Jack Miller

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

The MotoGP mid-term report

Who has flown, who has flopped, and who has plenty to do at the halfway mark of the 2017 MotoGP season?

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It was never going to be easy for MotoGP 2017 to out-do the season that preceded it; after all, nine different winners, four first-time victors and too many memorable races to list makes 2016 hard to top. But so far, ’17 has upheld its part of the bargain, and as the campaign takes a month-long pause for the mid-season break, it could be argued that this year is even more gripping than last.

With nine races down and nine races to go, we’ve already had five different riders wins Grands Prix, 10 different men stand on the podium, and four riders – Marc Marquez, Maverick Vinales, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi – separated by just 10 points at the head of the table.

Undoubtedly the biggest winners of 2017 so far? The fans. But with ‘school’ out for the summer break before the Czech Republic Grand Prix signals the resumption of term on August 6, picking winners and losers from the 27 riders to have started a race this season isn’t as clear-cut. Which is where our annual mid-season report card comes in. Release the grades …

Dux of the class
When we ran the rule over the two-wheel field this time last year, Marc Marquez was a runaway winner in this category, going to the summer break with a 48-point lead – nearly two race wins – with nine down and nine to go. While the reigning and three-time MotoGP champ heads our class report so far this year, his lead over second-placed Vinales – just five points – is next to nothing, and he’s led the championship precisely once, after taking his second victory of 2017 last time out in Germany. But dig through the numbers, and it’s hard to argue Marquez isn’t the man of the year so far.

Out of the front-running four we mentioned earlier, the Repsol Honda rider is by far the best qualifier – he has six front-row starts in nine races and an average qualifying position of 2.7 (Vinales is next-best at 5.1), while five podiums sees him equal with teammate Dani Pedrosa for the most on the grid. Two costly DNFs – particularly when he was leading in Argentina – are negatives, but his wins in Austin (for the fifth year in a row) and the Sachsenring (for a remarkable eighth-straight time going back to his time in the feeder classes) show that when he’s on it, Marquez remains the benchmark, particularly as it could be argued that he’s on the worst bike of the top four.

Vinales started his Yamaha tenure like a train but has struggled more recently, averaging a fourth-row start in the last three races before the break, and recording just one podium in the past four races after winning three of the opening five. Dovizioso’s back-to-back wins at Mugello and Catalunya were all class, and he’s made Ducati look more convincing as a front-running bike than anyone since the Casey Stoner era. And Rossi, all of 38 years young, wound back the clock with a brilliant win in very difficult conditions at Assen for his first triumph in over 12 months. But to our mind, Marquez stands alone here.

Bizarrely, Marquez and Vinales haven’t been on the same podium together yet despite being first and second in the championship and separated by such a miniscule margin. You figure that when they meet on track in the final nine races – and they surely will – fireworks will ensue.

Encouragement award
Rossi and Dovizioso have cause to be considered here too for reasons we’ve already mentioned, but it’s impossible to split Tech 3 Yamaha’s duo of crack rookies, Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger.

Zarco has hogged the majority of the headlines, as he should have after leading in Qatar on debut and snagging a sublime pole at Assen, and the two-time Moto2 champion has shown absolutely no hesitation in ruffling the feathers of the MotoGP top-liners, which has to be commended. Folger, while going about his business more subtly, loses little by comparison, and rounded out a strong first half with his best performance of the season at home in Germany, where he made Sachsenring master Marquez sweat for most of the 30-lap distance before the Repsol Honda man (inevitably) stretched away.

Thanks to Zarco and Folger, Tech 3 has arguably been the star team of the season – last year, with experienced pair Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith on board, the French team had scored 107 points at the season recess; this season, its rookie duo have managed 155 to both sit inside the top seven in the standings.

A gold star here must go to Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who managed three front-row starts in a row before the break, and came within inches of a breakthrough first win before being denied at the line by good friend Rossi at Assen. Two podiums already for the Italian has doubled his tally from his first five MotoGP seasons combined.

Could do better
We could say Scott Redding here, who, while admittedly on an inferior machine to teammate Petrucci, has struggled this season and looks set to lose his ride for 2018, We could equally vouch for Redding’s compatriot Sam Lowes, who has endured a wretched run of luck with his Aprilia but hasn’t been particularly quick when the bike has actually worked, and has managed two points – the worst of any full-time rider in the series – so far.

But no, we’ll opt for Jorge Lorenzo, who has found the switch to Ducati to be more problematic than even he would have feared. One podium total (a third at Jerez) looks pretty underwhelming for the three-time champion compared to two wins for teammate Dovizioso, and while both riders have finished eight of the nine races, the Italian has come close to doubling the Spaniard’s points tally (123-65).

