Jack Miller: from dirt demon to MotoGP™ star

There's no doubt that Jack Miller's victory in this year's Assen MotoGP round will go down as one of the most well received in recent memory, as the laconic but fiercely competitive Townsvillian aqua planed his way to success over two-time world champion Marc Marquez.

His breakthrough win probably came earlier than expected by himself and seasoned pundits alike – the dire conditions were definitely to his liking – but it wasn't only the swashbuckling on-track fireworks that completed a memorable day for the 21-year-old.

He also maintained the vaudeville in the post-race press conference and had Marquez in stitches, and then retired to his team's hospitality unit – at the circuit, no private jet straight back to a tax haven – to assist in the allocation of celebratory beverages.

All very 1980s race-hard-and-play-hard type of stuff, but very refreshing in so many ways as the Aussie injected some real personality back into the MotoGP paddock.

However, it was never going to be a 'permanent' arrangement in the fact that Miller is still a little off the pace in dry conditions to challenge for regular MotoGP podiums, but it did give us a glimpse into what may be a staple in future seasons – and we liked what we saw.

And many people believe Miller has got what it takes, including Australia's five-time 500cc GP world champion Mick Doohan – like Miller a proud Queenslander. In a recent column for News Limited outlets, Doohan said that given the right machinery and a bit of luck, Jack could certainly be our next world champion.

Jack Miller and Mick Doohan at the 2016 British Motorcycle Grand Prix

"Jack clearly wants to win, and that's all you need in a racer," Doohan was quoted as saying. "There's not too much more he really has to do to improve, as he's already showing that he's capable of competing with the big guns."

While Doohan followed a 250cc production and superbike path to make it to the premier class of road racing, Miller was much more Casey Stoner-esque with his approach as he moved into 125cc GP racing after making the switch from dirt track racing – a discipline which saw him win an Aussie junior title in 2005.

With the support of his parents Peter and Sonya, Miller first made the move to Europe in 2010, dabbling in the ultra-competitive Spanish CEV scene and then in 2011 he added the German IDM tile as a full-time fixture as well.

Miller actually won the IDM series in 2011, which was a spectacular rookie performance. He also made some world championship appearances as well, including Australia, so his name was quickly gathering currency.

The Caretta Technology Honda team was the one to kickstart his full-time light-weight career in 2012, the same year the class made the big switch from 125cc two-stroke engines to 250cc four-strokes.

Miller's first season was, as expected, a hard slog, and by the time the Phillip Island race was run late in the season it wasn't he who looked like the next big thing for Australia – it was instead his Spanish house mate Arthur Sissis, who finished third in the Moto3 race.

At one stage it looked like Miller would be on the Moto3 scrap heap, but some back-room manouvering saw him retained by Caretta. He rewarded the team by finishing seventh overall in the 2013 championship on a Honda that was clearly down on top speed compared to the KTMs in particular.

Aki Ajo, who runs the KTM factory squad in Moto3 and has become something of a mentor, saw the potential and Miller was snapped up in 2014 to ride for him, and fell only two agonising points from winning the championship after scoring six wins in a breakout season. His hard-charging win in Australia was the highlight. Alex Marquez, the younger brother of Marc, won the title.

Jack Miller in Moto3 at the 2014 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

That dashing season was the major reason Miller bypassed the traditional Moto2 route to MotoGP and took a quantum leap straight to the top, the first Aussie to do so since Garry 'Mr Squiggle' McCoy in 1998.

On an Open class Honda, Miller finished 19th in the 2015 championship including a season-best 11th at Catalunya. He was also the leading Open-class runner in Argentina and Australia.

In 2016 he shifted from LCR Honda to Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS, but this time on a satellite factory RC213V – and ironically with the same operation which had offered him a Moto2 ride that he eventually rejected to go straight to MotoGP.

Injuries have set him back in both the pre and regular season, first via a broken leg sustained in a motocross crash and then after a heavy fall at Sachsenring in practice.

His Assen success is the obvious standout as he sliced through the field from the get-go – which has mostly been his caper in the dry as well, but this time he was picking off riders with even more regularity.

In a two-part event, he led over the line for the final nine laps, his victory the first by an Australian since Stoner cleaned up at Phillip Island in 2012. He also became the first rider on a non-factory bike to win a race since Toni Elias in Portugal a decade ago.

“I don’t often say this but I’m lost for words," said Miller post-race. "I feel incredibly emotional right now and it is hard to describe the sensation of winning for the first time in MotoGP. I felt confident and fast in the first part of the race but it was the right call to red flag it because the conditions were getting pretty dangerous.

Jack Miller celebrating on the podium at the 2016 Dutch Motorcycle Grand Prix

"The track was really slippery for part two as well but I immediately felt comfortable. I could see a few riders making mistakes but I just kept my focus and concentrated on being fast and consistent without taking any silly risks.

"Once I passed Marc I just tried to block out the fact that I was heading for my first win and keep a clear mind. Coming out of the final chicane and seeing the chequered flag was just an unbelievable feeling.

"My family and I have made a lot of sacrifices to make today happen and it feels amazing. I can’t thank Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS enough. They have given me incredible support and never stopped believing in me.

"I must also thank Honda and their management for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to show what I can do at this level. It might take a while to sink in but I am going to enjoy tonight that’s for sure!”

And he didn’t disappoint on that front!

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