Jack Miller came into the tenth race of his rookie MotoGP campaign at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday with a spring in his step, but left the United States with a furrowed brow and a sense of disappointment. The Australian was the only retirement in the race won by Honda’s reigning world champion Marc Marquez, crashing on lap eight while running inside the points in 15th place.
Marquez beat Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) after a tense race-long battle between the two Spaniards in front of an enthralled crowd of 67,648, with Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi finishing third to maintain his championship lead.
Miller started from a season-best 16th after a terrific qualifying lap on Saturday, where he finished within 0.3 seconds of a maiden appearance in Q2.
“It’s the most comfortable I’ve felt on the bike for a long time,” he said after qualifying.
“The target is to try to be the top Open (class finisher). It’s a reasonable goal, and I think we can do it. If we can get inside the top 10, I’d be really happy.”
As is his custom, Miller made a brilliant getaway when the lights went out at ‘The Brickyard’ on Sunday, jumping to 12th after lap one, and bringing his total of positions gained on the opening lap of races this year to an even 50. But a lurid moment in the fast section of left-handers towards the end of the 16-corner layout on lap three saw him drop half a second and fall to 13th, and Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso relegated him to 15th on the next lap.
Miller was still the leading Open-class runner on lap eight when he went down at the left-handed Turn 6, the first time he’d been off track all weekend in what had been an impressive start to the second half of his first MotoGP season.
We caught up with Jack after the race.
Q: Tough one today after such a good start?
JM: Yeah, definitely. The bike was great until the third lap, when I lost all grip on the left side of the rear tyre. I had a big old high-side moment in corner 13, and that’s how (Ducati’s) Yonny (Hernandez) passed me. After that I went down on the power, but it still wasn’t enough because the bike was still really loose.
Q: That early near high-side gave you a warning of what might happen?
JM: I got sense of what was coming – I was just trying to manage it and drop the power as best as I can, but coming into the corners, I was just sliding, sliding, sliding. Then it went straight at corner six, overloaded the front and I went down, lost it on the left-hand side.
Q: Any indication during practice and qualifying that you’d have that issue?
JM: No, there was no sign of that happening all weekend before today, so it was a bit of a shock to us and we’ve got to look at it. Bridgestone are cutting the tyre to have a look what was going on with that, so we’ll see what happens.
Q: You made up four places on the first lap off the start again, which you must be pleased about?
JM: Yeah, the start was good, the first three laps actually. I stuck onto the back of (teammate) Cal (Crutchlow) and it was working really well, the bike was going really good. So, definitely disappointed, and we just have to work on it and get the consistency up so we don’t have problems like this in the future.
Q: After a frustrating one like this, it’s good that the next race is just a week away in the Czech Republic. What are your feelings for that?
JM: Brno is another good track for me, definitely one that I like. So after this one I’m looking forward to getting there.
Moto2: West breaks drought
Of the other Australians in action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, Ant West finished 13th in a brilliant Moto2 race won by first-time victor Alex Rins (Spain), West scoring his first points for five races.
The veteran Australian made the most of a decisive first lap, where he rose from 23rd on the grid to 14th as the field tiptoed around a circuit soaked by rain in the preceding Moto3 race.
West was passed by German Grand Prix winner Xavier Simeon (Belgium) on lap two and dropped to 15th, and the Speed Up rider hovered around the back-end of the points-paying positions for much of the race, moving to 13th on the final lap when Malaysian rider Hafizh Syahrin crashed out.
The 34-year-old stayed in 19th place in the world championship standings after his fifth points finish in 10 races this year.
Moto3: Season-best for Gardner
In a chaotic Moto3 race, Remy Gardner had the best result of his first full-time world championship campaign with 17th, which came from an equal season-best 17th on the grid.
Rain before the race saw most riders start on wet tyres, but as the track rapidly dried, the riders who had gambled on dry rubber came to the fore. The podium of race-winner Livio Loi from Belgium (who started 26th), second-placed Scotsman John McPhee (who started from pit lane after changing tyres following the warm-up lap) and third-placed German Philipp Oetll (who started last) all guessed right by running with slicks from the start, and all three finished on a Grand Prix rostrum for the first time.
Gardner ran as high as seventh on lap three as riders ahead of him pitted, and emerged in 12th after his own tyre change after lap four.
“The first couple of laps I did I did quite well and was passing lots of people, but I think I came in for slicks one lap too late,” Gardner admitted.
Faster riders who had pitted earlier picked him off in the latter stages, and the 17-year-old Mahindra rider finished a lap down and 12 seconds from the final points-paying position of 15th.
“I would have liked to have a proper dry race, as I really feel I could have been in the points today – the pace had been pretty good all weekend,” he said.