2017 will be Jack Miller’s third year in the MotoGP class. Life hasn’t been easy for the young Australian since he was “thrown” into the major class directly from Moto3 in something of an experiment. The learning curve has been steep, but as he has shown in this year’s preseason, he has assimilated the lessons learned. “The preseason so far has been really good for me. I’m happy with the progress we make every time we go out on the bike. We seem to get more and more confidence, more and more confortable on the bike, so I’m really happy. Also with my physical condition because I feel really strong on the bike.”
So you ready for the Qatar test?
Oh, yes, I feel really strong going into this test after two weeks of hard training at home.”
How has the decision about which engine Honda will finally choose this season affected you?
“We are just waiting to see which direction they’ll go. We were given our engine at the start of the year and it’s the one we’ve been using for testing. Basically we haven’t been focusing on the engine too much; we have just been working on the chassis and set up. We can’t complain because we didn’t have anything to try.”
So you are supposed to get this engine in Qatar in a few days.
“I hope so, that’s the plan anyway.”
“I feel very comfortable with the engine we’ve been using so far in the preseason, but all Honda riders have to follow what the factory team decides.”
After seeing [the engine] Marc and Dani have been trying, what do you expect?
“It doesn’t look so bad; it seems to be quite strong. It will be interesting. I’m look forward to get on it and give it a try… We will see”.
What kind of engine do you like? Peaky ones, smoother ones…
“I like smoother engines, like the one I’m running at the moment. It’s quite smooth. The big bang is very progressive; the power is nice and smooth at the bottom.”
I understand that this was the engine you chose to use in the Jerez test back in November, the one you wanted for this season.
“Exactly, and this is the one I am using.”
Is it possible that you might use a different engine than the one of the factory team? Could you, for example, keep the engine you are using now?
“No, all Honda riders have to follow what the factory team decides. It will come out off what Marc, Dani and Aoyama, the test rider, say. Cal’s opinion is also important in this decision; we will see.”
Let’s focus in the chassis you are using. It’s the one you chose in the Valencia test immediately after the last GP, right?
And what is the difference with the one you raced with before?
“It has a lot more front stability; I get some more feedback from the front tire, especially in corners where we don’t brake so much into. This was really a weak point for us before and the new chassis seems to gain a little bit more there. It’s helping to build my confidence more and more.”
“So far I haven’t had one crash in the preseason. The reason is the new chassis that gives me the front feeling I have been asking for over the last two years.”
What do you demand from yourself this season?
“I need to be inside the top ten every race; that’s my goal and that’s what we are working for. We’ll se. There are things I would like to do, but… We will see first how we go in Qatar.”
You are six days into preseason tests and have had no crashes. Is this because there is a new Miller or because you have a bike that doesn’t put you in critical situation?
“The change is the bike, of course. I am getting more and more comfortable with the front end. I complained the last two years about having a bad front feeling with the front tire. If you look at my Moto3 career, as soon as I got a bike that handled quite well I crashed six times in the whole season. I need a bike that I have a good feeling with, and then I can progress with that bike. But until I get that feeling… That’s what I have been working on this year. Step by step, every day we have gone faster. Every day I feel more comfortable. We need to keep working on it and not lose this confidence like I did the last two years.”
Honda is, or at least has been, the most reactive bike on the grid. A bike that forces the rider to constantly react to its actions. Is the Honda you are riding now more neutral in that sense? Can you push the bike now?
“No… I still think it’s one of the most physical bikes in the paddock. When I see what some other guys are doing on other manufacturer’s bikes, such as Yamaha… I feel worse for Tito. The other guys who have made the transition from Moto2 to MotoGP on to an easier bike, you can see how easy the transition was for them. Do you think any of them are faster than Tito? I don’t think so.”
What do you think when you see two rookies like Zarco or Folger doing so well in their first MotoGP preseason?
“I think it’s what we have spoken just about. If we go back to last years championship… Zarco, OK, but Folger… Folger is going really, really well and he is really strong, but I think in the last three years he hasn’t shown that he is better than Tito.”
“I feel bad for Tito; other guys who have made the transition from Moto2 to MotoGP on brands other than Honda are having an easier life…Or do you think Folger is a better rider than Tito?”
Asking your opinion about what you have seen at the tests regarding your rivals is a must. Maverick; Valentino apparently struggling…How do you see the field?
“I think it’s going to be a pretty close championship, especially between Maverick and Marc. Vale will be there for sure; I think we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He is just taking it easy throughout testing… Jorge… Ducati is normally pretty fast in Qatar…It will be interesting for him as well. I think that especially the first half of the season will be quite interesting.”
How is Losail for you?
“It’s not one of my favorite tracks, but I am looking forward to going there and seeing how my bike is working.”
Last one… Somehow, at the end of the day, the engine of a bike is a part of the chassis. Do you think it’s possible that the new engine you get from HRC can make the set up and chassis work done so far this preseason worthless?
“I wouldn’t say worthless because with the Honda you can take an engine from Nicky Hayden’s championship year and put it in the chassis we have now. In terms of flex and things like that it shouldn’t change the stiffness of our chassis… It all just depends on how the power curve is…that’s the key.”