Miller returns home in stunning style
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller made a heroic return to MotoGP action today, with the Australian treating a windswept home crowd to two outstanding performances in practice at Phillip Island.
Back in action just three weeks after breaking his right leg in a training accident, Miller’s reward for going through an intensive rehabilitation was an electrifying start to his crucial home race.
A faultless lap of 1’29.724 placed Miller in a terrific third place in FP1 this morning, which was only 0.122s behind the best time set by current World Championship leader Marc Marquez.
Boosted by his confident ride this morning, and with no severe pain or lack of movement restricting him on his Honda RC213V machine, Miller capitalised on his strong start with an equally impressive ride in demanding conditions for this afternoon’s second 45-minute session.
Although ambient temperature for FP2 was slightly cooler than this morning, track temperature on the jaw-dropping 4.4km circuit was marginally warmer. Aware that cooler conditions and potentially wet conditions predicted for FP3 might prevent lap times being improved tomorrow when crucial places are at stake for Q2, Miller left nothing to chance and he fired in a lap of 1’29.466 to secure a richly deserved top six.
Today’s action took part in dry but windy and chilly conditions and Tito Rabat found it more complicated than he’d anticipated to establish a fast and constant rhythm.
The Spaniard didn’t let a rapid front-end tumble in the tricky downhill braking zone for turn 10 knock his confidence and Rabat was able to slash a full second off his best pace in the second session.
A personal best of 1’30.546 placed him 19th overall in a session that saw the top 21 split by just 1.5s.
Jack Miller: 6th – 1’29.466
“In terms of my physical condition I don’t feel too bad on the bike once the adrenaline kicks in. As you can imagine I’m still missing a bit of strength because at this track there are so many high-speed corners that it can be hard work to change direction. I don’t feel as quick in that area as normal but I’ve had good speed all day and been happy with my pace. Third this morning was a great early boost and I knew it was important to be fast again this afternoon because we don’t know if the lap times can be better in FP3, so one big goal today was to get into the top 10. I love this track and I love the atmosphere and it’s great to see so many fans coming out to support me.”
Tito Rabat: 19th – 1’30.546
“Today has not been the easiest start even if the pace this morning was very fast very quickly. I didn’t change tyres at all in FP1 and I was able to set a pace I felt comfortable at. I did a lot of laps as well in FP2 and if I didn’t crash at turn 10 I think we could say the day was positive. I’m only 1.3s from the best pace at the top and I feel I’m riding with a lot of problems. If we can make the bike easier to manage than I think we can be even more competitive for the rest of the weekend. I need to be able to turn the bike with a little bit more speed when I release the brake and pick up the throttle.”
Ramon Aurin: Jack Miller Chief Engineer
“We have to be very happy with Jack’s performance today. We were a little bit worried before we started this morning wondering how Jack’s leg would be on such a demanding circuit like Phillip Island. But right from the start in FP1 he felt good and we achieved our main mission to get into the top 10. It looks like tomorrow could be unpredictable with the weather, so it was very important to make sure we could try and get into Q2 this afternoon. Jack was strong on the medium rear tyre this morning and that’s a good sign for the race. He also made a good step with the soft rear tyre but it looks like the predicted rain will make it very difficult to set a faster lap time tomorrow, so we have to be very satisfied with how we approached the job today.”