Having to re-train his brain to remember he’s not riding a Yamaha after nine seasons was always going to take time for Lorenzo, and he’ll be hoping for fine weather for the rest of the season after his wet-weather demons resurfaced again at Assen, where he laboured to the worst qualifying result of his MotoGP career in 21st, and his worst effort on a Saturday since his 125cc days 14 years ago (Jerez 2003). Things will get surely better for Ducati’s star signing, but they need to, and fast.

Needs a strong second semester
It may seem harsh to have Jack Miller in this spot, but when you come into the final year of a three-year contract with HRC with a MotoGP race win under your belt, expectations were always going to be raised in 2017. The Australian has largely delivered – he has one championship point fewer at the mid-year break this season compared to last after the unexpected Assen success in 2016 – but with all sorts of rumours swirling about his future as the paddock packed up in Germany, he needs more, and he knows it.

“I would have liked to have been inside the top 10 in the standings, but we’ve had a couple of little mistakes here and there that cost us,” Miller said about the season’s first half.

“We’ve shown we’ve really improved this year, and I’m looking forward to making another, let’s say 60 points, in the rest of the season. That’d be nice.”

Reaching the ton for the season – and getting to the end of it in decent physical shape after an injury-ravaged conclusion to 2016 – would be a pass mark for the Aussie before he gets set for his next adventure in ’17.

Extra detention
We’re not picking on Andrea Iannone despite having him in this same category this time last year, but a change of hue from red to blue has done little to change our mind about the maddeningly inconsistent but very rapid Italian. It’s been a tough campaign for Suzuki after losing Vinales and Aleix Espargaro last year, and while Alex Rins’ rookie campaign has barely got started after breaking his left wrist in practice at Austin and missing five races, Iannone has been the blue team’s ever-present, yet has been close to invisible for much of the year.

He’s managed just 28 points in nine races, has failed to finish three times, and has made Q2 just once in the past five races. Former Suzuki legend Kevin Schwantz, speaking to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport in Germany, let Iannone have it.

“I know by experience that if things are wrong, there is only one thing to do; get out there and work – and try,” the 1993 500cc champion said.

“You have to do more than all the others to try to recover. Iannone is lost, because it seems like he wants the Suzuki to behave like the Ducati. But this bike will never be a Ducati. He should try to take advantage of its strengths.

“Speaking to him, it seems that the bike has no strengths. I don’t understand Italian, but his body language is as bad as it can be.”

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

#JackAssen: an oral history

As we gear up for this week’s Dutch TT, this is the inside story of how Jack Miller took one of the more remarkable wins in MotoGP history at Assen one year ago.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It was one of the more unlikely motorsport stories of 2016; scrap that, it was one of the most unlikely sporting stories across ANY sport, full stop, a year ago. Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller, aged just 21 and having never finished better than 10th in a race in one-and-a-bit seasons in the premier class of the world motorcycle championship, became a Grand Prix winner when he took out the prestigious Dutch TT at the revered Assen Circuit for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Team.

In one race, Miller equalled the 25 points he’d managed across his 24 previous MotoGP starts. He was the first non-factory rider to win a race since Toni Elias in 2006, and became the first rider not named Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa or Casey Stoner to win a race in five years. And if you were optimistic enough to throw some money behind the Townsville tyro before the Assen weekend, you’d have got the rather juicy odds of 1000-1. Unexpected doesn’t even begin to describe it.

How did Miller’s breakthrough win happen? Where did the relative MotoGP neophyte get it so right where the likes of Rossi and Lorenzo got it so wrong? And why did he elect to swig his post-race champagne from his riding boot, sparking copycat shoey celebrations across two and four-wheel motorsport for the rest of the year?

As we gear up for the 2017 version of the Dutch TT this week, we relive one of motorsport’s stunning upsets in this oral history, through the eyes of Jack himself and those who raced against him or observed his exploits in a race that still makes those who saw it shake their heads.

The build-up

Jack came to Assen buoyed by a 10th place at the race three weeks prior at the Catalan GP, his best MotoGP result to date. On the downside, his record at the famous Dutch circuit was miserable; in four previous visits, he’d finished just once.

Jack (Catalunya post-race press briefing): To finish in the top 10 for the first time in my MotoGP career is a really big boost for me. My guys have stuck with me all through a difficult first part of the season and I’m happy for the team.

Michael Bartholemy, team principal, Marc VDS: I hope this gives him confidence to push on in the next few races and we can see him in the top 10 on a consistent basis.

Jack: I’m looking forward to getting to Assen and giving it a go round there. Two years ago I was leading in Moto3 in the wet and crashed on the second lap, and last year I didn’t make the end of the first lap and crashed, it was one of the worst moments of my rookie year.

Friday: back in the pack

Assen’s famously fickle climate gave a warning of what was to follow on the opening day of practice, with grey clouds hovering, but the track staying dry. Ducati’s Andrea Iannone topped both sessions, with Jack finishing 18th and 16th overall, his final time of 1min 35.008secs some 1.4secs off Iannone at the top.

