Jack Miller doesn't lack ambition – no MotoGP™ rider with aspirations of sustained success on the international stage does – but six minutes into his home Grand Prix at Phillip Island last year, the Australian rider's head was spinning.
Leading races in the top flight was nothing new for Miller, of course; the Australian memorably won the Dutch TT at Assen in 2016 for Marc VDS Honda on a day where teeming rain brought the Townsville product's renowned wet-weather skills to the fore. But in dry conditions, on a second-string Honda and leaving the likes of Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi in his wake just two corners into his home race? It was a situation so far off Miller's radar that he hadn't contemplated his next move.
For four glorious laps, Miller's number 43 sat atop the leader board as the field scythed around Phillip Island's sweeping curves, the Australian an unexpected interloper in the title fight between Honda's Marquez and Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso.
Twelve months on, Miller still recalls those opening 366 seconds of his race with a huge grin. "To lead the first few laps of my home Grand Prix … it was fun, nerve-wracking as hell, but the most amazing feeling," he says.
"I was thinking 'is this really happening?' Being in the lead felt like forever. I got a decent start, and then Marc ran wide and opened the door for me, so I pushed through. I thought there was no better place to be on the first lap than first, especially into (Turn 4) with all of the others behind me. I had a really good opening couple of laps and was able to pull a gap on the other guys. But I might have got a bit carried away."
"I'd like to lead again too. Maybe for a little bit longer this time."
That next time comes in a little over a week's time at the Island, where Miller will make his Ducati debut at the circuit – top speeds on the downhill chute towards Turn 1 will be north of 340 km/h. His Ducati Desmosedici is renowned as being one of the fastest bikes in a straight line.
Ducati hasn't won at the Island since the fourth victory of Casey Stoner's six-year unbeaten run in 2010, with Honda riders Marquez and Cal Crutchlow (2016) taking the past three wins in Australia. Marquez's form this season and his affinity with the Australian circuit will have him installed as favourite for the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2018, but Miller's recent home record should have him confident of a strong result.
Fifth on the grid at home for the past two years, his best qualifying results until he snared pole in Argentina at the beginning of the 2018 season, show he has one-lap pace to burn.
Miller has a perfect MotoGP™ points-scoring record in Australia, and, with four races remaining is on track for a career-best season with Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Valencia to come.
"I had some strong results in this part of the championship last year, definitely in Australia and Malaysia, so the top 10 is still reachable for me, the pressure and attention and all of that can get to some people with their home race, but it's my favourite one of the year. The track is one thing, but the fans, the people, all the faces you know … the atmosphere is my favourite. It always seems to go too fast when you're there. But I love that race so much, so can't wait to get down there and have a crack at it again.
"I'd like to lead (the race) again too. Maybe for a little bit longer this time."