Jack Miller was on for a Portimao pole position until his Ducati Lenovo teammate denied him in the closing stages of Saturday afternoon.
Miller completed the Algarve qualifying in second, with a lap under the previous record, to join Pecco Bagnaia in the front row celebrations. The Australian is feeling confident after another strong weekend of preparations, and hoping to convert that in Sunday’s 25-lap race.
“Much like it was in Misano, I’ve had a great weekend,” Miller confirmed on Saturday afternoon. “Great Friday, great Saturday, so fingers crossed we can turn it into a great Sunday this week.
“As Pecco said, I too will not be putting the hard front in! I think we’ve got our tyres pretty well planned out. The engineers will be looking at it more but in general, feeling really good.
“I was struggling quite a bit up until FP4 in the last sector and then Pecco and my new riding coach [Casey Stoner] sort of give us some tips and was able to actually find a decent line through there so yeah, massive thank you to him. I feel good in terms of the pace so we just have to wait and see what tomorrow will bring. I’m having fun here in Portugal, last couple of races, the pressure is all off, all that sort of stuff’s gone. We just get to race our motorbikes now, so it’s heaps of fun.
“It’s a MotoGP race, so there’s a lot of variables that go into that but nonetheless, I feel like we’ve done our homework over the weekend - as we had done in the past Grand Prix - but we’ve been a little unlucky or made some mistakes of our own so we know what we need to improve. We know what we’re capable of. We’ve done it a couple of times this year so definitely would like to try and get back to that form, finish the season off strong will always be nice. Going into the Christmas break with a couple of podiums is lovely, if not a race win, will be fantastic!”
Miller’s ‘new riding coach’ has a stellar pedigree, in the form of two MotoGP World Championships, amongst his legendary status both within the paddock and the Ducati family. With some touting the idea that it should become a permanent fixture for 2022.
“It’s fantastic having Casey at the last two Grand Prix,” the Australian said. “He’s got a family and lives on the other side of the world so the idea of that working out I think could be too hard, logistically, but definitely I’d be all for it 100%,” he admitted.
“It is really nice, I’ve worked with spotters on track and he’s not a normal spotter, let’s say that. Casey Stoner, a legend, one of the best to ever do it but I think it is something we’re missing in our programme and I think it is something that we definitely need to look at maybe introducing into the programme. Not saying that we can get Casey, although more than happy to have him but somebody.
“Casey’s very methodical and very precise with how he explains things so that definitely is a good way of putting it across. He gets his point across, it’s not in any way shape or form rude or anything like that, it is very straight, you know what he’s talking about, it’s clear and definitely he knows what he’s talking about! He’s a rider and he understands, and he also understands for example when you get a line or something like that in your head that you feel is fast and maybe the track’s developed to a different point and you, as a rider you almost sometimes get a little bit of tunnel vision. He can understand that and I think he helped to explain what the other guys were doing in certain points of the track and it was good.
“On paper you probably wouldn’t chalk this down as a fantastic Ducati track but that’s talking about the old Ducati, I think, more than anything. I feel like especially the GP21 and the GP20, both worked really well here. It’s the evolution of the bike and the way that the bike behaves. I don’t think the areo [makes a difference], especially because a lot of the ups and downs, okay the one on the front straight but I think if you look at every bike go over there, they all sort of react in the same way. But most of the other ups and downs aren’t really fast enough for the aero to really do anything.
“Don’t get me wrong, today in the wind was not fantastic, that’s definitely one of our weaker points still, but we’re still able to find a way around that and I think the package of the bike itself is a great base and we’re able to understand and work around it. I think it’s just coming down to the evolution of the bike, I feel like we’ve said this a lot throughout this season but a lot of the older cliches that were with the Ducati, I don’t think apply to the modern Ducati - the GP20 and GP21 - because the bike is a bike that works pretty much all round.
“There’s still the exception of a couple tracks but one of us is always able to make it work so I think it’s the way you adapt and approach the tracks. We’ve shown on numerous occasions this year pretty much in most tracks that we’re able to go fast so I don’t think we really had that cliche anymore, of the bike not turning or whatever, because it does turn quite well now and it’s getting better and better. We also swing off it, it’s not too bad here, that’s what you need to do. It’s not a track that you can hit the same line every lap, you’ve got to manage the wheelie, you got to manage the shaking and everything, so it’s a track you need to ride with a lot more feeling than at other tracks.”