Ducati Lenovo’s Jack Miller enjoyed a confident first showing at Austin on Friday after narrowly missing out on the top spot by just 0.015s.
Aware of paddock criticism surrounding the Circuit of the Americas current condition, with numerous bumps and poor surface condition bringing scathing disapproval from some MotoGP riders, the Borgo Panigale man was his usual laid back self on the subject.
“The bumps are there, bu they’re there for everybody so wasn’t too bad,” Miller said on Friday. “Bit slippery this morning in the wet but in some points, incredibly grippy in the wet - the new asphalt is really, really, really grippy in the wet. Like I was able to touch my elbow which I never thought would happen in the wet, so that was kind of cool. But then in some other points where it’s the old asphalt it’s literally like the opposite end of the Richter scale completely, it’s like ice.
“You really have to try and ride the track with your head,” he continued. “You got to give yourself some margin at some points and then you need to push in other points. It’s definitely not the easiest track but I think it adds a little bit of an element, another element I guess you could say. And yes the bumps are there, just trying to find the best way to go through them, how to manage them lap by lap, getting better but still not perfect. We need to continue to work at that, turn 10 is quite difficult, but I’m pretty happy with how the day is going.
“For sure it’s physically demanding but everyone knows it’s physically demanding around here. Too dangerous? I don’t think it’s dangerous, you just need to understand how to approach it. You need to approach it with some caution, for sure, like any other sort of condition of track - whether it be wet, dry, whatever, it’s different. For sure, it can’t continue like this, there needs to be something done but at this point we’re here. We’ll be racing.”
Turning his attention to his Desmosedici and the progress Ducati have made over the past two years, Miller was full of praise. The Australian having showcased a stand-out performance through the opening sector of the technical lap as he came close to matching ‘King of COTA’ Marc Marquez.
“Definitely the bike is a lot easier through there,” he said. “I like to put it down to what I did through there though, I found a few little, little tricks to get myself through there and I was really surprised. I got it perfect the last lap and I was like ‘wow!’ I went through and was like four-tenths under my best time through there and I was like ‘Ah that’s nice, that’s nice’.
“I was trying to use the soft front and it just wasn’t that great for the rest of the lap on the braking so I was just having to keep a bit of margin. I had a couple moments as you guys saw. But the bike is working really, really well, not only through the first sector but also sector four, the 16, 17, 18 - it’s phenomenal!
“On the maximum lean angle, elbow on the ground, on the gas and it’s still continuing, a nice, sharp arc. You’re able to keep both wheels relatively sort of neutral, and just the whole way through it feels fantastic. So for sure the bike has improved tenfold from when we were here last time.”
Returning to the track situation, Miller explained how he was dealing with the challenging surface.
“More than anything, I think a lot of it, especially these big sort of wallowy bumps, ones you need to try and absorb, you ride a lot more, let’s say on your feet, than normal. You use your feet to, I feel like, absorb and push the bike into the earth. I feel that definitely is one thing, and then also with the bike, here you need it to be firm as anything. Because at turn one and off the back straight, there’s a bump right in the braking zone there and honestly it feels like the folks are going to come through the triple clamp there when you grab the brakes. Honestly it feels, it’s a test on handlebar strength I think, that’s for certain. You definitely got to try and find that balance, and that’s what this track’s all about because it has a bit of everything.
“The worst point, like I said is turn 10, I still haven’t found a great way to go through there. I think once the wet patch is gone from the apex, I think it can be a little better, you’ll be asking a little less lean angle there and therefore bump absorption should be a little better.
“I think we need to do some more laps but with the weather, we’ll have to wait and see what actually happens,” he said when discussing tyre options for Sunday’s 20-lap race.
“For sure I don’t think the bumps will really effect it too much, it’s just, like for example at turn 10, you cannot really turn so then as soon as you get the bike sort of semi calm - speaking to Fabio he’s having to do the same thing, I think everybody’s having to do the same thing, as it’s pumping - and as soon as it sort of gets semi-calm and you’re in a decent spot, you sort of just go whack, get the thing to slide and that mellows it out completely. So, for sure that’s not great on tyre wear but I think I did 13 laps on the medium rear and hard front and I was still feeling pretty good. I think I did my best lap time then.
“The pace is going to be a little bit quicker as the weekend goes on, it looks as though the track had quite a bit of rubber on it, especially this morning and step by step getting cleaner and cleaner so I think it should get better as the weekend goes on.”