Jack Miller admitted his qualifying exploits around Phillip Island during a succession of light showers was “heart in the mouth stuff” as he shrugged off a number of terrifying high-speed moments to qualify sixth for his home grand prix.

The Australian’s bravery was never in doubt throughout a tense 15-minute MotoGP Q2 shootout during which riders attacked the fast, undulating track on slick tyres with a light rain falling and strong winds blowing in from the ocean.

Miller came close to falling at Lukey Heights and the fearsome final left, only for his elbow to come to the rescue. “That was scary,” he said. “You had to grit your teeth and really get into it.”

The first one out of pit lane, the 23-year old appeared intent on repeating his heroic qualifying feats in Argentina earlier this year. As it was, he could qualify no higher than sixth, with a fastest lap time that was 0.94s off pole position.

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“Happy? Kind of,” he said. “I was hoping for a little bit more, you could see I was keen to get out there and get it underway, I didn't know if the rain was rolling in or not, and I sort of missed my window to do the lap time.

“I was sort of doing the donkey work out the front, I was the first bike on track. Which was a good thing for if the rain had come, but it didn't. So what I did in the last sector, especially on the second tyre, I was pushing really hard, I had a couple of big moments into turn twelve, and I thought, I do not want to crash.

“And then the next lap, it was another decent lap, and coming into Lukey Heights, as I was coming up on the brakes, had a moment and had to hold it up on the elbow there, so I have to thank my elbow for saving me a couple of times.

“It looked like the rain was rolling in, but it didn't really roll in, it was in patches, Turn 3, mainly in the parts of the track you don't want it, turn three, turn one, and the last couple of corners. She was a bit scary, but I'm happy to keep it on two wheels. I had a couple of big moments, pretty happy to stay on two wheels.”

On which moment stood out, Miller recalled his front end slide through the final corner, which caused his right leg to slide from his foot peg.

“Turn twelve was the worst one,” he said. “I was on a good lap, I think it was my best lap, and just as I went in, full angle, I cracked the gas back on, it was a little bit slicker than I expected and had to hold it up on the elbow for a good while, the leg came off and everything, but still did not a bad lap time considering.

“I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow, I'm hoping for some better conditions, not only for us the riders, but also for the fans, there's heaps of fans here this weekend.

“It was scary. It's heart in mouth sort of put your stuff on the table and see what you've got, because I can tell you, going through the Hayshed with the bike shaking a little because it's slick…

“Coming out of turn six (Siberia) and through seven and it starts shaking, and you've got to go through the next corner at really high speeds... it gets the heart pumping, that's for sure, and you have to really grit your teeth and get into it.”

A year ago in Australia Miller enjoyed one of his finest showings in the premier class to date, leading the first three laps of his home grand prix before finishing seventh, 5.6s back of race winner Marc Marquez.

That experience, he believes, should serve him well on Sunday. “What I learned from last year, take that into the race this year, try to manage the tire a little bit better. We've been playing a lot with the maps and setting up for the race. It's not going to be a crazy fast race, almost from the get go, but it'll wind up sort of five, six laps to go.

“[We made a] Big step this morning for FP3. We sort of found an intermediate step in the spring rate, and also the damping in the shock, and that seemed to settle [the bike] down. And [we found] also some solutions for hard bump absorption.

“It really made the bike much better to ride this morning. This morning with gale force winds, it almost felt like turn one I was able to improve my time, which I wasn't really expecting. And it felt more in control this morning with the wind than yesterday in probably better conditions.”

Pole man Marquez, the Ecstar Suzukis of Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins plus Movistar Yamaha pairing Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi all appear capable of fighting toward the front of Sunday’s race.

Does Miller consider himself a possible challenger for those five men? “I think the podium is definitely within touching distance,” he said. “We've been there or thereabouts throughout the whole year.

“I got a lot of experience from last year running with those front guys for the majority of the race. So like I said, just looking to take my experience from last year and hopefully turn it into a better result this year.”



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