A race simulation on Thursday afternoon was enough to convince Jack Miller that Honda's new MotoGP engine is a vast improvement on what went before, as he completed his 2016 testing programme for HRC at Jerez.
Miller was in Spain to sample and evaluate Honda's new 'big-bang' style engine configuration, which sounds vastly different to the 'screamer' that has been part of the RC213V machine for years.
The Australian posted jus the 14th fastest time on Thursday – his second and final day with the HRC test team -, a lap that was 1.5s off Jonathan Rea's best effort.
But it was the consistency and ease with which Miller was able to lap the Andalusian track that left him “really, really happy,” and had him sufficiently enthused to “hit next year as hard as we can.”
“We never put the tyre in for the lap time, but focused on a race run at the end, and it was good.” How good Jack? “Really, really, really good!”
“I'm happy. I put together a race run at the end there, and it was really good. I had a little fall halfway through at the ten lap mark, just dropped it pushing a little bit harder into turn two. [I] Just dropped the front, picked it up, came back in and put a new handlebar and footpeg in and then we went out and finished the race run.
“But up until then we were running 1'40s all the time, which is really, really good. We were trying to do it all at once, but after we went out, there's always a drop in these tyres when you come in and put the tyre warmers on and then go back out again.
“[I] Went back out again and was always 1'41s until the last three laps, which was 1'42.0, 1'42.0, 1'42.0. So really, really happy with how the test went. It was really, really good. Also to get some more days in working with Ramon [Aurin – new crew chief] was also really good.”
Throughout the two days, Miller was also using a new HRC chassis, which Cal Crutchlow had ridden to success from Silverstone until the end of the year. The frame offers a much-improved front-end feel, and was another cause for optimism.
A lack of confidence with the front had plagued Miller's first two years in the premier class, and went some way to explaining his high crash tally - 18 falls in 2015, 25 a year later – in those seasons. The two-day tests at Valencia and Jerez have helped the former Moto3 runner-up regain that feel.
“Like I said, just the improvement in the bike and everything like that. Every day I ride it, it's coming more and more like I said. Especially with the chassis, which we're hoping to develop a little bit more, especially going through corner four, the fast corner, it seems to be you're getting a little bit more confidence, because after the last couple of years, I've lost a lot of confidence in the front. So it's just building it back up.
“Of course we've still got to improve the mapping and the electronics, but in general, it was a better day today again. Like I said yesterday, with this new engine we have to play around with the gearbox of course, and we played around today.
“But only having one bike here really limited us with what we could do, so we tried it in the morning, and then that was it in that department. But in general, a really good couple of days.
“[I'm] Happy the weather held off on us and we could get out and get some laps in. It was interesting, we didn't use the softer test tyre that Michelin brought, I think the others all used it, but we stuck to what they are going to bring for the race. And it seemed to work really well.”