March 3, 2024
Jack Miller: KTM MotoGP debut ‘left me intrigued’, eager to unleash the RC16 | MotoGP

The Australian, a race winner for both Honda and Ducati, finished the day in 17th place but was within 0.8s of fastest rider Luca Marini (VR46 Ducati) and 0.4s from the top KTM of team-mate Brad Binder.

Miller wasn’t allowed to speak openly about his new bike at the time.

But with his Ducati contract now expired, this is how the 28-year-old described his first impressions of the KTM ahead of his debut in full Red Bull MotoGP colours at Sepang later this month.

“That one day [Valencia] test showed me a lot. I understood a lot more than I thought I would,” Miller said. “I was able to get pretty comfortable relatively quickly and make it feel a bit like second nature.

“You do hear stories [about what the KTM is like] but my biggest mindset was that it’s me riding the bike. I’m not listening to what’s being said outside. I need to learn the bike for myself, not let something niggle and influence my decision or feelings.

“So heading in with an open mind helped. The bike was good. We made some big steps already. We played around a lot in terms of the electronics, trying to understand how we can put more power to the ground exiting corners.”

‘A lot of limitations in the TC and wheelie control’

Unleashing more of the RC16’s raw power seems to be a priority for Miller.

“What struck me the most riding the bike was how consistent the bike was. I don’t want to say it was easy, because riding a MotoGP bike isn’t easy, but the way the bike was configured basically was relatively easy to ride,” he said.

“The bike didn’t want to wheelie too much, didn’t want to slide too much and so on. So a lot of limitations, let’s say, in the TC [traction control] and wheelie control department.

“But then when the bike came alive there was a lot of power there. So that was the biggest thing initially.”

“I didn’t touch anything geometry-wise on the bike in Valencia,” he added. “Every exit we had to rewrite the code for the electronics to take some away and put more [power] in my hand. Basically, just improvements on that.

“Of course, there were some positives and negatives. I think in terms of where the weight was positioned on the bike and stuff, once we get to Sepang we’ll understand if we’ve gone in the right direction or not.

“And aerodynamics. We’re always chasing more from the aero package. We’ve been able to spend a bit of time on that [over the winter], hopefully the improvements we bring to either Sepang or Portimao will help us throughout the season.”

‘Valencia test left me intrigued, excited’

“We didn’t get to fire a lap time at the end [of the Valencia test], but no one will remember that once the lights go out in Portimao,” said Miller, who was fifth in last year’s world championship, won by team-mate Francesco Bagnaia.

“It was a good day and it left me intrigued, and excited.

“It set the wheels in motion to try and understand what we’re going to need for Sepang. I think the guys have been very busy over the winter, working on my feedback from that test and hopefully we can make some improvements going forward.”

Helping Miller make a success of the KTM move is not only his ex-Ducati crew chief Cristhian Pupulin but other former key members of the Italian factory’s MotoGP project such as Fabiano Sterlacchini, Francesco Guidotti and Alberto Girabola.

“With Ducati, leaving that team and bike when I did, was my decision. It was something I felt comfortable about and still do,” Miller said. “Excited for the new challenge. Working with guys like Fabiano, Albie, Pipi and Francesco, we’ve taken a lot of great guys from Ducati.

“I believe the way KTM are working and with the open mentality they have, the force they have behind the project and these great minds involved, there’s no telling where this thing can end. I’m very honoured and privileged to be part of it and work with these great people.”

Miller now hopes the lessons learned in turning the Desmosedici into a title contender can apply to the KTM, which has won seven races but has yet to feature higher than fifth in the riders’ championship (Pol Espargaro, 2020).

“There are differences, with any bikes, positive and negatives. Nonetheless, the KTM has, as we’ve seen in the past, its very strong points and weak points. The biggest goal is to eliminate as many of the weak points as possible,” said Miller, whose experience of riding other MotoGP machines is particularly valued by KTM.

“Having those [ex-Ducati] guys come across, understanding what Ducati did in the past and seeing whether some of the problems they had [at Ducati] in the past correlate with the ones at KTM now. And if they not, if they are new problems, it’s about trying to come up with new solutions.

“Just from Valencia, I understood there was a lot of potential with this motorcycle. With the right people around, we can take the maximum out of it.”

Miller will return to the seat of an RC16 during the official Sepang test from February 10-12.