sunday’s race, it’s almost as if the place wants to get some extra drama in! I said all along over the weekend that I preferred it to be dry even though it went so well for me in the rain last year, and even Sunday morning warm-up when I was on top of the times when it was really raining. By the race, the rain was only really a few spots in some parts of the track for the last eight laps or so, but I was able to get past a few people and then make the most of Johann (Zarco) taking a gamble that it would properly rain and coming in for a bike change.

The track was very greasy and I tried to do my best to stay on and be calm, because it’s so easy to make a mistake and ruin the whole thing when it’s like that. I was catching the group in front of me but I didn’t want to risk too much, and then with four laps to go it started drizzling harder, so I decided to button off a little bit and bring it home. By the time you would have actually considered swapping bikes, there were only three laps left anyway, so it wasn’t worth it.

Riding in the rain is alright and I go pretty good at it, but results in the dry mean a bit more because it takes any randomness out of it, makes them seem more legit in a way, so sixth on merit was really good for us.

Going back to a circuit where you keep getting spoken about as the most recent race-winner was pretty cool, I’m not going to lie. Sure, you get a bit over talking about the same thing all the time, but there’s worse things to be reminded about every five minutes! It’s a special place, Assen, and the fans were amazing here like they always are, 105,000 of them on Sunday from what someone told me. Add that to the history of the place, the track layout … this is one of the special ones, for sure.

There’s no rest for us at the moment – we’re off to Sachsenring in Germany next weekend and another track I like, even though it’s completely different to Assen. And then it’s the mid-season break, not that I’ll have a full one this year as I get to tick something off the bucket list by racing in the Suzuka 8-Hour, which I was finally able to talk about this week.

Suzuka is a race I’ve always wanted to do and Honda has given me the chance to do it, so I can’t wait, I’m really ecstatic to get the call-up. It’ll be amazing to get out there on that circuit, and the guys who have ridden it tell me it’s a proper old-school track and one that’s a lot of fun. A different style of racing and I’ll be learning a lot from the experienced guys, but it’ll be good to have a crack at it before we get back to work at Brno in August. I’ll go there for two tests before I head home to Australia in the break, then come home for my brother’s wedding, and then go back to Suzuka for the race before Brno. It’ll be busy for sure, but really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can sign off this first half of the season with another good one in Germany before that.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Crossing the fine line

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about the tiny margins between success and failure after a costly crash at the Catalunya GP.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Two kilometres an hour slower than the lap before, and one degree less lean angle. That’s the difference between me taking another top-10 points finish in Catalunya and ending up where I eventually did, on my arse in the gravel and pretty annoyed with myself after crashing out on Sunday. That’s how fine the margins are, and it shows you how much we’re on the edge in MotoGP this year. A tiny bit slower, a slight change to the lean angle, hit the bump at Turn 5, tuck the front, and you’re on the floor.

We were just past the halfway stage in the race and I was in 10th, and really happy where I was. I was working my arse off to stay with the guys in front of me, and I wasn’t really under much pressure from behind either, guys like (Hector) Barbera and Cal (Crutchlow) were well behind me. Tenth was good considering I’d started 15th and got a really good launch, and there was space down the inside into the first corner to pick up a few spots, and I was up to eighth a few corners in.

The race settled down – the first lap was a bit chaotic for sure – and I felt like I was in a good rhythm and was starting to come back towards Vale (Valentino Rossi) and those guys just ahead of me. I wasn’t spinning up the tyres, and I was able to change my engine map really early and get into the race for the long haul. To be starting to make some headway towards Vale and them as they were starting to struggle with their tyres and then have what happened happen was a bit devastating. Eleven laps to go, the leader was only six seconds up the road … strong points were there for me, and I didn’t take them.

The track surface here in Barcelona is pretty old and the heat made it even more slippery than it usually is, and the Formula One cars racing and testing here means the bumps seem to get worse and worse every year. All weekend felt a bit like survival mode with the longer runs because of the tyre wear, the heat and the track surface being what it is. Hopefully they resurface it for next year’s Grand Prix, because it was a bit of a struggle this weekend keeping tabs on where the worst bumps were.

