New Factory Ducati rider Jack Miller wasn't getting too excited after setting the fastest lap time, and beating the official Qatar pole record, at the start of the final pre-season MotoGP test.

For one, the absence of any Dunlop Moto3 and Moto2 rubber means track conditions are quite different to the opening race weekends.

But even then, five days of test time prior to the races means the Australian feels the true championship picture will only begin to emerge when the series arrives at a 'new' track where everyone starts from scratch in FP1.

"The lap times in testing, especially in race pace, always look special," said Miller. "If I was to look at my race pace today, I'd win the race by 15 seconds but there's a lot of factors that you don't get in tests which are there in the race.

"There's no Dunlop rubber down from the Moto2 race, the track conditions at the time and there's a lot less rubber laid down in general.

"I don't think we can take too much from the race pace at a test and we have to wait for the race weekend.

"Also here in Qatar it always seems most bikes work well here and the Grand Prix is always very close with lots of manufacturers involved.

"So I think the real let's say understanding of how the championship will be and how everything is going to go will come once we leave Qatar and go to a track that nobody has tested at."

Either way, Miller's mighty 1m 53.183s had been good enough to pip qualifying king Fabio Quartararo with the other Monster Yamaha of Maverick Vinales 0.327s adrift on third.

"I think that's the most I can do with the times today," Miller said. "You can't ask for better conditions here in Qatar because there was no wind today, so there's not been any sand blown onto the track.

"The temperature was also good today and the humidity was around 60% which is really low for the night here. It was a perfect storm for setting fast times.

"I think that everyone is pushing a little bit, I mean Fabio today did a 53.2 and that's a fantastic lap. And Maverick's pace, as it always is, has been fantastic.

"I have a great feeling with the bike. We put in two soft tyres today and the last one was just to throw a lap out and the weather conditions were begging us to get amongst it!

"But I've not been focused mainly on the time I've mostly been just doing my job and doing a lot of different things to understand the bike.

"We're just trying to make the package complete and we've made some smaller changes so that we can understand what it does to the bike.

"With Ducati we've struggled at some tracks in the past while other tracks have been fantastic. The main goal of this test is to be as ready as we can for the championship ahead but there's also a list of test items to get through."

One of those items is the latest Ducati fairing, featuring aerodynamic devices behind the front wheel.

"Since I put the new fairing on, I've barely taken it off," Miller said. "At the start of today I did a run on my second bike with last year's fairing and then I stayed on the new fairing for the rest of the day.

"I'm happy with it and I think all the other guys are happy too so there it must be something better. It must be working."

On the other hand, traction out of Turn 10 is one of the targets for improvement over the next two days.

"Even on my best lap I'm struggling in Sector 3 and that's trying to accelerate from Turn 10," Miller explained. "It seems to be when you're rolling at that certain speed with that lean angle and that seems to create a lot of wheelspin.

"The Yamahas might struggle for top speed but they can really take good traction out of there, especially with a new tyre, so we've made a lot of changes today to try and understand how we can gain some rear grip without sacrificing the front feeling that I've got, because I've really been enjoying the front end of the bike."

Asked for his opinion on new Repsol Honda rider Pol Espargaro, who set the fifth fastest lap time on only his third day with the RC213V, Miller agreed that the Spaniard is on target to be in the victory fight in the March 28 season opener:

"I think so. For me, Pol has been the real standout of this test because he's had the biggest job of everybody, swapping manufacturers after being on the KTM for many years.

"With the KTM having a steel chassis, it must mean that the characteristics are completely different to the Honda. I think he's adapted to it very well and putting in some fantastic lap times and pace.

"I'm pleasantly surprised to see that because – as we've seen in the past - not everybody can manage the Honda.

"I think we all thought Pol has that aggressive riding style with elbows out and everything so if anyone could do it he can. I think it's showing. He's riding well. I don’t think he's crashed so it's all looking pretty good for him definitely.

"He still hasn’t, like me, had a dry race victory but there's a few of us out there that haven't got that. I think that we're both just as keen as each other."

The most famous rider to struggle at Repsol Honda in recent years was Jorge Lorenzo, who had a well-publicised social media squabble with Miller after the first test.

"I just said what I feel because at the end of the day when someone is talking rubbish there's no need for it," Miller said. "There's enough hate on social media and especially speaking about riders crashing isn't something I agree with 100% so I'll say my piece.

"I said my piece and I got an answer back but I won't reply to it and I'll try and be the bigger man. I'll get on with my life. I've got a lot of things happening… and the guy on the beach can enjoy [himself]."

 

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