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Before the season began, Ducati dangled the carrot in front of satellite rider Jack Miller. Should he considerably outperform factory rider Danilo Petrucci while in the satellite Pramac team, he could earn a place as Andrea Dovizioso’s team-mate for 2020.
Half man, half machine, half price!
While Petrucci’s contract has since been extended by a year to cover next season, that by no means suggests Miller’s season has been a disappointment; far from it. Bar Jerez and Assen, where he crashed and finished ninth, the 24-year old has been a top six threat each weekend.
Using the same Ducati GP19 as factory runners Dovizioso and Petrucci, the one-time MotoGP race winner has regularly challenged his stable-mates. The highlight came at Austin, where Miller scored his first premier class podium in dry conditions, his second overall coming just under three years after the first. But more impressive were his performances at Mugello and the Circuit of Catalunya, where he had struggled badly in previous years. The Australian was fighting for the win in Italy before crashing out with eight laps remaining, while the Catalan GP saw him finish fifth.
As a result, Miller sits seventh in the championship standings with 70 points to his name. After nine races in his four previous MotoGP seasons, he had managed just 12, 42, 41 and 57.
Miller happy "to get on the podium and break the drought"
In terms of bike development, Ducati has been to bring new innovations. It introduced the controversial aerodynamic ‘spoiler’ attached to the swingarm in Qatar, which led to protests from four rival manufacturers. It was argued that component cooled the rear tyre, therefore increasing its life. All three GP19s have been equipped with the ‘holeshot’ device from the first race, a part that has contributed to their excellent starts during the year.
But Assen and the Sachsenring underlined the persistent turning difficulties that have been experienced by Ducatis in previous years. Attempting to turn in long, open corners as well as changing direction at high speeds were particularly pronounced, especially in light of improvements by Suzuki and Yamaha.
The GP19 remains exceptional in its braking stability and acceleration out of slower corners, but Honda’s 2019 engine has reduced its top speed advantage to next to nothing. Miller will be hopeful Technical Director Gigi Dall’Igna can bring improvements to the Brno test in early August as he aims to continue his best premier class season to date.