Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

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

Miller Time: So, so frustrated

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about a Sunday in Spain that went wrong through no fault of his own.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Well, that was a crap way to end what had been a great weekend here at Jerez. Top three in Friday practice, straight into Q2 on Saturday, 10th on the grid in the dry, fourth in Sunday morning warm-up – and then out of the race six laps in when I should have scored good points.

You’ve all seen the incident with Alvaro Bautista and what happened afterwards when I pushed him after we’d crashed. I went and saw Alvaro afterwards in the box and talked to him. I also got fined 1000 Euros for what I did and yes, I know it wasn’t the right thing to do. But there was no way he was going to stop the bike. No way. He came in too hot, I was halfway into the corner and he hadn’t even turned yet, and he just cleaned me out. He’s been riding in the world championship longer than I’ve been riding a road bike, so he should know better than that.

I was just so frustrated because the first few laps were crazy with people lunging from miles back. The problem with Jerez is that there’s heaps of asphalt run-off so guys can miss the corner, run off without much penalty and then have another go later. I reckon there were three times when I got completely pushed off track by someone else when I’d hit my braking marker and they’d missed theirs.

I’d come into the weekend with six points finishes in a row looking back to last year and three top-10s in a row this year, and I was really confident of keeping that going in the race after the pace we’d shown. I did my best-ever lap of Jerez on Friday, beat that on Saturday in qualifying, and we’d done a lot of long runs on race tyres to get ready for the 27 laps. It’s hard to take the long-term view at the moment, but we did have good pace and the weekend was going great until what happened happened.

There’s not a whole lot else to say other than Le Mans can’t come soon enough. I’m staying at Jerez to test on Monday, and hopefully we get some new bits from Honda to try as well as doing some tyre testing. I then head Valencia for a wet-weather test on Wednesday, so it’s going to be a busy week. Maybe not a bad thing all things considered. We’ll keep pushing, try to have some more luck in France and get back into the points again and try to start a consistent run. I’ll next write to you from there.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Happy but hungry in Austin

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller admits he wanted more despite a third top-10 finish to start the 2017 season in America.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Us MotoGP riders are never satisfied, are we? I’m talking to you about an hour after the race finished in Austin on Sunday afternoon, and I’m happy to have finished 10th to keep my good start to the year rolling, but only happy to a point. This time last year? I didn’t even race in Austin after busting up my right foot in a practice crash, and after three races of the season, I’d scored exactly two points. This year? I’m 10th in the championship with 21 points. There’s a lot to be happy about. But still …

I guess it shows you how far things have come this year when I finish top 10 and I’m not 100 per cent happy. I wanted more from the race and felt like I could have got more too, but I got stuck behind Jorge (Lorenzo) for most of it, and that Ducati is just a rocket in a straight line. Every lap was the same thing, I’d catch him in the first part of the lap and sit right behind him, and then we’d get to the back straight and he’d just take off, that Ducati is in another league in a straight line – 345km/h in the race. I felt like I’d have been able to stretch away from him over the rest of the lap if I got by, but the longer the race went and the more we wore the tyres, it was just impossible.

There was nowhere I was going to be able to get past Jorge without taking a massive risk and potentially taking him (and probably me) out, so there was just no way. As the race went on, the front tyre started to wear pretty badly and I had a whole heap of graining and tearing on the right-hand side, so I had to concentrate more on what was behind me than in front of me. I lost a spot to (Andrea) Iannone, and then (Danilo) Petrucci got me with a couple of laps to go, and I couldn’t go with him. I had half a second on Jonas (Folger) at the end, so 10th was as good as it could have been. The rear tyre we used, the hard, was fine, but in hindsight the medium-option front wasn’t probably the right idea, but we hadn’t done much on the harder front and we didn’t want to take the gamble on that for the early laps while we waited for it to work properly.

To be heading back to Europe with three top-10s in a row, I can’t ask for a lot more than that. It was what I was after when we started out in Qatar what seems like months ago, but I felt Austin should have been better, which is why my first reaction when I got off the bike was more disappointment than anything. But saying that, I was only 18 seconds off the win, and felt that I could have been a second or so closer than that, so we’re making good progress.

I felt comfortable on the bike all weekend in Austin, and it’s a circuit that I really like and one that has been pretty good to me as well (other than last year when I hurt myself, but we’ll ignore that). There’s just something about it that works for me. It’s a seriously busy track, long two-minute laps, 20 corners, all sorts of corners, up and downhill – it doesn’t miss much. To do 45 minutes around there, fight with the others, deal with tyre degradation … it’s as solid of a workout as you’ll get, and I felt pretty decent after the race physically which was good.

