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Miller Time: Saying goodbye

Jack Miller writes about finishing up his 2017 season with a strong result in Spain – and his first taste of Ducati power later this week.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

That was a pretty good way to end the year, that’s for sure. There was a lot going on for everyone at Valencia on Sunday – always is when you have the usual massive crowd there and there’s a Spanish rider in the championship fight like there was with Marc (Marquez) against ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) – but it was a big day in our garage too. And it was a pretty decent way for me to close out a couple of pretty memorable years.

I’d known I was leaving the Marc VDS team for a while now of course, because we all knew I was off to Pramac Ducati for next season for the last few months. But Sunday was different because this was it, the last time I’d ride for them after two years. After I broke my leg in September, my main reason for hurrying back as fast as I did was to get back for my home race and the Island, but being there at the end of the season for the team was important too. I mean, whatever happens to me from here, I won a MotoGP race with these guys, so I wanted to finish up properly with them. And to finish seventh in the dry at Valencia and have really good pace all weekend – great way to end up.

Valencia isn’t the easiest track for us MotoGP riders because it’s so narrow and you’re always turning the bike, there’s only one decent-length straight. It’s a short track too, so 30 laps around there feels like forever if the bike is hard to ride. I’ve never had a decent MotoGP race there before, so to be up there all weekend, making Q2 again, fighting with Vale (Valentino Rossi) and (Andrea) Iannone and them in the race for a decent result, that was pretty much perfect. Couldn’t really hold onto them and Alex (Rins) who came through at the end there, but seventh means I finished top 10 in the last three races of the year. That would have been decent even if I hadn’t busted my leg, so pretty happy.

By the time you read this we’ll probably be well on the way to have a decent celebration with the team – which is why I’m writing this now! It’s the last race here for my teammate Tito (Rabat) as well, so they have a pretty different look coming next year. These guys have been great for me, and to know I was the rider who gave them that first MotoGP win last year at Assen, that’s pretty special. They’ve done a lot for me and helped me grow up as a rider (even as a person, I know that’s hard to believe but they have), and I’ll always be thankful for that. The year I spent with my engineer Ramon (Aurin) this year has been huge for me, he’s a done a lot to make me a smarter rider and his experience has been great for a rider like me, what I needed for sure. He’s someone I’ll definitely miss working with day by day.

Of course, it all moves so quickly in MotoGP, and we’ll all be back here in two days with about 100,000 fewer people watching to get 2018 started with the usual post-race test. I remember how it felt two years ago when I left Lucio (Cecchinello) and his team to come down to Marc VDS, and as weird as that was, I was still on a Honda and things felt fairly normal. Thinking that I’ll be on a Ducati on Tuesday, in a new garage with a new team … it’s a lot to take in. Really up for it though, and then it’ll be time for a bit of a break and to get my body right.

Thanks for coming with me for the ride this year. Finishing 11th for the season in the end was just short of the top-10 goal I set myself, and that was after missing a race injured too. So, not too bad I suppose. But I’ll want more next year, and it’ll be good to let you know how it all goes.

Cheers, Jack

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Miller Time: Wanting more in Malaysia

Jack Miller writes about a race at Sepang that was equally good and bad, and the one box that can still be ticked with one MotoGP race left this season.  

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Two top-10 finishes in a week? Normally I’d be pretty happy with that – actually, very happy with that. But as I started to cool down after Malaysia (or try to anyway, the humidity here isn’t the easiest for that), I was a bit disappointed in a way. Eighth is good, especially in a race like that when it’s wet and it’s so easy to make a mistake and end up with a zero. But there were definitely a few ‘what if?’ moments that I kept thinking about.

The start was one. I was 11th on the grid, but it’s such a long run to Turn 1 at Sepang that you can make up a heap of places if you get it right. I got off the line well and went tight down the inside and held my line, and was probably up to around fourth or so. Looking good. But then we got to Turn 2, there were people everywhere and a bit of contact, and people were coming inside of me, outside … I had to sit up a bit which didn’t help, and the next thing you know I’m 10th at the end of the first lap. The first lap was like being pinballed around – I was just too slow and couldn’t find the grip. Has some contact with Maverick (Vinales), and a few others actually – I was a bit of a roadblock.

