Ahead of the 2021 Formula One season, there was great anticipation surrounding what was supposed to be a record-breaking 23-race schedule – as it was a sign that the sport was returning to normality in this pandemic affected world.
Jack Miller has been left chuckling about picking up another speeding ticket in France – but it hasn’t stopped the laugh-a-minute Aussie roaring to another sensational MotoGP win after a wild ride in the wind and rain at Le Mans.
The Ducati rider was left quaffing champagne from his boot on the podium at the historic venue, the time-honoured “shoey” celebration being well-deserved after another exceptional win at the French Grand Prix on Sunday.
“I don’t believe it still – but here we are again!” beamed Miller, who waited five long years to gain just his second GP win in Spain a fortnight ago but has now picked up two in a fortnight.
“It was a hectic race … it’s amazing, I didn’t expect this,” he beamed.
“Back-to-back wins. I’ve doubled my career total of victories in two weeks, so it’s pretty nice!”
Yet the Queenslander had to do it the hard way, needing courage, nerve – not to mention some decent mental arithmetic – before earning the win in treacherous conditions which saw six-times champion Marc Marquez fall twice and reigning champ Joan Mir also fail to finish.
Miller himself was hit with a double long-lap time penalty for going too fast into the pits for a bike change as the rain began to pour.
“When I saw the penalty, I didn’t want to believe it,” he laughed.
“It’s the old French speeding fines – I’m used to getting a few of them but, normally, they come in the mail!”
But neither the penalty, nor the moment he locked up and his Ducati took a detour into the trackside gravel, losing him a couple of places, could prevent the Townsville speedster becoming the first Australian to win successive MotoGP races since Casey Stoner in 2012.
After just three rounds, Miller had the critics on his case following a calamitous start to the season.
But after an operation to cure an ‘arm pump’ muscle problem, he’s been brilliant, with his two wins thrusting him to fourth in the championship on 64 points – 16 behind French leader Fabio Quartararo.
He’d started by bursting from third in the front row into the lead but polesitter Quartararo caught Miller a few laps in only to later have to take his own time penalty as, first, the heavy rain and gusting wind swept in and then subsided.
Miller was penalised for coming too quickly into the pits for his bike change, yet afterwards he produced a commanding performance to end up 3.97 seconds clear of Zarco and 14.468sec ahead of Quartararo.
But he had needed to make the mental time calculations as Zarco closed in on his big lead remorselessly over the last few laps, and he tried to work out if he had time to get a bike change as the track dried out.
“I was trying to do the maths in my head, – and if anyone knows me and my maths, that’s very difficult!” laughed Miller.
In the end, he chose to stay out, saving a little in reserve for the final push which enabled him to have time to cross the line with a victorious wheelie.