2021 is undoubtedly the biggest year of Jack Miller’s MotoGP™ career so far. A step up to the Ducati Lenovo Team ranks is a dream come true for the Australian, who was seen donning Bologna factory red for the first time in Tuesday’s team launch.
It’s undeniably a huge move for Miller, who joins compatriots Troy Bayliss and Casey Stoner in becoming an Australian factory Ducati rider. But it’s a huge move that isn’t fazing the 26-year-old, who is getting set to enter his fourth year as a Ducati rider in MotoGP™ - his seventh overall in the class. Nowadays, despite being in his mid-twenties, Miller is an experienced rider having completed 99 premier class races, and in that time he’s tallied 10 rostrums. This year though, he’s expecting more from himself. 2021 is the year Miller will be hoping to fight and claim the coveted World Championship crown.
Viewing it as an outsider, any jump from an Independent Team to a factory team is big. And the same goes for Miller. However, things aren’t going to change that much for the number 43 now he’s hopped over to the garage next door. After the presentation, Miller sat down with members of the media and had a chat about his feelings ahead of the upcoming season, just after Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager) and Paolo Ciabatti (Ducati Corse Sporting Director) had done the same.
Both Miller and teammate Francesco Bagnaia are bringing some of their team with them from Pramac Racing. As Dall’Igna explains, this is an important philosophy for Ducati, to help the riders have some vital continuity and above all, to try and help them perform to the best of their abilities when moving to a new setup.
“I think we probably have a different philosophy to other manufacturers,” said Dall’Igna. “I would like that the riders, when they start their career with Ducati, they start and remain with their crew chief and electronic engineers for their entire Ducati career.
“Like we did with Jack and Pecco this year, when a rider changes teams, the crew chief and electronic engineers also changes team. I think this is a really good philosophy, mainly for the riders. So we would like to continue doing it like this, this is our philosophy and I would like to continue it.”
For Miller, crew chief Christian Pupulin – as well as his electronics engineer – has made the step up to the factory team. The MotoGP™ winner goes onto explain how important this can be not just for the rider, but for the whole team, and how he already knows a lot of the people he will be working with in 2021.
“I mean it’s what, February the 9th? I’m already in Europe, so that’s already changed. Normally I’d still be at home,” joked Miller, when asked about what are the main things that will change now he’s a factory rider. “Apart from that there’s a lot more to do and things like that but in the box, the biggest difference will be the manpower. I’ll have a lot more guys behind, working with me and the red garage is the main focus.
“Understanding and how to approach race weekends will be a little bit different so that’s the main thing for sure. Not too much will change, we already have quite a very close relationship between the Pramac team and the Ducati team, so I already know most of the guys I’m working with. Made jokes with them for the last three years, playing the music next door and stuff like that, annoying them, so they all know exactly how I am. That’s a nice thing, it’s not a big move it’s only one garage over.
“It’s nice keeping the same guys, you build a relationship and you understand how each other work over the years. I think the system that Ducati has now when trying to keep the guys together is really, really good because the rider is motivated, the crew around the rider is motivated and I think not only the rider wants to be in the red colours, but the team want to be in the red colours. Everybody is motivated for the same goal: try and work in the factory team and stay there and be on top. So it will be great to take them across, the way Ducati are working now, especially with the young riders coming in, it’s a great way to take it forward.”
Miller was a young rider when he first moved to Ducati from Honda ahead of the 2018 season. Nine podiums later, Miller has grown as a person and as a rider in his – to date – three-year stint with the Bologna brand, and he acknowledges how much Ducati have helped him in recent seasons to become a regular frontrunner.
“They’ve given me the tools to grow. It’s never easy, being on one-year contracts is never easy but it is what it is. But that helps to know that you’ve got to prove your worth sort of thing, and that has helped me to mature into the rider I think I am. And getting older, I think that’s helped. Not being a kid anymore. And them giving me the tools to help me keep growing. In the Ducati system, if you can show you’re doing well then updates will always come, I think they really help to grow a rider like that.”
Joining Miller, Bagnaia and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in the Ducati ranks are three rookies: Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing), Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia Racing) and Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing). It’s a fresh line-up for the Italian marque across the board, with Miller now the most experienced in the pack. An exciting year awaits the Australian, and an exciting year surely awaits a new-look Ducati line-up too.