While many seemed ready to hand Marc Marquez the Aragon winner's trophy after MotoGP qualifying, Jack Miller feels he has the pace to at least put some pressure on the Repsol Honda rider.

The reigning world champion had been over one-second clear of the field on Friday, then topped both dry sessions on Saturday, claiming pole by 0.327s over Yamaha rookie Fabio Quartararo.

Miller qualified as the top Ducati at the head of row two but his pre-race optimism stems from long runs in both FP2 and FP4, where he believes Marquez was only a few tenths faster.

"I feel as ready as we've ever been. We'll just have to wait and see," he said.

"If you look at the lap times, I feel we've got a pace strong enough for the podium. I'm a better racer than I am during practices, so I feel I have a little more up my sleeve.

"But Marc's looking very strong.

"We both put in 17 laps, he was on average 2-3-4 tenths quicker than me per lap. So we have to find a little bit. But we're not too far away and we've put in the work; a long run of 13-14 laps in FP2 and then 17 laps in FP4.

"So we know how the tyre is going to work, we've understood the maps, we've made an improvement today and I'm sure we'll make another tomorrow to make the average time a little faster.

"Marc's got a little pace on us, but if we can try and follow him as long as possible, I think it'll be the best opportunity.

"We all go on about how unbeatable Marc is here, but we thought the same in Texas and look what happened there. So if we can sit behind him and try and pressure him as much as we can, we'll see what happens."

Miller got to witness some of the reigning world champion's Aragon strengths, plus a big tank-slapper, during final practice.

"It was pretty good!" The Australian said of Marquez's sideways moment. "I made a mistake out of the last corner and he got a gap, then he had that moment so I got to follow him for a bit. It was impressive."

While pursuing the RCV, it was clear to Miller where Marquez had the 'edge'.

"Mainly out of Turn 10 and then onto the back straight [Turn 15]," said Miller, currently battling Quartararo for top satellite honours in the world championship.

"I was creating more spin on full lean angle through Turn 10. It's a long corner and you're neutral with the throttle waiting for the bike to come back. And as I'm doing that it's like the edge of the tyre gets hot and then starts spinning.

"It doesn't recover basically until the braking zone for Turn 12. But even when I change direction in the chicane [Turns 14-15] the edge is still hot and I'm losing drive.

"Just in general I think we need to try and be a little more gentle on the edge of the left side of the tyre."

Nonetheless, "in sector one I felt I was stronger than him and in a few other places like the Corkscrew I felt quite strong. We'll try and tidy it up a little bit and it'll be good for tomorrow I think."

While Aleix Espargaro had been surprised by Marquez's high corner speed, Miller felt he was 'quite similar' to Marquez in that area: "Maybe mid-corner in the last corner it seemed like I had to 'V' it a little bit more, but not too bad."

Miller's impressive performance meant he was the only Ducati rider in the top nine. There was no secret, he said: "I'm on the same bike as always, we've gone back to our base setting after Misano, back to our normal setting that we generally run everywhere.

"Nothing special. I just feel good here, the bike's working well. I can’t fault it. I'm having a lot of fun. The first sector, which normally I'm very nervous though, I feel really comfortable and the bike's turning well at high speeds."

While factory Ducati team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci were having issues with the front when braking while leaning, Miller felt confident.

"I'm having some moments but I feel I'm able to control it. I have a good feeling with the front and on the qualifying lap especially I had a few tucks and whatnot, but felt like I was able to hit the elbow on the ground and if it did close, just pick it up that tiny bit and it regathered straight away.

"So I wasn’t too stressed about it to be honest. Turn 1 I was closing [the front] pretty much every lap. I feel really in control there no matter where I brake or if I lift the rear quite a lot, I'm always able to pull it up there and hit the apex."

Miller has claimed two podiums so far this year and, with six races still to go, has already topped 100 points for the first time in a MotoGP season.

 

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