Compared to Mugello last week when we really struggled and I wasn’t the best with the hand injury from Le Mans, this felt a lot more competitive even though the result didn’t show it. The bike moved around a lot, the track was really slippery with the heat we had all weekend, but I felt more confident the longer the weekend went. I was pretty happy with the lap in qualifying even if the position was lower than I would have liked it to be, and the race pace was good. The one good outcome from the crash was that I didn’t hurt myself either, which is pretty big because we’re staying in Barcelona to test on Monday after the race. I didn’t get to do the test straight after Le Mans because I was too sore and had to get an MRI done and all of that, so more track time here will be good.

I accidentally gave people a good chance to have a laugh at me on Friday when we went out for first practice – I’m blaming this on not doing the test after France, that’s my story anyway. The chicane at the end of the lap had been changed from last year, and I somehow managed to keep using the old one for a while there …

Maybe I knew something everyone else didn’t, because on Friday afternoon in the safety commission meeting us riders said we felt the new chicane wasn’t very safe, so they changed it back to the 2016 one – the one I was using! – for the rest of the weekend. A bit embarrassing for sure. I’m not going to claim it that I knew that it was going to change back to what it was; dazed and confused would be more like it …

It’s not been the best back-to-back weekends with this and Mugello and just the one point to show for it, so we’ll do the test, I’ll head back home to Andorra to recharge, and then it’s off to Assen and remembering some pretty good times from last year. A good place to get back to where I want to be, hopefully. I’ll speak to you from there in a couple of weeks.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Taking what I can get

Jack Miller writes about an injury-affected weekend in Italy, and why everyone in the sport will miss Nicky Hayden.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

That was a pretty tricky weekend, and one that I’m pretty glad is over to be honest. Mugello hasn’t been the best circuit for me in the past, and it’s an awesome place – it’s just my results there haven’t been that awesome. So coming here with some injuries from the last race in France meant it was going to be tough, and to get a point in the end was something to salvage out of the weekend.

I got through the last race on some painkillers and adrenaline after that massive crash I had at Le Mans, but I was pretty sore after that with the bang I had on my right knee and the right hand. There was no way I could do the Catalunya test straight after Le Mans, and I had an MRI on the hand that showed that I luckily hadn’t fractured it, but it was pretty bloody sore and I had heaps of physio before Mugello. Rest would have been the best way for it to get completely better of course, but that wasn’t an option as we have a back-to-back with here and Catalunya, and then Assen two weeks after that, it’s a busy time of the year.

Right from the start of practice on Friday I could never quite get the feeling I wanted on the front of the bike, the bike was running wide in the corners when I got off the brakes. Me and my engineer Ramon (Aurin) made some changes on Saturday that meant I did a 1min 47secs lap for the first time all weekend in qualifying, but that was nowhere near where I needed to be to get into Q2 and I ended up back in 19th, the furthest back I’ve started from all season. I got a decent start, but it’s hard to do a lot from all the way back there.

In the end it seemed like I was glued to (Hector) Barbera for a lot of the race, with him in front of me for most of it. I passed him about halfway through, but I was 17th with five laps to go and needed someone ahead of me to make a mistake to get a point. It ended up happening on the last lap when Dani (Pedrosa) got in hot and wiped out Cal (Crutchlow), and I’m suddenly 15th. Nearly got Barbera on the last lap too, but a point was all I could get. Lucky for sure, but the last two years haven’t gone well here, so I’ll take it. I was out on the first corner last year and after two laps the first time I raced a MotoGP bike here, so doing the whole race was a change!

I’m hoping the next race will be a bit better in Barcelona and the hand should be a bit more free, but it’s only a week away and there’s not going to be some overnight improvement, it’ll be a gradual thing. I’ll have more physio on the hand this week and rest up as much as I can, but I have to be realistic, we’re on track there in four days. It was good just to finish today, get a point and look forwards.

Before I go, I have to say a few words about Nicky Hayden. Of course we found out Nicky had lost his fight between the last race and this one, and we had 69 seconds of silence on the grid for him which was pretty moving, hearing almost no noise from nearly 100,000 Italians definitely put a lump in your throat.

