motogp

Marquez flies as Miller defies the pain barrier

Saturday was a good day for Marc Marquez – and an even better one for Australian Jack Miller.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE SUNDAY AGE NEWSPAPER

Statistically, Marc Marquez can’t win the MotoGP world championship this weekend, but psychologically, the Australian Grand Prix always shaped as a decisive moment in his late-season tussle for the title with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.

Phillip Island suits the mercurial Spaniard’s gravity-defying style arguably more than any other stop in the 18-race world championship, and the Repsol Honda rider underlined his Down Under dominance with a fourth consecutive pole position at the picturesque seaside circuit on Saturday.

Marquez, who arrived in Australia with a tenuous 11-point championship lead over Dovizioso, made his searing practice pace count when it came to setting the grid for Sunday’s 27-lap race, firing in a last-gasp lap of 1min 28.386secs in qualifying to snare his seventh pole position in 16 races this season.

The three-time world champion finished three-tenths of a second ahead of compatriot Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), while dynamic French rookie Johann Zarco (Yamaha) rounded out the front row of the grid.

Marquez’s joy after qualifying was in stark contrast to Dovizioso’s dark mood at Ducati, the Italian never regaining his momentum after a massive crash at Turn 10 in the final practice session that left him unhurt, but with his bike in pieces.

The 31-year-old, who brilliantly beat Marquez in a last-lap showdown last weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix to take his fifth win of the season, could manage just 11th on the grid, his worst qualifying performance since round four of the season in Spain five months ago.

If Marquez was the biggest winner at Phillip Island on Saturday, Jack Miller wasn’t far behind him. The 22-year-old Australian, returning to the track just three weeks after breaking his right leg in a training accident near his European base in Andorra, defied the pain barrier to qualify an equal career-best fifth, matching his performance at Phillip Island a year ago.

Miller, who missed last Sunday’s race in Japan in an optimistic bid to be fitter for the challenge posed by the daunting 4.4-kilometre Phillip Island layout, made the top 12 shootout for pole position for just the fourth time this year, and had designs on a front-row starting spot when he trailed only Marquez and Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone after the opening laps of qualifying.

Late improvements by Vinales and Zarco bumped him to the second row, and the Honda rider finished an agonising two-hundredths of a second behind Iannone for what would have been a career-best fourth, a position he admitted was unthinkable when he snapped his right tibia while out training with several other riders, good friend Vinales one of them.

“Fifth on the grid is more than expected, considering three weeks ago to the day I was coming around after an anaesthetic,” he beamed afterwards.

“I couldn’t ask for more. I always want a challenge, especially when I come home to the Island, but this (result) is exceeding any expectations I had.”

That Marquez made the Island his own once again shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the Spaniard has taken the baton from the rider he replaced at the Repsol Honda squad, Australian Casey Stoner, as the modern-day master of one of the most revered circuits in the sport.

In five MotoGP visits to the Island, Marquez has been on pole four times, won the race in 2015, and crashed out while enjoying commanding leads in 2014 and again last year, when he had already wrapped up his third world title a week earlier in Japan.

By contrast, Dovizioso’s stats in Australia make for short and not particularly inspiring reading; he has just one podium (2011) here in nine premier-class outings. Sunday shapes as Marquez’s time to shine, no matter what Phillip Island’s capricious microclimate serves up late on Sunday afternoon.

Miller, who won the Dutch TT at Assen last year in a deluge for his sole visit to a MotoGP podium, could be excused for hoping the Island’s trademark weather makes an appearance on Sunday, but given his physical condition, he’s hopeful of a dry race – and optimistic he can continue the form that has seen him inside the top 10 in every practice and qualifying session this weekend.

“When I’m on the bike and the adrenaline starts flowing, my leg is alright, so I’m hoping over the race distance that it won’t be too much of a problem,” he said.

“Sitting fifth on the grid, I want to get out with a decent start and tag along with that front group, and try to stay there as long as possible to see how the race develops. A top-five (finish) would be lovely, but anywhere inside the top eight I’d be happy with.”

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‘He will arrive’: How good is Jack Miller?

Vastly experienced MotoGP engineer Ramon Aurin says Jack Miller has what it takes to make it to the top of MotoGP. 

