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
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?