Portimao MotoGP: Jack Miller: ‘Heaps of fun, full contact sport, heart rate 190’ | MotoGP

While the Australian had proved his Friday form was no fluke by qualifying a strong fifth, the 12-lap sprint seemed to be another matter.

But after losing ground on the first lap, Miller rolled up his sleeves and set the fastest lap of the race before pushing past Miguel Oliveira, Marc Marquez, former Ducati teammate Francesco Bagnaia and race director Jorge Martin.

A dream win was on the cards but his rivals retaliated and Miller was back where he started, fifth when the penultimate lap started. Miller then gained a place when Oliveira ran too far, crossing the line less than 0.1 seconds from Marquez and a podium.

“Lots of fun. A full contact sport out there. I really enjoyed it,” Miller said. “I didn’t really know what to expect given the race distance and the fact that everyone was on the soft tyres, if anyone was going to go easy on the tires or what the plan would be. My plan was to go flat out and see what would happen!

“I didn’t have the best starts. To be honest I couldn’t really hear my RPMs with the other bikes nearby. I released the clutch a little too quickly, cut the revs and got choked up. But I was able to fight my way through it and it was a lot of fun.

“With this bike I’m confident now, on the final day of testing and from there to Friday and Saturday here we were able to find even more confidence in the front. Even if I threw it in Q2, it was just my own fault.

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“You will have seen in this race that I could charge forward and make overtakes when I could. The bike has great grip, even with the soft-soft tire combo—generally the KTM never uses the soft front, and we made it work for the 12-lapper.

“Okay, towards the end I was missing something, mainly in the frontend. But definitely I was able to drive a decent corner speed through 4. There was a lot of fun. The pulse was 190 the whole time.

“With a lot of wind and the bikes overtaking you in T1, you had to stay eight feet from the curb as the wind coming from the front of the bike would blow you at least two meters wide. It was pretty impressive.

“The guys kept it clean. It was a good race. I think we enjoyed it as much as you guys.”

“95% of people on the internet thought it sucked”

Miller admitted that prior to this weekend, “95% of people on the internet thought it was going to suck” after spending a winter at the bottom end of the timesheets on the KTM.

So what was behind this weekend’s transformation?

“Nothing. Testing is testing. Racing is racing. That’s what we’re here for: I’m here to be a racer. I won’t go and risk life and limb if we have a race ten days later.”

But there were also improvements in the electronics and the engine brake.

“The biggest thing was definitely the electronics,” he said. “I essentially hopped on this bike in Valencia and could have ridden this bike with an on/off switch for a throttle instead of a throttle on a tube because you couldn’t use the throttle like it was supposed to. And now we can ride the bike more like a regular bike.

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“In terms of engine braking… I don’t know if you can see with the KTM, but the thing is so (sideways) cornering. They were able to give me the glide performance but with the deceleration like a bike dead straight. It doesn’t lock or slide, so it’s good.”

Miller also appeared capable of fighting the Ducatis on the straight, which he credited to the drive grip.

“I think today was not a clear understanding of the absolute speed because we had a 15km/h headwind. When we were able to ride well, which I was able to do because the bike had incredible momentum through the last corner, I went onto the straight with a lot of speed. In addition to a lot of slipstreaming, I was also able to overtake that.

“But if you put the two bikes side by side, I know which one would come out on top. I wouldn’t be. But we took a big step in the right direction in terms of rideability, the bike had incredible rear grip. Not only that, I really punished the rear tire and it was able to stay with me for all 12 laps.”

Nonetheless, Sunday’s 25-round Main Event will be a leap into the unknown for Miller.

“I haven’t done a racing sim with this thing, so let’s see!” smiled the Australian.

Teammate Brad Binder, who was struggling with neck pain after his testing accident, was the second-best RC16 rider in 12th.

“Great to see!” he said of Miller’s form. “I’m really happy for Jack and it’s great to see him fighting up front because that was our goal and we’ve made the steps we need. I look forward to accompanying him up there soon.”

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