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE SUNDAY AGE NEWSPAPER

How good is Jack Miller really? Is he just another Aussie racing hopeful scratching around in the middle of the MotoGP pack for a few years before fading into obscurity? Or is there a genuine chance the Townsville tyro could join such two-wheel luminaries as Gardner, Doohan and Stoner as riders who’ve emerged from Down Under to stand atop the world? One MotoGP insider thinks he knows the answer.

As chief engineer to Miller at Honda’s Marc VDS MotoGP team, Ramon Aurin has brought a sense of calm and a wealth of experience into the 22-year-old’s garage this season. The bespectacled 52-year-old has worked side-by-side with a veritable who’s who of MotoGP race-winners and world champions including Alex Criville, Loris Capirossi, Max Biaggi, Troy Bayliss, Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden, to name but a few, and joined forces with Miller this year after five seasons alongside perennial MotoGP front-runner Dani Pedrosa. In short, Aurin knows talent – genuine top-line talent – when he sees it.

Riders spend more time with their chief race engineers than anyone else at a race weekend, the engineer providing the technical bridge between rider and bike in the ever-elusive search for the missing tenths of a second that separate the stars from also-rans. And while Aurin’s time with Miller will end at the conclusion of the 2017 season as the Australian moves from Honda to the Pramac Ducati team, the Spaniard has seen enough be able to predict Miller’s future with some certainty.

So how good is Jack Miller really? Aurin is in no doubt.

“In my opinion, I think he will arrive (at the top),” Aurin says emphatically, his stilted English accentuated by his right index finger prodding a nearby table to emphasise his point.

“How long this takes, I don’t know. One year? Two years? It’s not easy to say. But he will arrive. First, he’s super-young still, and will still be young for some years. And he’s fast. He has the speed to get there. The experience? Not yet. The technique? In some areas, no. But he has speed that you cannot teach, so I think Jack can arrive, and be one of the best riders in MotoGP when he does.”

With Miller a factory-contracted rider for Honda Racing Corporation, and because of Aurin’s decade of experience with Honda’s top flight Repsol-backed team that fields Pedrosa alongside reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, the veteran engineer has access to the telemetry of all three riders to see what Miller is doing right, and wrong. And he says the numbers paint a revealing picture.

“We have the data from Dani, from Marc, and we know where Jack loses time compared to them,” Aurin explains.

“Some riders will lose out to the top riders in braking, acceleration, corner speed … everywhere, basically. The top riders are just a little bit better in everything. But with Jack, it’s easier to see. His acceleration is good, and his braking points, it’s like Marc, as good as Marc, and Marc is a three-times MotoGP champion.

“It’s all corner speed for Jack at the moment, and he’s missing maybe a little bit of confidence in the front tyre to carry the corner speed that the data says he maybe can. But this is experience, and that is why I think he has another step to make. It’s one he can do. It’s not like he’s reached the limit of his potential; he’s nowhere close to this.”

Marquez exploded onto the MotoGP scene in 2013, winning six races and the title as a 20-year-old. The Honda rider’s assault on the record books has barely abated since, winning the championship in 2014 and again last year, and leading this year’s title chase heading into the third-last round at Phillip Island. Aurin laughs when he suggests all rookies before Marquez – and those, like Miller, who have come onto the scene since – are now unfairly judged because of the mercurial Spaniard’s achievements. The career path of Marquez’s chief rival for the 2017 title, 31-year-old Ducati rider Dovizioso, makes for a more realistic blueprint, he argues.

“It’s hard to compare anyone to Marc, because Marc isn’t like other riders, like any rider in history,” Aurin says.

“Every other rider who has come to MotoGP since him, everyone expects them to be rookies and achieve what Marc achieved, or be judged against what Marc achieved. Marc is not normal. But if you look at ‘Dovi’, what he has achieved, and it was constant progression over eight years, 10 years. That is more normal. Now, he wins races, he fight for the championship. Nobody can place a question-mark against him.

“For me, this is like Jack’s first year in MotoGP. He’s so young still, still only 22. In 2015 he was on the Open (second-tier) Honda which was not really a MotoGP bike, and then last year he was always injured, or coming back from an injury. Last year, it was hard for him to learn. Maybe in Moto3 you can ride when you are not fit or carry some injuries, but in MotoGP, if you are even two per cent off physically, you are one second behind, and then you are 15th and nowhere.

“Every rider here is an amazing rider. It’s not only the riders at the front, and then the ones at the back are not so good. The talent, the depth, from first to 20th or the back, is very, very high. But Jack has time and the potential that maybe not every rider has.”

