Jack Miller felt Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix revealed how much “homework” KTM need to do to be able to consistently fight with Ducati at the front of the MotoGP™ field, after a race where he didn’t do “anything silly” resulted in an eighth-place result.
The Australian used a brilliant start to gain four places on the opening lap of Sunday’s 20-lap race, and had his sights set on chasing front-running riders Enea Bastianini, Alex Marquez and Pecco Bagnaia before realising the Ducati trio had a race pace that was impossible to replicate in the baking-hot track conditions at Sepang.
While Miller’s early fight was with Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi for fifth, his late-race task was keeping Yamaha duo Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli behind him, the Italian finally demoting Miller to eighth on the second-last lap of the race.
“It wasn’t my best race or my worst race … I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong and rode a pretty solid race, the pace was half-decent. But I finished 19 seconds from first, so clearly we’ve got a bit of homework to do,” Miller said.
“I didn’t have any real issues in the race, didn’t nearly run off or do anything silly that lost me any real chunks of time, so that was just our outright pace.”
After Miller’s teammate Brad Binder came within a tenth of a second of the win last time out in Thailand, Malaysia was an unwelcome reality check for the Austrian manufacturer and its four entries across the KTM and GasGas teams. Binder qualified the best of the quartet in seventh but crashed out while behind Miller on lap 12, while Augusto Fernandez (14th) and Pol Espargaro (15th) just managed to scrape into the points, both Spaniards nearly half a minute adrift of race-winner Bastianini.
“Those boys at the front could pretty much run Sprint race pace the whole Grand Prix race, so we’re scratching our heads a little bit being 19 seconds back in a 20-lap race, nearly a second a lap,” he said.
“Those boys at the front were moving – I tried to go at the beginning with them and had ‘Bez’ in front of me and was eyeing up a move on him, but couldn’t get close enough to even attempt anything.
“I was stuck at that pace, and as the race wore on I got the front-end too hot and dropped off him, and was trying to manage. At the end of the race the Yamahas came past, I tried to do what I could to keep them at bay, but they had plenty of grip towards the end of the race. They managed the tyres really well, and I wasn’t able to fight.”
Despite the deficit to Ducati, Malaysia at least represented progress for Miller after a tumultuous outing in Thailand, where he failed to score in either the Sprint or Grand Prix proper.
“It’s a bit further back than we wanted, but a solid weekend,” he said.
“The steps that we made on the bike and the feeling I had with the bike was good, and I was running in the (1min) 59s in the beginning and then stayed in the two-minute range, which in any other year would be half-decent around here.
“Unfortunately today, we were missing around a second a lap to the three at the front.”
Jack's Malaysian Grand Prix by the numbers
- Qualified: 10th
- Sprint (10 laps): 6th
- Grand Prix (20 laps): 8th
- Fastest lap: 1min 59.684secs (8th), lap 2
- Points this event: 12
- Points this season: 156 (10th in world championship)