And that’s how it felt for the whole race, until maybe five or six laps from the end – I knew I could be faster but just had no grip. When I was on the left-hand side of the tyre especially – even staying upright felt like a challenge. The tyre finally started to come good for me after that, and my best lap with five laps to go was the sixth-fastest of the race, so it shows that pace that was there – maybe I needed them to wear faster for me or something. By then though I was too far back and while I was able to get (Alvaro) Bautista and Scott (Redding) to get to eighth, I was too far back from Vale (Valentino Rossi) to seriously give him a challenge for seventh, and that was that.

Malaysia probably has the most changeable weather of anywhere we go, even Phillip Island, so I was hoping the weather would hold for the race. We had good dry-weather pace, and I was pretty quick in the morning warm-up. But then half an hour before we started, it bucketed down and threw everything up in the air. Some guys went backwards, other guys like Danilo (Petrucci) came from the very back after his bike broke down on the way to the grid and somehow finished sixth, right behind Dani (Pedrosa) who was on pole! It was a strange one alright. I go pretty good in the wet as you know, but I wanted it to be dry as our pace was strong, very strong actually. What was possible in a normal dry race? Top six, definitely. Maybe a bit more than that, if I’m being greedy. So happy with eighth, but a bit frustrated.

At the start of the year, I set myself a goal to try and finish in the top 10 in the championship, and that was looking good until the races after Assen, where I only scored three points from Sachsenring to Silverstone. Missing Japan after breaking my leg didn’t help either, I suppose. But the last two races mean I’ve scored 17 in a week, and I’m now only 11 points off Jonas Folger in 10th, and he’s not riding at the last race in Valencia. I 100 per cent wrote a top-10 off before Australia, but it could be back on again. I’d need my best result of the year to do it, fifth or better in Valencia, but it’s a chance. For that to even be a topic with one race left, that makes me really happy. It’s within reach, and while it’ll take a really solid effort from me and the team in Valencia, I believe we can do it.

The break between here and Valencia is pretty important for me, considering I’ve done these last two races while getting used to the plate and screws in my right leg and clearly not being 100 per cent. I can now get back to Andorra and launch into some physio this week, which I’m going to need after how physical Sepang was. It’s a week more into my recovery than Phillip Island was, but the Island was easier in some ways as the track goes left and the corners are mostly fast and long corners. Sepang goes right, there’s heaps of stop-start stuff where you’re standing the bike up, so definitely harder on the right leg. If I can get some better range of motion for Valencia, I should be a lot better.

It’s been a pretty full-on couple of weeks and the team is in a good mood to celebrate because Franco (Morbidelli) won the Moto2 championship today, so I reckon it’s time to stop talking and go for a beer with those guys, and then get back to Europe tomorrow. One more to go and one more thing I’m after for this year – I’ll speak to you from there.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Now that was fun …

Jack Miller writes about leading his home Grand Prix and learning a valuable lesson after his dramatic comeback at Phillip Island.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Well, I definitely didn’t expect that. I mean, how could you? When I woke up at Phillip Island on Sunday morning, it did make me think that this time three Sundays ago, I was basically coming out of surgery after breaking my leg. At that stage, riding anything seemed a bit far-fetched, and here I was about to go into my home Grand Prix fifth on the grid, and feeling way better than I expected to. I’d been quick in the wet and the dry, I’d been in the top 10 in every session, and I was pretty optimistic that the adrenaline of racing again – and racing at home – would carry me through 27 laps at the Island without needing a painkiller.

And then the start happened.

I generally start pretty well anyway, but to be first into Turn 1 after Marc (Marquez) opened the door for me, that absolutely wasn’t in my plans. Heaps of people afterwards asked me if I’d heard the crowd go up because I’d taken the lead, or wondering if I’d been pushed along by the crowd – not at all. I was a bit bloody surprised to be in the lead, and I definitely had a ‘is this really happening?’ moment as I came towards Turn 4 on the first lap. All my family and heaps of mates were at Turn 4 all weekend, and I’m guessing they were all as shocked as I was. Turn 4 here on the first lap can be a pretty hairy place to be if you’re in the middle of the pack, so to be up front, and not expecting to be, that worked out pretty well.