That potential, should it be realised, won’t come with Aurin as Miller’s right-hand man. Next season, with Miller riding the Ducati GP17 that has propelled Dovizioso to within touching distance of the world title – and alongside Pramac’s incumbent rider Danilo Petrucci, who has taken four podium finishes this season in the strongest campaign of his six-year MotoGP career – will reveal the length of the strides Miller has made.

“I think the Ducati will fit him better next year than the Honda,” Petrucci says of Miller.

“With Jack, he has a lot of time because it’s his third year in MotoGP, but he’s very young. But he showed in Moto3 before MotoGP that he’s very strong and has no fear of nothing, so I think the Ducati for him will be the best solution.

“Experience is really important in MotoGP, and he’s getting it. I think he will be faster on the Ducati. Hopefully not faster than me …”

Aurin, who admits he’ll still take a keen interest in Miller’s progression when he becomes a rival, says the signs are good.

“As an engineer he’s easy to work with because he doesn’t think he knows all of the answers, he always wants to learn,” Aurin says.

“He always ask questions and he wants to try your suggestions. Make a suggestion to him about set-up, and he’ll be open to it and he will try. Some riders, maybe they ask for advice and maybe they still go their own way. But Jack knows he is young and doesn’t have the experience of the older riders, the more experienced riders. He’s going about it the right way.”

5 things to watch at the Australian MotoGP

A tense title fight will take centre-stage at Phillip Island, but there’s storylines to follow wherever you look as MotoGP roars onto our shores.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Andrea Dovizioso’s last-lap pass of Marc Marquez to win the Japanese Motorcycle Grand Prix last Sunday at Motegi was, by itself, something special – so special that it’s already in the conversation for best final lap of all-time. But it wasn’t just the Ducati man’s defeat of Honda’s reigning and three-time world champion that gave Australian two-wheel fans something to shout about; the points ‘Dovi’ picked up for downing the modern-day master of MotoGP means Marquez’s lead atop the riders’ standings now sits at just 11 points with three races left.

The next of those races? This weekend at Phillip Island, a special track at any time, but one that’s elevated to an even higher stratosphere when there’s a genuine world title fight on the line.

The Australian GP won’t decide who wins the 2017 world title – the points table is too tight for that – but it will go a long way towards deciding who’ll become world champion as the series moves on to Malaysia before its final stop at Valencia in Spain on November 12.

Can ‘Dovi’ do it again? What does Marquez have left in reserve? Who else can muscle in at the front at this most particular of tracks? And what role will local hopeful Jack Miller, just three weeks after breaking his leg, play at his home GP, one held on a circuit where he’s typically shone?

Here’s our top five storylines to watch ahead of the action at the Island, which kicks off with two free practice sessions on Friday October 20.

1. And then there were two …

That Marquez and Dovizioso come to Australia separated by just the afore-mentioned 11 points is testament to the adage that there’s more than one way to win a title.

Marquez’s approach is one we know well; since 2013, when he won the crown in his rookie year, he’s been routinely on the ragged edge, taking risks few others would contemplate, and coming up with all manner of ways to save what would be certain crashes for others by using his elbows, knees or both.

The Dovizioso of 2017? An entirely different animal. The Italian has always been known as the last of the late brakers, and his pass of Marquez that won him the race in Japan – downhill into the 90-Degree Corner in the pouring rain with tyres that were shot to bits – was something few could have pulled off. But there’s a more aggressive approach to his riding in head-to-head battles this season, and winning bare-knuckle last-lap brawls with Marquez in Japan as well as Austria back in August is something that would have been hard to contemplate before this season.

Like his main rival, Marquez also has five wins in 2017, but his one-lap pace – he has six poles to Dovizioso’s zero – and 10 podiums in 15 races proves means he has a combination of speed and consistency that sets him apart. In the past nine races, Silverstone – when the Spaniard suffered a rarer than rare Honda engine failure – is the only time has hasn’t been on the rostrum. By contrast, Dovizioso has just one DNF (back in round two in Argentina) on his stats sheet, and has finished eighth or better in every race since.

The other wildcard for this weekend is the Island itself, and upon examination of their records in Australia, this round shapes as one where Dovizioso will be relatively content if he doesn’t haemorrhage too many points to Marquez. The Italian’s stats in Australia make for short and not particularly inspiring reading; he has just one podium (2011) here in nine premier-class outings, and admitted last year that Phillip Island was “not one of my favourite circuits because of its characteristics”.

