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Miller making strides, staying calm as MotoGP™ 2023 takes flight

Thursday, 23 March 2023

A change of address for the first time in six years to KTM and an ever-changing life off-track gives Jack Miller plenty of perspective ahead of his ninth MotoGP™ campaign.

Jack Miller isn't the hyperactive ball of impatient energy he once was when he was the new kid on the MotoGP™ block – after all, 2023 is his ninth MotoGP™ season – which is just as well. With age comes wisdom, experience and perspective, three traits the 28-year-old will likely need as he settles into life at KTM after spending the past five seasons on a Ducati.

Miller's multi-year deal with the Austrian manufacturer offers him the job stability he's always craved and felt he's deserved, but was never forthcoming until he changed employers. Married to Ruby a week ahead of last year's Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island, the pair are set to become parents later this year. With changes at home and work coming all at once, Miller is prepared to play the long game. Which is why he's adopting a patient approach as the 2023 MotoGP™ season kicks off with the Portuguese Grand Prix (March 26), the first instalment of a 21-race campaign that features Sprint Races at every Grand Prix weekend, not to mention visits in first-time MotoGP™ venues like Kazakhstan and India.


KTM largely spun its wheels – literally – in MotoGP™ testing in Malaysia and Portugal ahead of Sunday's 25-lap season-opener at the undulating Portimao circuit, with the Australian and South African teammate Brad Binder struggling with rear grip issues and rarely managing headline times as Ducati – particularly the one ridden by reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia – tore chunks out of circuit records at both tracks.

For now, Miller is content to focus on the small steps he's made to get accustomed to a new machine that lacks the ferocious straight-line grunt of the bikes he's ridden to three Grand Prix wins over the past two seasons, but one with untapped potential.

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"We are getting there, trying to understand, get comfortable with the bike and trying some different things to improve," Miller said after the Portugal pre-season test.

"It takes some time, but I think we're getting to a decent spot."

Asked to rate his adaptation to a new bike out of 10, Miller gave himself a "seven" so far.

"I feel very comfortable now, and (the last day of testing) was a big step in terms of comfort level on the bike," he explained.

"Once you get comfortable, that's when you can start to release the brakes a little bit earlier, carry more corner speed, start to take a little bit more risk. So, seven (out of 10) … but that's easy. Those last three numbers – that's the hardest part."

If pre-season testing is any indication, all five remaining manufacturers following Suzuki's departure – particularly Ducati and Aprilia and, to a lesser extent, Yamaha, Honda and KTM – have all moved the game on considerably since last year. The proliferation of aerodynamic devices on modern-day MotoGP™ machinery divides opinions aesthetically, but they've undeniably unlocked levels of performance than leave even experienced riders like Miller marvelling.

After only six days of riding his new machine, Miller was faster on the KTM in testing at Portimao than he was on a Ducati last year and two-tenths of a second off the circuit's pole record, but that left him in 17th place after testing, and under no illusions.

"I thought, 'a couple of tenths off the lap record, that's not too bad …' – the problem is, the other boys are now nearly eight-tenths under the lap record," he laughed.

"But anyway, we're getting there, and I think we'll be able to hopefully put it all together. There's some tidying up to be done in terms of electronics, just to get the thing a little bit more consistent over race distance, (but) I think we've got a decent base setting now."

Miller's MotoGP™ record in Portugal is stellar – he's never qualified outside of the top four in four visits and has second (2020) and third (2021) places on his CV – and while replicating that looks like a long shot in the short term, he's mindful that 2023 is – with those 21 extra Sprint Races – "a long old season".

KTM's ambition, resources and familiarity – Miller rode a KTM to the runner-up spot behind Alex Marquez for the 2014 Moto3 title before jumping to MotoGP™ the next year – have him optimistic things will turn for the better before long.

"Once we go racing, things change," he reasons.

"Racing is always different. I don't want to set a goal for the moment, we'll say top 10 at this point … to be inside the top 10 (in Portugal) with everyone doing testing and whatnot, I'd take that.

"It's early days, and I'm keeping positive."

Jack Miller in 2023: by the numbers

Age: 28

MotoGP season number: 9

MotoGP starts: 137

Wins: 4 (Netherlands 2016, Spain 2021, France 2021, Japan 2022)

Poles: 2 (Argentina 2018, San Marino 2022)

Podium finishes: 22

Fastest laps: 3

Best world championship finish: 4th, 2021