Australian MotoGP export on his mega start at Pramac Ducati during Valencia testing.
At 22 years of age and with three seasons of MotoGP to his credit, Jack Miller is poised to take the ‘next step’ in 2018. In signing a factory contract direct with Ducati for a single season, Miller has been placed within the top-level Octo Pramac Racing satellite squad for next year and appears to have his best shot yet at consistent premier class success. Following an inspiring first appearance on the Desmosedici GP during the post-season Valencia test where he was seventh overall on the time-sheets, CycleOnline.com.au spoke to Miller about the challenge ahead and also the season that was.
Obviously it’s been a big couple of days for you, but it all went really well in your first time out with the Pramac team and also on the Ducati. Tell us about that.
Yeah, it felt like a glove, you know and it was perfect. The bike, as soon as I sat on it in the garage I felt really comfy and yeah, especially even on the first lap, I couldn’t really feel like I was on a strange bike – I felt comfy and even the handlebars and the seat position felt right. The team were really great to work with, my crew chief has a lot of experience. The bike – the GP17 – seems to be working really well and, you know, we have a lot of support coming in from Ducati, so it really gives you say back-up or support as rider to know you have the support of the factory behind you.
How important is it to get off on the right foot when gelling with a new team on a new bike?
It’s definitely good. I think the last three races have really helped the lead-up to step onto the Ducati, because you know, we’ve had some really good form in the last few races – especially in the dry. I feel like I’ve really got my feet on the ground in the MotoGP class now, I can really start to do things like I did before in Moto3 with my own sort of riding style and stuff like that. To hit the ground running with a new team is always good, because obviously if you start off with some struggles or whatever, it’s never nice. To hit the ground running with them was really good, we’ve got another two-day test coming up next week – a week from today – so we’ll head down to Jerez for that. I’m super-excited to get back on it because it just felt so good, and we saw at Valencia on the weekend that the Ducatis weren’t particularly working the best, so I’m looking forward to getting to a track where they went really well this year where Lorenzo did good and Dovi as well.
The lap-time was obviously quite good on both days and pretty well up in the time-sheets. Considering that, would you say the lap-times are coming easier at this stage on the Ducati?
I mean, we didn’t really even put a tyre on – we put one on yesterday for the time-attack, but today we didn’t even do one. I had a Michelin test tyre, which was a cross between the medium and the soft. It was just sort of playing catch up and spinning laps after I crashed the bike this morning, but once we got underway, I went out on that test tyre, it took a lap to scrub in and after that a 30.8s rolled in and then three 31-lows rolled in straight away. I definitely feel I’ve got the pace there as well, but to do only the one lap, because I think all the others guys like Rossi and those boys put two tyres on at the end of the day. I had to try out the aerodynamic fairings at the end of the test and we were still catching up from throughout the day, so to do a 30.8 and not really even be focusing on lap-times, of course we are always pushing, but at times to not even crack a 30 on the Honda, it feels quite nice.
Looking back at the season that was, like you said it was a strong finish to the year and the last three races were especially good. How would you rate the season for yourself looking back?
My goal was to be top 10 for the season, but we didn’t quite achieve that – we missed it by two points, but it was a pretty optimistic goal coming into the season. We went through some rough patches there at the middle point of the season where they changed the front tyre. I had to try and set myself up to ride that tyre, but once we got rolling with it, it was more or less a turning point, but then we missed the Japanese grand prix, which was a bit of a pain in the arse. In the last three races I really gelled with the bike and the tyres, and yeah, a strong finish. Also a strong start to the season on the other type of tyre, we started out with a few top 10s and had some really good pace at the start of the year. I’m looking forward to trying to do the same next year, but putting consistencies together and I believe enough in that bike and we saw what Dovi could do on it this year. I’m not saying I’m going to do anything like him, but I can try put together a couple of pieces and really get inside that top 10, if not even closer.
A strong season in 2018 – it’s a long way away yet – but it could potentially put you in the frame for a factory ride, which is a goal for everyone isn’t it?
Definitely. You know, with things changing in the next year, we had to do a one year contract and that’s what we’ve done. We’re going to need to put in a solid year, but I believe with the package I’m getting from Ducati and the support I’m getting from them, I believe I’ll be able to do a solid season.
It’s definitely good to see and always good to catch up, and yeah, just an awesome start on the Ducati, it’s really impressive.
Thank you mate. We’re just going to try keep our feet on the ground and hit the next season running, but first of all I need to be 100 percent healthy, so I’ll try not to do anything too stupid in the off-season where I could start the season on the back-foot like I’ve done so many times before!