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Island Insider: Miller’s ‘weird’ weekend of one-offs

Saturday, 21 October 2023

Having to come back to work the day after a Grand Prix? Wheeling a pram into the paddock? Whatever happens on Sunday, Jack Miller’s home event this year has certainly been a unique experience.

Want proof that this has been no ordinary Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix weekend for Jack Miller? On Friday, the brand-new dad grinned from ear to ear as he pushed a pram – not something you see every day in a MotoGP™ paddock – to work as his six-week-old daughter Pip dozed blissfully under her blanket, completely unaware of the audience spectating her slumber.

As it turned out, that was only the second-most unusual part of Miller’s weekend to date. On Saturday, Miller and his MotoGP™ peers did what they’d never done in 34 years of the Australian Grand Prix – they raced on a Saturday. That was always going to happen this year for the first time with the introduction of the half-distance sprint format at every event this season, but a Grand Prix distance for full points before Sunday? Now that, like Miller’s pram-pushing, was highly unusual.


The 28-year-old was certainly dressed for the occasion on Saturday – Miller raced with Australian flag-themed boots to go with a one-off helmet design that featured his new daughter’s name on the back, the ‘I’ in ‘Pip’ in the form of a ruby for his wife, Ruby.

Miller’s race started equally as strikingly – he scythed through from eighth on the grid to end the first lap in third place – but the final two corners of the lap continued to be a challenge as they had been all weekend thereafter, a lack of confidence in the front-end of his KTM seeing him have to control how hard he pushed through the final pair of turns that lead back onto Gardner Straight.

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Miller dropped to ninth with three laps left but fought gamely with what he had to repass Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and Gresini Ducati’s Alex Marquez in the final two tours to finish seventh, matching his results in Australia in 2017 and 2018.

“I would have wanted a little more, but that was what we had,” he said.

“I felt reasonably strong as I have all weekend in the middle part of the track, but the last sector especially in race trim I was trying to nurse the rear (tyre) coming out of (Turns) 11 and 12 but I was lacking a little bit of front-end support.

“I couldn’t let the bike roll through the corner as much as I’d like to, so I was slow in the corner and had to be slow on the way out to not smoke the rear tyre.

“I had a bit of fun there in that battle with Alex and Aleix there. It’s not where you want to finish your home Grand Prix, but it’s another solid result and we were able to fight at the very end. We can be pretty happy with the job.”

Normally, the hours after an Australian Grand Prix are a time for Miller to switch off, catch up with family and friends who make the pilgrimage to the Island – and more specifically, Miller Corner at Turn 4 – and exhale after what’s always a hectic week, having some me-time before flying out to the next stop on the ever-packed world championship calendar. On Saturday? There was telemetry to pore through, a debrief to undertake, and then maybe a nappy or two to change before saddling up again for the Sprint race on Sunday.

“It’s a weird feeling now, being a Saturday and the race is done and we’ve got to hang around,” Miller said.

“We’ve had the most beautiful stunning location for a motorcycle track the last three days, but the irony of that is that it can also turn to shit. Fingers crossed we all have been panicking too much and (the weather) does the typical Phillip Island thing, the opposite of what it says it’s going to do.”

A forecast that flips the script? Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but perhaps Miller was onto something. After all, most things about this weekend have had little adherence to convention. No matter how Sunday shakes out, this year’s Island visit will be one Miller will remember for reasons as well as and other than it being Pip’s first Grand Prix for years to come.