Jack (Friday press briefing): I messed up my last lap because I had a big shake at high speed coming into the fast final section. Trying to stop a MotoGP bike at 300km/h when it’s moving around a lot is not easy, I was pretty lucky to get away with that one.

Cristian Gabarrini, Jack’s chief engineer: Today was a good start for Jack, but we have to try and find a bit more confidence from the front end for him. We only need to make small changes and I think that will be enough for Jack to post competitive times for the rest of the weekend.

Jack: I’m happy and sure we can make another step tomorrow.

Saturday: caught out

Jack did make a step on Saturday; unfortunately for the Aussie, it was a backwards one. Drizzle made qualifying hazardous, with the likes of Marquez and Suzuki young gun Maverick Vinales crashing, Marquez comically commandeering a photographer’s scooter to get back to the pits to go out on his second bike. Jack was on track to progress through Q1 into the final 12 shootout for pole, but crashed out at Turn 10 and ended up well back in 18th.

Jack (Saturday press briefing): It was a pity it rained just before the session and we ran out of time to make some set-up changes before my first exit. I thought I could have done a faster time on my second run, but the little crash stopped us from showing our full potential.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: I saw a scooter with a key in it and nobody around. I saw that it belonged to a photographer, but he let me go. I wanted to get back to the pit as soon as possible, so honestly I would’ve taken it even if he said no!

Jack: I have strong pace both in the wet and the dry and I’ve started back on the grid before, so I know what to expect.

Marquez: In case of rain it will be kind of a lottery, as always …

Sunday: a star is born

Jack was 12th in a dry 20-minute Sunday morning warm-up session, but the rain returned in the hour before the scheduled 2pm race start. With the field on wet-weather tyres, Miller surged early on, gaining six places on the first lap and gradually moving forwards. What started as drizzle turned into a full-blown rainstorm, and with visibility worsening by the minute, officials red-flagged the race after 15 of the scheduled 26 laps, the standing water on the circuit so bad that bikes were aquaplaning in a straight line. Jack was eighth when the race was halted, a career-best result – to that point.

Jack (to redbull.com after the race): I was eighth and would have liked to have been further up, but it was absolutely the right call to stop it. The visibility was really bad and the standing water was crazy in some parts, and I wouldn’t have been unhappy if the race had been red-flagged even earlier than it was. When it stopped and there was a chance we wouldn’t get going again, I was really happy with eighth, I was pretty content. I didn’t really want a re-start.

Marquez: It was pretty dangerous out there, stopping the race was a good decision.

When the rain finally abated and the worst of the standing water cleared away, the race resumed over 12 laps, grid positions set by the standings when the original race was red-flagged. Jack immediately gained four positions on the first lap, his confidence in the wet obvious as others floundered. Fourth became third on the next lap when Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso fell, and then came the unthinkable – Rossi, in charge of the race at the front, crashed out at Turn 10. Marquez assumed the lead, and with Rossi’s Yamaha teammate Lorenzo struggling way back down the field, Marquez was in a perfect position to extend his 10-point championship lead over Lorenzo and 22-point advantage over Rossi with eight laps left. Jack was up to second, but sensed Marquez would be thinking about the bigger picture. It was time to go for it.

Jack: When ‘Dovi’ went down, I thought ‘wow, third would be alright’, and then Vale went down. That was when I thought ‘hang on, I can actually win this’. I got the sense Marc had buttoned off a bit once Valentino went down and that’s completely understandable, he has a championship to try and win and one of his main rivals was out. I’m not winning the championship this year and had pretty much nothing to lose, so I figured he wouldn’t fight too hard if I tried to make a pass.

Marquez: This morning my team told me, ‘please finish the race, please finish the race, please finish the race’, about 40 times …

Jack scythed past Marquez into the final chicane, and into the lead of a MotoGP race for the first time. Now came the hard part – keeping it. As the track dried, grip levels varied at seemingly every corner on every lap. Perhaps the extreme concentration required just to navigate a circuit that was changing by the minute took his mind off what he might be about to achieve.

Jack: It was all about managing the gap, but those last five laps seemed to take about five years. I got into a nice groove and to be honest, there weren’t too many moments – I just tried to be as smooth as possible, not try to go for too much and keep my head, which is something I’m probably not all that known for … It was tense, but I actually felt quite calm out there.

As he exited the chicane leading onto the start-finish straight for the final time, Jack allowed himself to take a sneaky peek over his right shoulder. He’d been glancing at the gap to Marquez and the rest on the big TV screens as he traversed the track, but it was finally time to see with his own eyes. With Marquez nearly two seconds behind, it was time to celebrate – and he crossed the line with a monumental wheelie before the emotions came cascading out. Marquez was almost as happy, finishing second on a day when Rossi crashed and Lorenzo was nearly half a minute adrift in 10th.