You saw what happened after that. I definitely went for too much in the first few laps, led almost five of them before Vale (Valentino Rossi) and Maverick (Vinales) came past me on the straight so fast that they almost pulled the stickers off my bike, and then settled into that front group of eight that was setting a pretty ferocious pace. I knew even then that I’d probably taken too much out of the tyres with the excitement of being in the lead, and that I’d probably pay for that later in the race. So to finish seventh after leading, in one way, was a bit of a shame. But I learned a big lesson, and did that while finishing five seconds off the win, and three and a bit seconds from the podium. Three weeks after breaking my leg? I’d have signed up for that with a body that wasn’t injured, let alone one that was.

Someone asked me afterwards whether it felt like I was only in the lead for a second or two and then the pack came past me, but it was the opposite – it felt like forever. Being in the lead and not really knowing what pace I should set or how hard I should be pushing was actually pretty difficult, so I buttoned off a bit after three laps and hoped that someone would come through so I could see the pace they were running. I didn’t know how hard I should have been pushing. If I’d kept going the way I was, I’d have spun the tyre off its head and definitely not made the finish. So I learned something today.

With three laps to go I decided to have another little dig and close the gap to ‘Crutch’ (Cal Crutchlow), but I just started spinning too much, and that the caused the tyre to go down to the base rubber. On the last lap I threw it into Turn 2, I was maybe half a second behind ‘Crutch’, I flicked the bike over quite aggressively and she nearly came around on me. The tyre was finished on the left side. Done. But when you consider that I haven’t had that many strong dry races – we’ve been there or thereabouts, but never for a whole race – today was just a really good run.

I was so into it that I realised that during the race, I hadn’t noticed my leg a lot. Adrenaline is better than any painkiller you could take, for sure. My leg didn’t really give me any grief, and I didn’t really notice it up until I went to do a burnout in front of my fans at Turn 4 – when I straightened my leg out, it was a bit stiff. But on the bike, it was fine.

The whole weekend was just really strong from start to finish. I was a bit worried on Saturday when it was cold and rainy, because I just couldn’t get warm all of a sudden. I just felt really cold all day, and wondered if I was starting to get sick or something. I spent a week at my parents’ place in Townsville because I missed Japan, so coming to the Island from there … the week home in a t-shirt might have softened me up! I had an early night Saturday night, literally grabbed some takeaway and slept. Felt heaps better on Sunday, and as much as I don’t mind riding in the rain, I was pretty happy when the sun came out for the race. That circuit in sunny weather, it’s something else.

Sunday was obviously good, but Saturday, to do that lap in qualifying in the 1:28s, that was pretty awesome. Fifth on the grid was way more than I’d expected coming in. I mean, how can you expect anything much when three weeks ago to the day you’re coming out of an anaesthetic in hospital after having eight screws and a plate put into your leg? The good thing was that I was actually bit shitty with how the end of qualifying went, because me, Marc, Dani (Pedrosa) and Pol (Espargaro) were all waiting around for a tow and none of us managed to get any benefit out of it. Nobody really wanted to go; I gave Marc a slipstream and he didn’t return the favour – that was pretty nice of him … But fifth, same as the best I’ve done in MotoGP that I did at the Island last year, was really good. Shame to get so close to (Andrea) Iannone and miss a best MotoGP qualifying by two-hundredths, but maybe that was a sign that I’m getting better, that it went well and I still wanted more …

It’s definitely been a whirlwind of a week, but a really good one as well. Sepang next weekend will definitely be two things – a lot hotter and a lot quieter for me! A lot more people wanted to see me and talk to me this week, and while you’d get exhausted or maybe a bit distracted if it was like that every week, it’s your home race – and not everyone gets one of those. It’s a privilege to have one, and to have one at a track that every one of us riders loves (and we’re not just saying that to be nice like we sometimes do!), that’s a bonus.

Thanks to everyone that came out, and I hope we put on a good show for you. I know I enjoyed it …

Cheers, Jack

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