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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.

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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

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