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Aussie Watch: Miller’s twin top-fives, Kelso fights at the front

Matt Clayton
Monday, 25 March 2024

Jack Miller bounced back from a rough first race in Qatar with a pair of top-five finishes, while Joel Kelso, Jacob Roulstone and Senna Agius all banked points on a profitable Portugal afternoon.

Jack Miller bounced back in style after a wretched start to the season in Qatar, the Australian leaving the Portuguese Grand Prix with a pair of fifth-place finishes to drag himself out of the basement of the championship standings.

There were high-fives all around for the 29-year-old at the Algarve circuit, where he’d taken two strong podiums in his time at Ducati in 2020 and 2021. The KTM rider qualified fifth on Saturday morning, finished in the same place in the 12-lap Sprint after leading into the first corner, and was fifth again on Sunday, albeit with a slice of luck as Pecco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez and Maverick Vinales were all late retirements.


“It was a decent race, I was trying to hang in there with the front guys but was missing a little bit of speed, mainly in the last sector,” Miller explained.

“Struggled with rear contact mainly, trying to get the bike turned out of the second-last corner into the last corner, but it was a positive weekend all around as we improved in all areas. We can take this result and build on it.

“I felt I rode better this weekend, and if we can do that and iron out a few little issues I was having, I think we can be relatively competitive. Hopefully we can keep this trend going and be positive in Texas. To come away with a top five, we can be happy.”

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Miller was five seconds adrift of KTM teammate Brad Binder at the chequered flag to score 16 points for the weekend, rising to ninth in the world championship. His race was largely non-descript, losing out to Binder and then Pedro Acosta (GasGas) at Turn 1 in the same move on lap five, and circulating in eighth for the next 18 laps with little pressure from behind.

“Me and Brad got pretty close on the kerbs and we left the door open for Pedro, but Pedro rode fantastic,” Miller said.

“Brad and I both had our tongues out trying to chase him down, but we couldn’t do nothing about it. He’s not really on top of the bike, he’s out of the bike quite a lot and has everything touching the ground. Looks like his head is about to touch the ground at some points! The style is impressive. I can only wish to ride like that, I’m a little less stylish …”.

Of the three other Australians on track in Portimao on Sunday, Joel Kelso continued his promising start to the Moto3™ season with new team BOE Motorsports, the 20-year-old qualifying in second and finishing fifth to move to fifth place in the entry-level class standings.

Kelso finished inside the top two in the classification in every session before Sunday’s 19-lap race, and was part of an eight-rider breakaway group that cleared off at the front, edging Dutch rider Collin Veijer (Husqvarna) by 0.017secs over the line to grab 11 points at the circuit where he broke his left leg in the opening round of last year.

“It’s good points even though I was unfortunate to miss the podium,” Kelso said after finishing 2.246secs behind winner and championship leader Dani Holgado (GasGas).

“If every race we’re inside that top six, then one of them is going to come out as a podium … it’s like pole positions, if you’re on the front row enough times you’re eventually going to get the pole. So it’s been a really positive weekend.

“The bike felt incredible in the race, so happy with how it went and how the result went. As long as we’re always there fighting, you can see every race we’re getting stronger and showing that maybe we are a possibility to fight for victories and be a contender.”

Compatriot Jacob Roulstone, in his second Moto3™ weekend after a top-10 result in the category on debut in Qatar, featured prominently in the second group of riders to come home in 11th from 14th on the grid, 16.213secs adrift of Red Bull Tech3 teammate Holgado.

The 19-year-old said he was “quite happy” with his race after ruing his first lap, where a passive start saw him fall to 20th before recovering.

"We did a good race and scored points again after Qatar … I want more, but the boys are really fast,” he said.

“We’ll try continuing in that direction, scoring points every round and learning as much as we can. "

In Moto2™, Australia’s Senna Agius overcame a late long-lap penalty for track limits breaches to earn two points for finishing 14th from 13th on the grid, the Luqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP rider kick-starting his year after missing out on points in Qatar.

"Unfortunately, the top 10 slipped away from us due to one or two mistakes, but the most important thing is that we made a good step in pace and the overall feeling is good," Agius said.

The race was won by Spaniard Aron Canet, the 24-year-old finally breaking through after finishing second 15 times in his 69 starts in the category.