On the other hand, Marquez has visited Australia four times on MotoGP machinery, and should have arguably won all four. In 2013, he was disqualified for failing to pit within the mandatory 10-lap limit to change bikes and tyres imposed on the field for safety reasons after a calamitous miscalculation by his team, while the following year, he was leading comfortably but fell victim to the plummeting track temperatures and crashed after starting from pole. In 2015, he careered away to win from pole, while pole last year ended in pain again when he crashed – again from the lead – at Turn 4 on lap 10. When it comes to pace Down Under, Marquez is indisputably on top.

2. But wait, there’s another two

Between them, Marquez and Dovizioso have won the last seven races of the 2017 season – which makes it somewhat surprising that two other riders step onto the Island this week with their championship chances still alive.

Maverick Vinales must be shaking his head at how his season has unravelled; after five races, the Yamaha new boy had won three Grands Prix to have a handy 17-point championship advantage after Le Mans. He’s not won a race since, has visited the podium just three times, and comes to Australia after a nightmare weekend in Japan, where he had his worst qualifying (14th) and second-worst race result (ninth) of the season.

The Spaniard sits 41 points behind compatriot Marquez, and is hanging on by his fingernails. His record in Australia is good – Vinales finished third on his second premier-class start at the Island last year – but he needs to step up and hope Marquez and Dovizioso stumble if he’s to play much of a part in the riders’ standings after Malaysia.

The other rider in mathematical contention with three races left? Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, but with a 74-point deficit to the top with a maximum of 75 available, it’s time for the diminutive Spaniard to turn his attentions realistically to next year, even if this year is still numerically alive.

3. The odd man out

The fifth of the five riders who broke clear at the top of the standings earlier in the season who we haven’t mentioned? Valentino Rossi, who was officially eliminated from title contention when he crashed out in Japan last weekend. More realistically, ‘The Doctor’s’ chances of the coveted 10th world championship that has eluded him since 2009 were over the moment he broke his right leg in a training accident ahead of Misano, and while he stunned the paddock with a front-row start and fifth-place finish on his return at Aragon after missing just one race, the tricky conditions at Motegi, allied to the Yamaha’s chronic lack of rear grip in colder conditions, proved a bridge too far.

Australia has been one of Rossi’s happier hunting grounds – he’s won here in the premier class six times, most recently and memorably in 2014 – and while the 38-year-old can now turn his attentions to being fully fit for the start of next season, he’ll want to overhaul the two-point deficit to Pedrosa in the standings for fourth place before Valencia is over. Fifth overall – where Rossi sits in the riders’ race with three Grands Prix left – would be his worst Yamaha campaign in 12 seasons.

4. Jack back on

Break your leg in a training accident, miss a race and then get back on the horse – that’s the model Rossi followed for Aragon, and one Miller will emulate this weekend as he rides at home after missing Motegi. The Australian insists he would have ridden this weekend no matter where the race was being held, but the fact it was at Phillip Island would have given him plenty of enthusiasm to attack his rehab over the past fortnight.

This season shapes to be the best of Miller’s three-year MotoGP tenure to date – two more points will see him overhaul last year’s 57-point tally – and his record at home is good, winning at the Island in Moto3 in 2014, and qualifying a premier-class best fifth here a year ago with what might have been his best single lap of the entire year under immense pressure.

The spotlight of riding at home can cause some to wilt, but ‘Jackass’ clearly thrives on the energy of his home fans and the masses of family who sit trackside clad in orange Miller merchandise (keep an eye peeled for Jack to acknowledge them as he rides through Turn 4 at the start of every on-track session).

In his third-last race for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS team before heading to Pramac Ducati for 2018, a home top-10 finish is absolutely in play, compromised preparation or not.

5. Don’t discount the defending champ

It’s been a season of few ups and plenty of downs for Miller’s good mate Cal Crutchlow in 2017, the LCR Honda rider enduring his worst campaign in three years. Other than fourth at Silverstone in August, the British rider has just four points to show from Austria to Motegi last weekend, where he managed to crash twice en route to a second-straight DNF.

It sounds like the beginning of an unwanted trend, but don’t expect that to continue at the Island, a circuit where Crutchlow generally thrives. The 2016 Australian race-winner has two of his 13 career podiums in Australia, has qualified on the front two rows for five successive years, and has to be considered a serious threat this weekend despite sitting ninth overall in the standings. A top-three finish would be a surprise, but only a mild one.

