Jack Miller praised his engineers for remaining ‘open minded’ enough to commit in the direction of development he’s been chasing since joining KTM as he rewarded the team with a scintillating lap record-breaking effort on the first day of the 2023 MotoGP opener in Portugal.
After five seasons racing Ducati machinery, Miller begins a new era with the factory Red Bull KTM Factory team for 2023 this weekend, a switch that has been keenly observed ahead of the Portuguese MotoGP curtain raiser.
With conclusions proving difficult to draw following pre-season testing, Miller certainly wasn’t tipped as the man to come out on top during Friday’s Practice sessions having spent much of the day - like his KTM/GasGas stablemates - well outside the top ten.
However, a superb time attack of 1’37.709s - fuelled especially by a rapid final sector time - with just over a minute to go launched him up the order to displace Maverick Vinales from the top of the timesheets.
It was enough to ensure a memorable end to a memorable week following the news that Miller and his wife Ruby are expecting their first child.
Even so, if most were taken aback to see the Australian on top, the man himself was less surprised, suggesting he knew he had a fast time in him.
“When the red flag came out, I was on a decent lap already and under in sector two, so I took a decent chunk of confidence from that,” he said.
“On the new rear we took the maximum out of it. [Exiting corners] has probably been my Achilles heel in the test, but we were able to make some changes on the bike and the soft rear helped eliminate some of the problems I was having. Also, having Enea [Bastianini] in front is a decent rabbit to chase after.”
Though the KTM RC16 has proven quick enough to win races in recent seasons, it is yet to blossom into a consistent podium contender, while many have commented that it is not the easiest bike to get comfortable on.
Nevertheless, though Miller has been transitioning from last year’s title-winning Ducati bike, he was full of praise for the RC16’s feedback, while he complimented engineers for committing to his direction of development to get the best from it.
“The bike is now in a place geometry wise where I am pretty happy and electronically the engineers have worked really hard since Valencia to grant me my wishes and work in the direction I’m chasing.
“They have done a fantastic job, it hasn’t been easy, so I am really thankful to those guys for being so open-minded.
“We will try to keep this rolling, I’m really happy with how the bike is feeling, it gives me the confidence to push harder. The KTM has some amazing strengths, I am getting a lot of feedback from the front tyre.
“I have been having a lot of moments, thankfully they are just moments, the bike is very user-friendly and gives me a warning for when I am overstepping the limit.”