The people here loved Nicky, just like they did everywhere. On the off the track, Nicky was someone I massively looked up to, and he was such a good guy to people, us younger riders, the fans, the media, everyone. Just treated people the right way, and we can all learn from him that way. It’s still a bit hard to accept we won’t see that massive smile of his anymore, and all of us riders and everyone in the paddock is feeling for his family. A huge loss for our sport, but we won’t forget a champion rider and a champion person.

I’ll speak to you from Barcelona next week.

Cheers,
Jack

Miller Time: A rollercoaster in France

Jack Miller writes about his scary crash at Le Mans, and why the motorsport world has a heavy heart after Nicky Hayden’s terrible accident.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

I’m pretty beaten up after what was a bit of a rollercoaster weekend here at Le Mans – actually, make that a LOT of a rollercoaster weekend. It all happened this weekend – I led the times on Friday, had three crashes on Saturday (we’ll get to the biggest one in a sec), rode in as much pain as I can remember in a while, and hung in there and managed to get eighth in the race, which is pretty crazy considering how sore I am. The race up the front (now I’ve caught up with what happened) was pretty wild too.

But first, that crash in Saturday practice. It was pretty nasty, as nasty as they get really. I had some locking on the front through Turn 2, and when the tyre gripped I was heading for the inside barrier where there was grass, changing surfaces, the lot. The bike was headed straight for the fence and I had to make the split-second decision to get off it. You saw the rest …

The bike was pretty trashed, but I was OK relatively speaking when you consider what I could have been like. My knee was swollen up and I bashed my right hand pretty good, but I got the all-clear from the medical centre to do qualifying, and then crashed again at the last corner, luckily nowhere near as bad as the earlier one. I was a bit annoyed to be 11th on the grid seeing as though I’d led the times on Friday and was third and got straight into Q2 again after third practice, but it could have been worse, definitely. I’m a very, very lucky boy.

When the adrenaline wore off I was pretty beaten up on Saturday night and I knew Sunday was going to be tough, and I paced myself in warm-up and was all the way back in 17th. I had to get 28 laps out of myself in the race and needed to save whatever I had for that.

The race was more a case of not hurting myself anymore and staying on, and just hanging in there lap by lap. I had a jab to get me through the race, the top of my hand is a mess, the hand was worse than the knee. With about eight laps to go I was really struggling, I had pins and needles in my hand. I definitely got a bit lucky with some guys who were ahead of me crashing out, and in the end eighth was the same as my best race this season, in Qatar. Valentino (Rossi) crashed out on the last lap and that got me up another spot. It was crazy and hard to keep track of, I was concentrating as hard as I could just to fight the pain and stay on. Finishing top 10 again – that’s four this season in five races now – and improving to 10th in the championship was more than I could have hoped for after Saturday, but I would have probably said no to that if you offered me that on Friday. Definitely a strange weekend.

I’m supposed to be testing at Catalunya this week, but I’ll have to see how I pull up after this before I can commit to that – there’s no surgery or anything I need to get, but the hand just needs time. The adrenaline got me through today, that’s for sure. And the crowd was intense! More than 100,000 people for race day was pretty amazing, that’s the (Johann) Zarco factor for you.

One more thing before I go, because it’s all most of us have been talking about at Le Mans – of course I’m talking about the terrible cycling accident that happened to Nicky Hayden and how all of us riders are just so devastated for him. Nicky is just one of the best guys who has been around since I’ve been in the paddock, and you just never hear a bad word said about the guy. Seriously talented of course seeing as though he beat Valentino to win a MotoGP championship, but he’s maybe even a better person than he is a rider, which is what makes all of this so sad. He raced my bike at Aragon last year when I was out injured and I got to know him a bit better there, and everyone in MotoGP is hoping that he pulls through after what’s happened. He’s a fighter and if we know anything about Nicky, it’s that he’ll keep fighting. We’re all hoping he and his family can get some good news soon.

Cheers, Jack