This year seemed even more physical than the last time we were here because the bumps were so much worse in the braking zones. We’re used to the bumps to some degree at the tracks we race at where Formula One races too, but this year they were pretty bad. The F1 cars generate so much downforce that they put more pressure on the tarmac, so we get a bumpier ride. It’ll be interesting to see what we get next year when we come here and whether they re-surface it, because it wouldn’t be good if they were worse. It’s the same for everyone of course, but it did seem a lot more severe than last time we came here.

I stayed out in California between the Argentina and Austin races to do a heap of training, which was pretty useful considering how physical the weekend was. Seems like we’ve been away for ages though, so I’m quite looking forward to get back home on Monday, get back on Europe time, see my dog and get back into some training before Jerez and the start of the races in Europe where we’re all closer to home and things seem a bit more normal. We’ll keep pushing, and I’ll talk to you from Spain.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: In the 10 again

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller talks big points, the rain game and skydiving after a manic weekend in Argentina.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

We’re packing up here in Argentina as I talk to you, and the team and me are both pretty happy with another top 10 result. Like every rider does, I wanted a bit more, but two top-10s in a row to start the season, I can’t be unhappy with that.

The race on Sunday was a bit lonely at times, but looking back at it, I probably made a few too many mistakes in the first laps. I was hoping to stay in the group with Jonas Folger and those guys, but they were a little bit too strong and I found myself with Scott Redding again like Qatar, and Karel Abraham after he fell back from qualifying on the front row.

I spent a lot of the race hovering around the back of the top 10, and I’d planned to have a real go at Scott at the end, I was being as patient as I could. It was a bit disappointing not to get him, I made a few attempts but just wasn’t able to get it to stick. Compared to us, that Ducati is ridiculously fast on the straights, so I didn’t have the top-end to pass him. But when you look at it, ninth – another top 10 finish too – that’s a pretty decent result, and we can take a lot away from here.

You can see the way the season is going at the moment with people crashing and whatnot, and staying on the bike and being smart is a real focus. There’s a lot of guys not scoring points at the moment, so to be seventh in the championship after two races, I’ll definitely take that. The consistency has been really good.

They’ve not been straightforward weekends either, we had all the rain and the cancelled qualifying in Qatar, and then Argentina wasn’t an easy weekend either with the weather. They’re the sorts of weekends when you can easily make a heap of mistakes and end up with nothing, so to have 15 points after two races of things not being the smoothest is pretty good. You could have so easily had none, it wouldn’t have taken much. We can be pretty happy with that, and to have some good results under our belt.

I’m a lot happier after the race than I was after qualifying – I was 17th on the grid and felt I should have been a lot higher up than that in those conditions, I was pretty dirty about it. I had really good speed in the wet, I was fifth in practice before qualy, and then didn’t do anything with it. I used the hard tyre in FP4 and was up there, and then went for the soft in qualifying and went nowhere, way too much spinning, and the tyres were no good after half a lap. It was the wrong call for sure. I pitted to change but we ran out of time, so I was pretty annoyed. Sunday helped to make up for that, but we need to get better in those sorts of situations.

I got to do one pretty cool thing in the build-up to the Argentina race – I went skydiving for the first time. Me, Yonny Hernandez from Moto2 and Jorge Martin from Moto3 did it for Red Bull, and it was something to tick off the bucket list, definitely. We got to see some different parts of Argentina too which was cool, but throwing yourself out of a plane was the highlight for sure, you definitely don’t do that every day! It was so much fun, awesome, and something I’d wanted to do my whole life really, I just didn’t get the chance to before this. I normally like being in control, all us riders are probably like that, but I wasn’t crapping myself or anything, just pretty excited to do it. As you can see, we all got a massive buzz out of it.

We’re racing in Austin next, so I’ve decided to head straight from here to the US to make the most of some Californian sun to do some training and stay in the same timezone. It’s a long old hike back to Europe from Argentina, it’s five hours from Buenos Aires from here before you even leave Argentina, so at least I can cut back on the travel time. It’ll be good to get some sun (hopefully, I haven’t seen much of that lately) and hopefully we can be there around the mark again in America. I didn’t race there last year after having a pretty big crash and hurting my ankle, so it’ll be good to get back out there again on that track. I’ll talk to you from there.

Cheers, Jack