Ducati’s Jack Miller backed up his Jerez victory with successive celebrations at Le Mans after dispatching the demanding flag-to-flag FrenchGP in dominant style.
The delighted Australian couldn’t quite believe the turn of events as the dust settled on his second win in as many weeks. “Someone needs to pinch me, I think I’m dreaming” he said before beginning to reflect on the day’s battle.
“Honestly, I had dry conditions, wet conditions, dirt conditions there for a bit!” Miller explained.
“The wind played a big factor in that one as well, but it was a long race that’s for certain. I thought ‘we’ll be right, it’s going to be dry here’ and then as soon as Maverick pretty much got in front of me it started drizzling a bit. Then I was just getting attacked by these Monster Energy Yamaha’s.
“On the back-straight it was like a wall, we just basically rode into a wall of rain. Fabio’s bike was all over the place going in to the first chicane and then I went into the second one, I was just trying to stop the thing and locked both tyres and I basically aimed for the gravel, went in there and just tried to stop it and get it turned.
“The double long lap penalty afterwards, I didn’t really believe it at the time, I thought, ’what did I do wrong?’ but the old French speed traps get me all the time, to be honest” he joked.
“It was a bit dodgy, I hadn’t even looked at the long lap penalty all weekend. First time I went in there I saw the asphalt looked like the old stuff and thought it might be a little slippy. I got practice at that at least, so the second one was a bit quicker and I didn’t lose too much to him and was able to recover and then just rode around at the front by myself.
“The good thing here in Le Mans is, turn eight as I was exiting, I could see, Johann, for example, coming towards Fabio and also in the last corner I could see how Johann was as opposed to me, I could see where he was on the track and I could see him coming. I was able to manage the gap, my last couple of laps I just wound down the traction control. It was kind of touch and go there if we needed to pit again or not but with how long this pit lane is, I think it was out of the question with like seven laps to go so I just brought it home.”
Reflecting on the bike swap as the heavy rain hit, the Australian admitted “I came out of pit lane and I saw Rins, as soon as he put the angle on the right hand side, tucked the front so I was definitely going steady through that corner. Then I rode out and it was Marc leading and Fabio second and I thought ‘Oh, I’m on for a podium here at least’ because I’d already hopped on my other bike and could see all the other bikes coming in, the whole flood of them, all together, coming into change. So I knew I had a decent gap, and then I was able to start working towards them. I was even catching Marc and Fabio. Then with the long lap I thought ‘that’s it, I’m done’. I actually didn’t believe it for the first two laps, [reading the pitboard] I was like, ‘that can’t be right, they’ve got the wrong number up’ but it was true.
“I was able to go out and feel comfortable immediately having the soft rear, because there was quite a bit of water. At the end I just rode to the conditions and where I was on the track. I rode to Johann’s pace or Fabio’s pace when he was there. I was just ‘okay I can push a little bit more’. I think four laps to go, I finally started using the powerful map and I was able to drop my lap time by at least a second and a bit. I had the luxury of being out in front, so I was able to just keep calm, and just try to stay on the bike.
“When the bike is moving, I feel like I’m able to take the grip and understand it more or less, to a degree. If that’s coming from a motocross background or whatever, I don’t know. Immediately the first time I rode a road bike in the wet was in the Australian championship, but I was fast, it’s just something that sort of comes natural, but it’s also something you have to work on I think as well. When I say work on, it’s not like I go to a track and practice in the wet, I just mean over the race weekend if it’s wet, okay, I will ride. I’m lucky but also I think the characteristics of the bikes I’ve ridden in the past, the Ducati and Honda, have been quite good in the wet.
“A win in MotoGP feels fantastic. This flag-to-flag, I don’t want to say it’s the most stressful, because last week in Jerez was pretty stressful, being at the front there and getting chased down by Pecco and Franky, but this feels different. I don’t feel physically exhausted but you feel a little bit mentally exhausted, because the mental focus it takes and also the feeling, just to try and predict what weather or what conditions you’re going to arrive at, at the next corner, has been the hardest thing today, so it’s more like a mentally draining race. It adds a cool element to our sport, though which is kind of nice.
“I don’t enjoy it at the time because there’s so much going through your head. Also at the end there, ‘do I come in and change back to the slick bike or do I just stay on the wet’ it’s stressful especially when you’re out front, but at the end of the day it’s an awesome feeling when you come over the line with a win like that, it’s fantastic. So I think it’s a necessary evil, it’s way better than red flagging it, going to sit in the box, and then start again.”
Discussing the potential of his Desmosedici going forward, along with the dominance of his fellow Ducati riders - with Zarco joining him on the podium in France, Bagnaia in Jerez, alongside their successes in Qatar and Portugal - Miller was positive about the season ahead and the upcoming visit to the Bologna factory’s test track at Mugello.
“I think this is the best Ducati so far for sure” he confirmed. “They’re finally getting the fruits of their labour. They’ve been working their butts off for a lot of years now to get this thing to where it is and it shows. For me they’re the hardest working manufacturer there is and I’m super happy for them and super proud to be working for them and be able to give them these results. After how much work goes in, with the engineers, Gigi, all the other boys, I mean there’s so many of them there and they all work tirelessly for us so we’re extremely lucky to have them, and super fortunate to be able to give these results back,
“I had my first win five years ago and then I had to wait, but I feel like I’ve broken the drought or at least I’m not thinking so much in my head at the moment. We just have two races and okay today was tricky conditions, but I was able to capitalise on it, and we will see next week. I’m the only [Ducati winner] at the moment but like you say the first one is the hardest but I’m sure Pecco will get his first one, he shows us here, great speed and I think Johann also the same, he had great speed. [We’ve only had] five races, there’s not been much chance, the Yamaha’s won the first three, and I’ve won the last two so it’s not been easy, no one’s really had a chance yet!”