Jack: The lap back to the pits after I crossed the line was something I’ll never forget. There was this massive release of tension, and I had all these things racing through my head – thinking of my family and how we came over to Europe six years ago dreaming of this day, how Honda has stuck by me, how supportive the Marc VDS team has been, how this season has been hard with battling injury for a lot of the time … my mind was all over the place. And a lot of screaming. By the time I went to do my first interview afterwards, I didn’t have a lot of my voice left. I knew I was going to cry.

Marquez: Today was the race to lose points. I was really concentrated. I saw Valentino crash and then Miller came past me, I thought a second place today would be like a victory. These 20 points will be really important in the championship.

Once he arrived back in the pits before the podium presentation, pit lane reporter Dylan Gray stopped Jack for a quick interview.

Jack (to Gray, his voice quivering): I don’t know what to feel at the moment. A lot of people bad-mouthed us and said that this project wouldn’t work, and I just hope that we’ve proved them wrong. We can ride a bike, I’m not an idiot. It’s amazing. I can’t talk …

What he could do was drink – champagne from his racing boot on the podium, inspired by mates The Mad Hueys. From there, the fun really started, Jack joining second-placed Marquez and third-place finisher Scott Redding in what started as a press conference and ended up as something between a comedy show and a confessional.

Jack (to Marquez): You have this famous saying – ‘glory or hospital’ – and I had this sort of mentality. I could see that Marc didn’t really want to take any risks, and who could blame him? I mean, if I went past myself I’d be like, ‘Oh, that dickhead’s going to crash in two minutes’ …

Bartholemy: We’ve had a lot of criticism for taking Jack, but I’ve never doubted his talent, and we’ve shown the world today that together we can do great things.

Jack: It gives Honda and everyone something back for taking such a big gamble on me. I mean, the risks those guys have taken to bring me straight to MotoGP from Moto3, and the amount of criticism they got and the amount of criticism I’ve got … So a big thank you to those guys and then also to my family as well for moving to Europe six years ago and taking that sort of gamble. It’s actually like four o’clock in the morning (in Australia), so I assume my parents have gone to bed. But knowing them they probably haven’t. I’m sure they’re 40 beers deep and having a great time.

From there, it was time to celebrate back at the Marc VDS hospitality unit. Esteemed Grand Prix writer Mat Oxley went to see what was going on, while MotoGP world feed TV commentator and long-time journalist Matt Birt was busily putting Miller’s masterclass into perspective.

Oxley (writing for motorsportmagazine.com): It was sweet mayhem at Marc VDS when I arrived. Jack was in the thick of it, pulling pints at the bar. Then ‘Jackass’ upped the pace and cracked open a bottle of mescal (tequila, if you prefer) which emptied at an unfeasible rate, leaving the mescal worm sitting alone at the bottom. Jack is as unpretentious as they come, a sweet bloke, so he freed the worm from its glassy grave and gobbled it down. Protein is an important ingredient of a racer’s diet …

Birt (writing for motogp.com): In 12 incident-packed laps that followed a red flag for biblical rain, it was Miller time. Time for him to silence merciless critics who have berated him for not being good enough after Honda gambled on fast-tracking him out of Moto3 on an unprecedented three-year factory contract. Time to silence those who said he was foolish for bypassing the conventional route through Moto2. Time to stick two fingers up to those that questioned his dedication to physical and mental preparation. Time to show those that feared he rode hard but partied even harder that he does have the application to back up the undeniable talent.

Oxley: I salute Miller for his victory and I salute all his people who worked so hard to achieve this great act of giant-killing. Whatever else happens in his career – and I hope much more good stuff happens, because he’s a joy to have around – nothing can take away what he did on Sunday. He is now in the motorcycle racing pantheon, joining fellow Aussie premier-class winners Doohan, Stoner, Gardner, Beattie, Jack Findlay, Garry McCoy, ‘Happy’ Jack Ahearn, Troy Bayliss, Ken Kavanagh, Kevin Magee and Chris Vermeulen.

Birt: I hope we don’t have to wait too long to see him on the podium again soon. Sunday’s masterful win in Assen’s wet and wild conditions showed he’s got the brain, heart and courage to go a long way in MotoGP. After Gardner, Doohan and Stoner, maybe we have got another Wizard of Oz emerging after all.

Postscript

Jack finished 18th overall at the end of the 2016 season, competing in just 13 of the 18 races as assorted injuries took their toll. This year, he’s finished in the top 10 in four of the opening seven races, and returns to Assen with plenty of confidence – and whatever happens this weekend, he knows that the Dutch TT will always hold happy memories after a stupendous Sunday exactly one year ago.

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