Whenever a MotoGP rider stops out on track at the end of a session, Jack Miller always seems to appear on the scene and offers a 'taxi ride' back to the pits.

The latest incident occurred at Portimao on Friday afternoon, when he spotted some bodywork had caught fire on the fellow Ducati of Johann Zarco as the Frenchman prepared for a practice start.

"If you need to ask you cannot afford it, simple as that!" Miller joked about his taxi prices. "I was the only one there and who noticed. I was like ‘dude, your bike is on fire’ and the [marshals] finally moved.

"I was going to push him but the marshals wouldn’t let him move. There was no oil or anything but they wouldn’t let me push him back.

"The first [taxi ride] is free, the second one you have to pay for."

"It's true that when we stop [the bodywork near the exhaust] is always quite warm and we must be careful," Zarco said of the fire. "Maybe just because we have 300 horsepower and we go so fast!"

"Unfortunately it's not a double seater, and it's not so comfortable!" he added of the ride back. "Fortunately I could sit and Jack was on the tank, because I think it's impossible to sit on the back of the bike or maybe we will break something.

"If I could put my feet on the footrests with him, I think we could both have got our knees down on the floor! But we didn't have time to organise it!"

Miller, riding for the first time since arm pump surgery, finished the day in fifth position with Zarco in eighth.

"You never know until you get on the bike but it feels really good," Miller said of the healing right arm. "I feel powerful in my hand and no ill-effects from it. I think I’m 100%.

"We won’t know if the surgery was a massive success until we get to Jerez where there are more fast right-handers where we might struggle. But I am happy to be here and happy to be healthy. You ride around this track with a massive smile on your face the whole time, so it is just mega to be here."

After two disappointing races in Qatar, Miller now has his sights set on repeating last November's Portimao rostrum.

"For sure [the target is] to try for the podium and what we did last year but there are many strong guys so we just need to be calm, stay focussed and the important thing is to try to bring home more points and try our best," he said.

"We need to keep working on the race pace a bit more and I’d like to get the bike working a bit better and then we’ll see."

One rider the Australian may need to overcome to stand on the rostrum on Sunday is Marc Marquez, who made an impressive return from a long injury absence with 3-6 results in Friday practice.

"I expected it. I mean he’s been here testing. OK, it was with the superbike, but he’s been riding. We all know how extremely talented this guy is and the things he does on a motorcycle: just watch the session. You see him do some things and you think ‘how did he pull that off?!’" Miller said. "Even today and I think he was riding with some margin.

"It made me smile when I saw him smiling this morning in the garage, because you know how much this sport means to him and what it means to all of us. It’s the thing we love and when you cannot do it for nine months then it’s not an easy thing, especially with all the ‘recu’ he’s had to do.

"To see him back out there doing what he loves and what he’s fantastic at makes us all happy that he’s there and it will elevate all of our levels."

After a double podium in Qatar, Zarco is the rider they are all currently chasing in terms of the world championship standings. The Frenchman was satisfied with day one in Portimao but is yet to get fully comfortable on the GP21 at the twisty, undulating circuit.

"I'm quite happy to be with the good group. I could not do much better at the moment, because I'm not so relaxed on the bike. I feel that we have a few steps to find to make me feel comfortable and then I think I will be able to keep a good pace with the top guys," he said.

"Overall Pecco [fastest] is doing a great job since this morning and the perfect thing is I can have his data to understand and try to do the same as him in the places I am losing. So keep working, focus, and let's see tomorrow.

"I think our main problem, me on the bike, is really in the middle of the corner when we have the maximum lean angle, I'm missing some stability, and then the bike can become quite nervous. On the exit of the corner I need to hold the bike, because I'm missing something in the middle of the corner."

The Frenchman was unique in putting a lot of laps on the soft tyres during the afternoon but says they won't be raced.

"No, it's working more like a qualifying tyre, this soft one, because we have a lot of grip on the first two laps, and then it drops quite a lot," he said. So I think that for the race, the tyre will be the same as last year, which now is the medium.

"This track is very demanding for the tyres, and still as soon as we want a bit more grip, we get some graining. We need to I think accept and use the harder one."

 

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