Miller Time: I’m ready for the Island

Jack Miller writes about missing Motegi, how he broke his leg, and why he’s right to ride for his home GP next weekend.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

How long has it been since I watched MotoGP on TV during the day? So long I can’t even remember. It kind of sucks to be watching and not riding, but sitting at home at my parents’ place in Townsville while the race was going on in Japan was just weird. And on a day like that with the weather up there – made me even more frustrated, because I usually go pretty well in those conditions. But there is good news around the corner – Phillip Island is next week, and I’ll be right for it.

The leg is pretty good. Almost 100 per cent, I’d say. I’ve been out on the pushbike three times now since I’ve been home and had some decent-sized rides, so I’m pretty happy with how it’s coming along. I’ve been doing a fair bit of physio to get the swelling out, and the cycling has been good because it’s low impact and working on motion to get the leg back working properly again. I’ve got to get used to carrying some metal around in me for a while, because there’s a plate and eight screws down the side of my right tibia, and they’ll be in there until next Christmas, not the one coming up – they’ll be in there a full year, until the end of 2018. I asked about getting it all out sooner, or as soon as possible, and they advised me not to. So they’ll do a full season with me next year.

The weird thing is, especially when you think what I do for a job, breaking my leg the way I did was such a nothing accident. I was out with Maverick (Vinales), (Alex) Rins and (Fabio) Quartararo doing some trails riding in Andorra and I put my right foot down because the front wheel washed out, like it’s done a million times before, on a grassed slope. As I did that, it jarred my leg and gave me a massive hematoma above the knee, and then below the knee, the tibia just split. I guess when I threw my leg out to save the front, the leg was loose and the muscles weren’t tight, and the bone just cracked. I’ve done way worse before plenty of times, and not even felt a thing. We were the furthest point away from where we started riding that day, so I had to ride back with a broken leg and roll down the hills. It didn’t even hurt, but looking above the top of my knee, I just thought it might be dislocated. So much for that.

I’m not sure what I physically have to do when I get to Phillip Island to be formally passed to race next weekend – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it – but I’ve got no dramas whatever I have to do. I’ve made massive progress over the last week, and I could go out running right now if I needed to. It’s not just that it’s Australia that I’m ready to get back racing next weekend – wouldn’t matter where it was, I’d be right to ride. A bonus that I get to come back for my home race, of course, but it’s not like I’m only coming back because it’s the Island. I’ll be ready.

The race at Motegi, even though I hated watching it on the couch, was pretty interesting with another last-lap fight between ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) and Marc (Marquez), and with ‘Dovi’ winning the fight again like he did in Austria. It was an incredible finish again, and you have to hand it to ‘Dovi’, he’s definitely riding smart. His tyres were shot, you could see how hard it was for him to get the bike stopped in the downhill 90-degree corner with it aquaplaning, and you knew Marc was going to have a go in the last corner, even though he was so close to that white line in the inside, and anything could have happened there. But good TV for sure, even though I would have preferred to be not be watching the TV …

It’s all about the week ahead now, and getting to the Island in a few days. The pressure and attention and all of that can get to some people with their home race, but this week coming up is my favourite one of the year. I can’t wait to be back down there at the Island – the track is one thing, but the fans, the people, all the faces you know … the atmosphere is my favourite and I miss it every year, and it always seems to go too fast when you’re there. But I love that race so much, so can’t wait to get down there and have a crack at it again. Someone told me the weather was pretty good there on Sunday, which means next Sunday it’ll probably be 11 degrees and pissing down. Hopefully not! But I can’t wait to get back – and I’ll see a fair few of you down there, by the sounds of things.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: No ton of fun in Aragon

Jack Miller writes about the blazing sun and a bad choice burning his chances of a 100th GP celebration in Spain.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Well, that wasn’t exactly a big way to celebrate a milestone, was it? Sunday was my 100th Grand Prix start which was a pretty major achievement, and we had some fun celebrating with the team before the race started after Sunday morning warm-up. It kind of stopped there though, and finishing 13th, the same place I started, definitely wasn’t the race I had in mind.

Take the race out of the weekend, and all in all it was a pretty positive one for me at Aragon. I know, I know … the race bit is the bit that counts, I get it. Definitely would have liked to finish higher after the weekend I had, but I already know why we didn’t. The bike, I feel really comfortable with it at the minute – it’s up to me now to make better choices on the tyres for the next races. Because on Sunday, we stuffed that up. The direction we went on the rear tyre hurt us.

