Jack Miller ‘as surprised as you!’ with P1. ‘Jump? I saw a video of Toprak’

Jack Miller slashed a second from his best KTM lap of Portimao to be a shock fastest on day one of the 2023 MotoGP season-opener.
Jack Miller, MotoGP, Portuguese MotoGP, 24 March
Jack Miller, MotoGP, Portuguese MotoGP, 24 March

With Miller and KTM in general towards the lower end of the timesheets in winter testing, the Australian had already done a solid job when he jumped to the edge of the top ten with a 1m 38.7s on his opening time attack.

But chasing Ducati replacement Enea Bastianini on his final run perhaps proved to be a red rag to a (Red) bull and Miller stunned the KTM team by blasting to a 1m 37.7s, snatching P1 away from Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales by 0.037s.

The next best KTM was rookie Augusto Fernandez in 16th place.

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“I found a shortcut at turn 3 and then also in the last sector!” Miller joked. “To be honest, I'm as surprised as you guys. Not with the improvements, but the lap time. I wasn't expecting a 37.7 but hey, I'll take it!

“We've been working extremely hard and when I say we, I mean mainly the engineers I've done f**k all except be in Australia for the last four months! They've been listening to everything I've said, my comments, my wishes and my demands.

“With the new engine, we made a big step. With the new chassis, we made a big step and then also with the change in philosophy in terms of electronics and so on, we've made a massive step.

“Exit by exit, session by session, I feel like I can make this bike more and more my own And also start to exploit the strong points of the KTM on entry with front feeling.

“The bike gives me a great sense of confidence in the front because you get an amazing reading off the tyre.

“I had a couple of moments today, if you look at my elbow, I managed to save a crash like that. I had another one on this [other elbow] side. The bike really gives you an amazing feeling and I'm able to save these moments.

"My objective today was to be inside the top 10 and we were able to do that by a considerable margin. So we will see what we can do tomorrow and then the Sprint race will be a full attack."

Miller added: “I have to say a massive thank you to all the engineers and to KTM and everybody for trusting me and for giving me this opportunity. It's been an amazing journey so far from the bike I rode in Valencia to what we've got now, and I feel like hopefully we can keep this going.

“We need to work a lot more still in terms of how we can react to changing electronics and changing this and that, because that's definitely one of the areas that maybe we are struggling with the most. But I know the guys are working extremely hard on streamlining this process and making it faster.

“Because when we get to tracks [without testing] we need to make changes very quickly. But they know and it's something they've been working on for quite some time now."

A delighted Miller celebrated P1 with a Toprak-style bunny hop over the crest on his slow-down lap.

“I saw a video of Toprak actually. I saw he jumped a lot further than all of us were doing, so I really hit it hard today!” he smiled.

With the top ten for direct Qualifying 2 access now decided after FP2, Miller is guaranteed to start inside the top ten for both the Saturday afternoon Sprint and main Sunday race.

Team-mate Brad Binder struggled with neck pain from his testing accident and was 18th quickest. The South African went to the medical centre for an MRI on Friday evening.

GASGAS rider Pol Espargaro was transported to hospital for further scans after injuring his back and chest in a big accident that brought out the red flags in FP2.

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