Miller only man to challenge Marquez in Le Mans

Pramac Racing rider takes a P4 from Le Mans after another hugely positive weekend

Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller took it to eventual race winner Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in the early stages of the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, but in the end the Australian eventually had to settle for a more than respectable P4 at the chequered flag.

Miller launched from the front row for the first time since last year’s Japanese GP and made a good start, holding position before getting past second place Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) on his way to taking the lead of the race. But the GP19 rider couldn’t keep Marquez at bay for long as the reigning World Champion started to edge clear of Miller and Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso.

In the end, both Dovi and Petrucci would finish just ahead of Miller, but finishing 2.9 seconds off the race win and less than a second off both factory Ducatis means it’s been another very good weekend for the 24-year-old.

“Yeah yeah definitely. We’ve been where we were at the start of the race a couple of times but never really stuck it out or seen it through to the end like that,” commented Miller, when asked if this is one of his best races in the premier class to date.

“I saw Marc going over the line so that’s good, I’ll take that. That’s a positive but you know, just another learning day for us. Once I got past Danilo, which was quite hard at the start you know, he was having a look at Marc but didn’t really seem to have the pace that we had at the start, and yeah once I got past him I just reeled in Marc, then got past Marc, and I probably spent too much of the edge trying to do so.

“And then yeah once I got past and he saw the pace was dropping, because I was setting the pace, he swiftly moved back past in front of me and we dropped our pace back down a little bit but I just couldn’t run his pace. He was on good form, I think he had the medium rear on and it just seemed he was getting quicker and quicker, lap by lap. He was chipping away at it, I was watching my pit board go four tenths, five tenths, six tenths, just a tenth a lap and it was enough for him.”

Petrucci recovered from an early error to overtake Miller as the race entered its latter stages, with Dovi also getting the better of the number 43 rider. They didn’t pull away from him but there was one reason why Miller couldn’t hold station in second: edge grip.

“Just off those two slow corners, Turn 8 and the last corner,” were where Miller said the two factory riders were better than him at the end of the race. “Just off the edge, they saved their edge and were able to drive out quite well. I felt like I had the edge on them in the entry to the back chicane after the back straight and a few other spots. I was really strong, I felt really strong all weekend here and it was great to put it all together in the race like I said. No mistakes, I didn’t run off once. That definitely helps at the end of the race, minimise the time to the leader, in this case Marc.”

Because of the cooler temperatures on a cloudy, overcast day in Le Mans, the entire grid opted to run the soft front and rear tyre compounds. It’s a conundrum that Miller was debating on the grid, with the medium rear tyre working really well for him on Friday.

“I was seriously debating it on the grid. Not the front because I used it on Friday and crashed with it. But I used the medium through the whole of FP1 and that was the time that actually got me through to Q2 luckily, and it was 18 laps on the tyre, it was really really good the medium.

“I honestly thought the potential was higher on the medium than the soft but I didn’t use it this morning warm up. Dovi used it, he said it was quite hard to get going and I thought today’s pace was going to be shoot off at the start so we sort of needed that speed at the start and limp home at the end. I don’t think a medium would have changed the outcome today.”

A third top four finish of the year means things are looking good for Miller, with Pramac and Ducati’s home Grand Prix next up on the calendar. What can ‘Jackass’ do in Mugello?

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