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Confused, frustrated, optimistic: Miller rides the rollercoaster at Motegi

Monday, 2 October 2023

Jack Miller felt a sixth-place showing in Japan was a much-needed step in the right direction, but was left wanting more after heavy rain halted the race just after half-distance at Motegi on Sunday.

Jack Miller conceded he initially "didn't even know" where he'd finished in Sunday's rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix, the Australian disappointed to not have a chance to improve on his sixth-place grid slot for a re-started race that never eventuated after a second red flag on Sunday.

Miller qualified third at Motegi, where he romped to a dominant win for Ducati last year, and felt another visit to the podium was possible when the race result was declared after just 12 laps.


With rain worsening soon after the start of the race, Miller dived into the pits at the head of the field after one lap to swap to a bike with a wet set-up, and was shuffled down to 10th after the resultant chaos in the pit lane and with a quintet of backmarkers electing to stay out on dry tyres. The Australian edged forward from there, and inherited sixth place when Ducati's Johann Zarco crashed out in front of him just before the red flag was thrown at half-race distance.

After a 20-minute delay, the field was sent back out to line up on the grid for a 12-lap restart, but race officials called off proceedings on the warm-up lap with significant standing water on the Motegi track surface, and with daylight fading as the clock ticked towards 4pm local time.

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While sixth for Miller – allied to his fourth-place Sprint result – was easily his strongest weekend since he qualified third and finished sixth in Germany seven events ago, it was a result that left him wondering what might have been had the initial race continued to its scheduled 24-lap duration.

"I didn't even know I was sixth," Miller admitted afterwards, before quickly leaving to the airport for his return flight to Australia.

"I made a couple of tweaks to the bike and really thought I could challenge those boys (at the restart), but it wasn't to be. I wanted more (than sixth), I felt like I could have got more before that restart, so I was really, really annoyed. There were a lot of swear words when the red flag came out again, but for safety they made that choice, and we have to stick with it."

Miller was one of a minority of riders – fifth-placed Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) was another – to use the soft Michelin rain tyre when the heavens opened, but the 28-year-old had an eye on the full race distance as he bided his time before the race was red-flagged.

"It took a long time for the tyres to come in for the first part of the wet race, but they started to come good and I'd managed to save the centre of the tyre a lot," he explained.

"As the race wore on and there was more water on the track, I started to come back more towards the guys at the front. I tried not to lose too much time, but also tried not to kill the tyre.

"Not the best day, but not the worst – I was happy enough that we finished the race, but I felt like there was (the chance of) a better result if we'd restarted it."

After a barren run where he'd scored just 19 points across the previous four events, Miller was back to his early-season form in Japan, KTM employing the carbon fibre chassis debuted by test rider Dani Pedrosa at the San Marino Grand Prix in September.

Miller held third place for the majority of Saturday's Sprint race in dry conditions before being demoted by world championship leader and former Ducati teammate Pecco Bagnaia in the closing stages, with fourth representing his best short-form result in the past seven weekends.

"Getting on the new bike … it made me feel like how I did when I finished Monday at the (post-race) test at Misano, so fingers crossed we can keep that going for the rest of the year because we clearly made a decent step," he said.

"We need to do more work in terms of electronics, but in terms of mechanical grip we found quite a bit, and that's definitely a positive."

Jack's Japanese Grand Prix by the numbers

  • Qualified: 3rd
  • Sprint (12 laps): 4th
  • Grand Prix (12 laps, red-flagged): 6th
  • Fastest lap: 1min 57.072secs (6th), lap 3
  • Points this event: 16
  • Points this season: 125 (9th in world championship)