“It was one of those risky choices that have been a feature of my MotoGP career – I tell the story the day after Miller was hired by the official Ducati team for 2021 – She had been criticized because there had been no precedents in history, except with Gary McCoy. People thought it was crazy, but in my opinion when a driver has talent you can see it immediately, already from the lower classes“.
What did you see in Miller?
“Nakamoto and I had seen Jack an interesting alternative in a year in which no Moto2 rider had sparked us. When we proposed to go directly to MotoGP, Jack was enthusiastic and it was important that he did not see this operation as a risk of burning his career but as an opportunity to skip an intermediate class and experience Moto2 directly“.
“Miller struggled his first year in MotoGP, but he did not have a bike up to par”
But that jump was not easy, especially in the first year he struggled a lot.
“True, but he ran with Honda’s Production Racer (a ‘simplified’ and less expensive MotoGP, which lacked a seamless gearbox and distribution with pneumatic valves) which, I’m sorry to say, was less competitive than was hoped. That bike had great potential, but had many problems adapting to Magneti Marelli electronics. The Japanese technicians took that problem a little lightly, in fact, when the same software arrived on the official bikes, Honda made a great effort, until I convinced them to take an Italian technician who had worked with Magneti Marelli“.
Apart from the low competitiveness of the bike, did you see Miller ‘s talent in that first year?
“In the wet, where the bike counts less and more the rider’s talent, Jack did excellent things and the following year, in 2016, he won the Assen race in difficult conditions. Miller has a great talent for handling gas and is one of the most important qualities in MotoGP, it is a sensitivity that few have“.
“He was the only driver I fined. He raised his elbow, I did it like a dad and served “
In Assen, on the podium, he drank from the boot to celebrate. A little while ago Miller revealed that it had been a gesture addressed to the top Honda after being fined for raising his elbow a little too much one evening.
“I confirm that Jack was fined for exaggerating with alcohol and he’s the only driver I’ve ever paid a fine in my entire career, in 22 years I had never done it. Jack was a repeat offender, he had combined one more than the devil. I gave him this fine, which was of an important figure, and I said to him: ‘I hope, speaking to you as if you were your dad, that the next time you raise your elbow you can think of how much it cost you the last time’. I did it for him, for his future, he had a talent to exploit but he was a hot head. On Sunday nights at the festivities he combined all the colors, the same on Friday in the paddock, ahe needed to understand that he was at risk of burning his talent. I’m glad I made him that fine because, probably, without that kind of punishment it wouldn’t have changed“.
At a certain moment Puig had also been called in to follow him out of the races.
“Alberto was an HRC consultant and we had him involved as a coach, but if I remember correctly he got tired quickly. The credit for Jack’s change goes to him and Aki Ajo, his manager, who was able to mature a guy who had perhaps arrived a little too quickly in MotoGP, where there are important earnings that can make you lose your mind at that age“.
“I did everything to convince HRC to keep him, but they let him go”
Have you ever regretted that choice to blow it up directly from Moto3 to MotoGP?
“No, I would do it again. Because I don’t see a big difference between experiencing Moto2 or MotoGP for a young rider, the only thing that can be missing is the habit of fighting for the positions that matter, but Jack had already played the World Championship in Moto3, he knew that pressure. The only thing you can’t do is experience MotoGP by playing races, unless you’re a phenomenon like Marquez or Valentino, or even Lorenzo and Pedrosa. I think that if Jack had had a more competitive bike he would have suffered less the first year, but I don’t think that having jumped in Moto2 didn’t make him grow enough. Proof of this is the excellent championship last year and in fact it has earned Ducati’s trust“.
Did you regret that the relationship with Honda ended before reaping the benefits?
“Very, I did everything to convince the HRC to keep it, the team wanted it too. Jack was willing to no longer have a direct contract with HRC but wanted to keep his crew chief, who was Ramon Aurin. Takeo Yokohama instead considered it necessary for Nakagami, eventually I convinced Kuwata to leave Jack Aurin, but he had already decided to leave. He had felt his trust and esteem fail, which is a fundamental thing for a rider, while Ducati had shown him. We had invested heavily in him, it was clear that he had potential and we knew that technically he had not always been in the best conditions, it was time to continue to believe it. I got angry. It was like selling stocks that are going up and losing money“.
Is seeing it now in the official Ducati team a rematch for you?
“No, I’m just glad for him to have fulfilled his dream. He’s in the right place to be able to win races. “
“Stoner and Miller only have a passport in common. Jack is an old-fashioned pilot “
When an Australian arrives in Ducati, the ghost of Stoner begins to hover….
“Or Bayliss. Historically, the relationship between Ducati and the Australians has always worked. Who knows if this being a little wild helps them to get in tune with a bike that is very competitive but has particular characteristics. I hope that the story between Jack and Ducati is full of successes “.
Do they have something in common Stoner and Miller?
“Only the passport, they are diametrically opposed. Jack is a born casinist, he likes to party and have fun, from this point of view he is an old-fashioned driver, he struggled to understand that he had to train and not just rely on his talent. Casey, on the other hand, is more introverted, less partying, lives more stressed while Miller enjoys life. As a talent, to date, there is no doubt that Stoner had a monstrous amount, while Jack now has the opportunity to demonstrate what he is worth“.
“Perhaps Ducati has never believed in Petrucci to the end”
Do you think Miller is ready for an official team?
“FAccio struggles to say this by not living the races from the inside anymore. I’d say the results speak for themselves, from Ducati’s point of view it is a choice that fits. Petrucci, to whom I am very fond, was stuck in a second part of the season that was less brilliant than the first, the opposite of what Jack did. As we always said when I was at Ducati, you don’t have to make evaluations by being influenced by the last race, but at the same time it is impossible not to do it because the most recent memory is the one that influences you the most. Jack has climbed on the podium 3 times in the last 6 races, therefore it means deserving a place in the official team, even if Danilo came in front of him in the championship. It’s not an easy decision to make, Ducati has probably never believed in Petrucci to the end, but you don’t win a race in MotoGP without talent, maybe he should believe it a little more first. I’m sorry, but before I say he’s out of Ducati, we’ll need to understand what Dovizioso will do“.