Jack Miller: Weird being on other side of Ducati power!

After enjoying Ducati power for the previous five years, Jack Miller  found the tables were turned during Sunday’s season-opening Portimao MotoGP race.
Jack Miller, MotoGP race, Portuguese MotoGP, 26 March
Jack Miller, MotoGP race, Portuguese MotoGP, 26 March

The Australian was the surprise of the weekend as he transformed a nondescript winter adapting to the KTM into a shock first in Friday practice, second row in qualifying and fourth in the Sprint – in the wheeltracks of Marc Marquez.

The main Sunday race posed the biggest challenge, with Miller having never done 25 consecutive laps on the RC16. But he held firm in the lead group during the opening stages and was briefly promoted to third by the Marquez-Oliveira-Martin collision.

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Marco Bezzecchi took that place from him, with Miller then starting a race long battle with Alex Marquez, plus KTM teammate Binder.

But the orange machines struggled to clear the Desmosedici and were punished when another Ducati – Pramac’s Johann Zarco – sweep past all three of them on the final lap.

“It’s been a good weekend,” said Miller. “To say I’m happy with seventh, I’d be telling porky pies. Simply because we were there running with those boys at the front for a long way and I felt I could continue on that pace.

“My fault though, I made a small mistake sort of 10 laps to the end. Just missed a shift going into 5 and allowed Marquez to come through. Ran a little bit deep and then he came under me. He was able to run the pace for a couple of laps but then soon threw the anchor out pretty severely.

“It was starting to get a pretty frustration there. It’s weird being on the other side of the table, talking about that Ducati power! But that’s how it goes, what we’ve got to deal with and we’re working hard.

“I was trying everything I could to pass him and put enough daylight between myself and him to lead into the first corner, but I just could not manage to do it with that headwind.

“Marquez had cooked his tyre and Brad and I were not able to take advantage of that. But Johann had the torque let’s say, that thing really accelerates out of the corner and he had plenty of tyre left.

Jack Miller, MotoGP, Portuguese MotoGP, 25 March
Jack Miller, MotoGP, Portuguese MotoGP, 25 March

“Once he was able to get past Brad and myself he made short work of Marquez, where Brad and I were stuck behind him for 10 laps.

“But it was a great race for me in terms of learning the bike because that was the most laps I’ve put on the bike.

“And I really understood a little bit more about the aero.

“Because the bike itself has got decent power and is coming off the last corner really well, but sort of top cog, end of fifth gear, we kind of – especially with headwind today - it drags a whole heap in the wind.

“You can almost feel the rpm drop as you pull out of the slipstream or as you get to that fresh air.

“Nonetheless, happy enough to be coming out of here with points in both races. Avoiding any real stupid manoeuvres. staying out of trouble and also today it was really important to get all those laps because testing was so limited.”

With hindsight, Miller could probably have pushed the rear tyre harder.

“I was actually pleasantly surprised with how the tyre was towards the end. I didn’t want to be hung out to dry come three laps to the end and be off the edge of a cliff [for grip] but I definitely had probably a bit more tyre left to give. We’ll learn from that.

“In terms of our maps and so on, that sprint race yesterday helped us understand what we needed and we were able to use that to our advantage today.”

Seat wing a ‘massive difference’


Miller confessed he wasn’t keen on the look of the new KTM rear seat aero, but the difference it provided in drive grip soon won him round.

“I was kind of hesitant to put it on because it is ugly! But I noticed a massive difference especially though corner 9 and 12 and even the last corner. Just the load on the bike. Once a certain speed was hit, you can feel it push the tyre and really force the tyre into the ground, which was nice.”

Another pleasant surprise was that the RC16 proved less physical to ride than the Ducati.

“I felt less than the Ducati in terms of physicality,” he said. “The bike itself is rather nimble. My neck was a bit stiff towards the end but it’s always gets pretty stiff in Portimao, you’ve got three rights in a row and the first corner before you can stretch your neck the other way a bit.”

Miller’s 4-7 results mean he sits equal on points with Zarco for fourth in the world championship heading into this weekend’s Argentine round.

“I think the first race weekend has been a success, with decent points. Nothing like the haul that Pecco took from here but it’s a long season. 40 more races. We’ll keep plugging away,” he said.

After being twelfth and outside of the points in the Sprint, Binder defied neck pain from a testing accident to claim his sixth place on Sunday.

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