The track at Aragon is in a place where it’s usually pretty cold in the mornings and we get a lot of fog, and the whole morning warm-up for all of the classes got pushed back because it was so foggy on Sunday. But by the time the race happened at 2 o’clock, all the fog was long gone and the track temps were up to 40 degrees, the hottest we’d had all weekend. We definitely underestimated the impact of that. The front end of the bike, we chose the medium tyre and that was really good, but I was missing drive grip on the rear and that was what killed us, I couldn’t make the hard tyre on the rear work early enough in the race. I didn’t get a great start, had an average first lap, and then it took me too long to get on the pace. I didn’t manage to get a low 1min 50secs lap out of the bike until the eighth lap, and by then the race I wanted to be in was happening a fair way up the road. I couldn’t keep the times consistently there either, so I was kind of in a holding pattern where I had the guys behind me covered, but the others ahead were gone. Multiply that by 23 laps and that was it, basically.

Let’s look on the bright side. OK, so it wasn’t the race I expected, but we also brought home a decent position and some points. I managed to move up one position in the championship after the last race at Misano when I was really strong, and here I was nowhere near that, but gained another place. So that was something good to take out of it, but it definitely wasn’t the day I thought it would be.

Before Sunday afternoon, it had been a strong one. Friday when it was wet, I was right up there in fourth, and then Saturday I did all of my qualifying laps by myself with no tow from anyone and still nearly made Q2, I was nine-thousandths out. It was still my best qualifying for five races, and I was confident I had good race pace. Sunday morning, third in the warm-up. And then the sun came out, and we made the wrong call. I’m not happy about it, but it happened. Learn from it and get it right next time.

Next time will be the flyaways, when I get closer to home for the first of them at Japan, and then get to come home as soon as I can afterwards to spend as much time in Australia as I can before Phillip Island. Can’t wait for that. The flyaway races seem to work pretty good for me, I enjoy them a lot. Three in a row, it’s a lot of fun because you get to spend a lot more time with the crew and everyone. It’s the best part of the season for me, because being so far away from home anyway I enjoy it when we’re away and busy. I love the Island obviously, and Sepang is good too and a track I really like. I’m pretty confident there’s a couple of top-10s coming up pretty soon.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: It’s good to be back

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about shining in the rain at Misano, and ending a run of results that saw his season stall.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

It’s good to be back. Seriously good. I’d had a few ordinary races since Assen when I came sixth back in June, and I’d only managed three points since then, and none at all in the last two races. But Misano on Sunday was just what I needed to get some confidence back and take the pressure off myself with a decent slab of points.

There’s usually a few moments after a race like that when it’s wet and a bit sketchy where you wonder if you could have done better and maybe pushed up to the podium, and when I was right on the back of Maverick (Vinales) early on, you do start to get a bit greedy when you think “he was on pole position, so if I pass him …”. But sixth in a race where the conditions were really bad, there was so much standing water, so many guys made mistakes or threw it down the road … 28 laps around there in those shitty conditions was a big concentration test, so it was good to get through it with a strong result. I’ll take a sixth place over anything, and it was good to be back in some form, finally.

I’m sure some people will point out that it had to be wet for me to get a decent result, but even on Saturday when it was sunny, I’d found some pace from Friday practice. I got done by track limits in qualifying and had my best lap time cancelled that would have got me into Q2 which was a shame. In the dry the pace was really good, and I felt for the first time since near the start of the season where the momentum was on my side that things were working well. The pace was consistent, I felt like I could really push, and the lap times came out pretty smoothly, it wasn’t like I was overdoing it to do the times we were chasing.

Maybe the one surprise was that it was here in Misano in the dry that the feeling I had near the start of the season came back – I was still pretty beaten up at this stage last year from the Austria warm-up crash I had, and my right hand was too bad for me to race here, so I had to pull out on the Sunday morning. I haven’t done a lot of laps here for a while, so maybe that was the surprising bit. I was just glad the feeling came back anywhere really …

The start was the thing that set the race up for me. I was 14th after missing the chance to get into Q2 and not exactly happy about it, and on the warm-up lap you could see how wet it was, but there was a chance at the start to make up a lot of places if people were going to be cautious. I felt like I nailed it when the lights went out and picked my way through pretty well, but I did have a pretty big moment around turns two and three and came close to going down. But by the end of lap one I was seventh and had picked up seven spots, so it was eyes forward from there and latch onto the back of Maverick.

In the end I had to give up the fight with him – he was riding really clean and didn’t make mistakes, and I felt my tyres were going down, I had no drive in the middle of the tyre at all and my lap times blew out a bit. I lost a spot to (Michele) Pirro who was just plain faster than me at that stage, and he clearly had plenty of tyre left as well. Every time I hit a puddle or some standing water, the rear would just light up, which definitely wasn’t ideal. I was in a position to back it off a bit because of the good start I had, and I knew I could get home sixth if I just used my brain a little bit (yes, a little bit). So I let Pirro go and concentrated on bringing it home.

Some of the teams had their second bikes ready for their riders in case the track dried out really fast in the last 10 laps, but there was absolutely no way you could have gone for slicks, it was way too wet out there. Maybe it was some bluffing to make teams think their riders were pitting, who knows. But there was only one thing that would have happened if you’d gone for slicks – you’d be on your arse. It was 100 per cent not worth the risk, and definitely not for us after putting ourselves in a good position.

It’s been a fair while since I’ve been that competitive in a race, so there’s some relief there for sure, but mostly really happy. The one shame is that we have to wait two weeks until the next one in Aragon, because you always want another race quickly after things have gone better for you. I haven’t ever had a good race there yet, so hopefully this is the year. I’m 31 points off the top 10 in the championship, which was the aim at the start of the year, but I finished ahead of the five guys ahead of me in the championship at Misano, so I just need to string a few more of those together. We’ll give it a good shot, that’s for sure.

Catch you from Aragon.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: A bumpy ride at Silverstone

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller recaps a tough British GP weekend that made for plenty of frustration, but zero points.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Well, that was a rough one. Finishing one place outside of the points like I did at the British Grand Prix on Sunday is never easy to take, but to leave England with nothing to show for a weekend I was pretty optimistic about before we started was even worse when only 17 of us managed to finish the race. Definitely a good chance that we didn’t make the best of, so that’s doubly frustrating for me and the team.

Silverstone can be a fun track in some ways for us MotoGP guys because of the speed and the changes of direction, but it’s not somewhere that’s been very good to me over three years in MotoGP, and Sunday’s result means I still haven’t scored a point in the top class there yet. I didn’t do a lot there in Moto3 either besides one strong qualifying in 2013, so it’s not a place I’ve gelled with for whatever reason. Yes, it’s windy – being an old airfield means it’s pretty exposed, and all of us riders know it’ll be one of the bumpier tracks we go to because they’ve held Formula One races and tests there forever. Saying all that, Sunday was still a bit of a head-scratcher.

We started from 16th and I felt after qualifying that I had pretty good race pace; my lap in qualifying was pretty good but with a few mistakes, which you’ll make on a circuit this long and with the lap lasting over two minutes. But Sunday just didn’t work out. I got an average start and just couldn’t go with the guys around me, and even with a few retirements ahead of me, I was still 10 seconds off the points and only beat Bradley Smith’s KTM home at the end. Definitely not a good one for us, and we need to get to the bottom of why because I had some pretty high hopes for the race. It’s one of those races where you wish you had another one the next day to erase it from your mind, but Misano isn’t for another two weeks, so I have to live with this one until then.

Between Austria the last time out and Silverstone, I actually got back into something like a ‘normal’ life because I was in Andorra and my base there for the first time in literally months, got back into some cycling and generally didn’t do a lot besides train and catch up on life. The back-end of the season for us is pretty hectic with a lot of races in a short time, and of course there’s the Japan-Australia-Malaysia triple-header in three weekends that’s always one you need plenty of energy for with the travel time and time differences to Europe. So to get some downtime was pretty important.

Things have dried up a bit for me since Assen when I finished sixth, and I don’t want 2017 to end up like last year did when the points were hard to come by in the second half of the year, mostly because I missed quite a few races with injury after the summer break. We definitely have the potential and we have some good sessions, but just haven’t been stringing a full weekend together, and that needs to change. We’ll spend a far bit of the time between here and Misano unravelling things so we can come up with a solution. I’m pretty confident we can do that, but pretty impatient for it as well. We’ll press on and get to the bottom of it so we can get back to scoring solid points basically every race like we were doing up to Assen.

Thanks for the support when things have been a bit average lately, it always gets noticed, trust me …

Cheers, Jack