MotoGP Feature: Jack Miller’s incredible story to factory MotoGP victory
Jack Miller is the definition of starting from the bottom and working his way to the top.
Jack Miller’s story really is incredible, he is a rider who has put absolutely everything into the sport he loves and is now a multiple MotoGP race winner taking the top spot at Jerez. He and his family have sacrificed much more than meets the eye and gave up everything they had to move to Europe and give Jack a fighting chance at racing in MotoGP and pursuing his dream of becoming a World Champion.
His story starts way back to when his father Peter was just a child, Peter had the racing fuel running through his veins and desperately wanted to race but was not able to do so. This lack of ability to be able to pursue something he was so passionate about and desperate to do reflected onto his children with Peter buying Jack’s brother Fergus a 50cc minimoto when Jack was just three years old. Naturally as a child Jack would throw a tantrum wanting to ride the new shiny motorcycle, eventually this would translate into natural raw speed from Miller who won multiple Australian championships dirt tracking before trying his hand on tarmac after braking more than 30 bones on the dirt.
In his first few rides on tarmac he impressed many and would successfully race in the Australian Superbike Championship in the lower youth classes before the idea was given to the family to go and race in Europe. At the time fellow Australian rider Casey Stoner was setting records alight in MotoGP on the Ducati and had been crowned the 2007 MotoGP World Champion in the years previous, this meant that the popularity of motorcycle racing in Australia was at a high and deep down the Miller family knew that if Jack really wanted to make it as a motorcycle racer he had to go and race in Europe, there was no other option.
The family were not exactly rich and moving to Europe would be a huge financial burden on them but his father Peter did not want to give in on the idea of little Jack making it as a racer, the thought of growing old and reminiscing and wondering “what if we had tried it?” was crippling, Peter knew he had to give it a go, he sold the boat he spent many years saving up for and remortgaged the house to free up some funds. The family packed up everything they had and gave up their business, bought a motorhome, built a trailer and went to Spain which allowed Jack to compete in the last round of the CEV Spanish Championship as well as the IDM German Championship.
Jack Miller, Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Navarro on the CEV 125cc podium.
All in all the Millers were paying €100,000’s of euros just for Jack to race a beat-up, clapped-out Honda RS125 which would be put on the trailer and carted around Europe in between race rounds being towed by their motorhome, the difference between a decade ago and now is that Miller did not have the luxury of racing in the Asia Talent Cup, the Red Bull Rookies or the Asia Talent Team in the CEV as these projects and systems set up by Dorna to nurture young talent either didn’t exist or were not at the forefront of the families plans or capabilities. Thankfully a decade later Miller’s prodigy Billy van Eerde has been able to race in all three championships with the support of Dorna helping him to get there and now rides for the MT Foundation team in the Junior Moto3 World Championship replacing Pedro Acosta.
There were many issues and unforeseen challenges the Miller family had to work around, this included Peter returning back to Australia halfway through Jack’s first season in Europe to work and be able to afford their mortgage on the house and also afford Jack’s racing career. This meant that it left Jack and his mother alone in Europe with his mother Sonya doing various jobs including being his manager and driver driving their motorhome across Europe race by race.
Money was tight for the family and spending hundreds of thousands of Euro’s a season on racing just wasn’t feasible or sustainable however his name was finally starting to be heard by the masses as he continued to impress many including the Caretta Technology Team which has now evolved over time into the Prustel GP team with new management and owners. The team gave Jack his first taste of the 125cc World Championship where he would impress finishing as high as P16 just outside of the points. Sadly as always these days with racing, money would always be the main issue with his family having to chip in and put in thousands more Euro’s for Jack to be able to continue racing in the World Championship, spending nearly €200,000 on his 2013 season despite having the aid of Dorna who supplied some of the cash to ensure Jack could continue fighting for his dream. Without Dorna’s help it most likely would’ve been game over.
In his first full season in the World Championship Jack would find himself alone in the strange place that was Europe after his father was involved in an accident and in a coma. On the Saturday night of the Misano Grand Prix Miller was awoken by his mother who broke the news to him that she would be returning to Australia to be with Peter and support him, this left a 17-year-old Jack Miller alone in Europe with no drivers license or means of transportation. Thankfully in his time he had accumulated some friends like Arthur Sissis and Damian Cudlin who were able to help him around the world and keep him sane, he had now gained a whole lot of freedom but this freedom meant Jack had to grow up and he had to do it quickly after being launched into the deep end thousands of miles away from his family and everyone he knew and grew up with.
Now although he did not score a podium in 2013 he did take many top 10 finishes and seventh place overall in the championship which pushed his name to the masses given that he was the highest placed Honda overall, a flurry of top 10 and even top 5 finishes made people’s ears prick at the sound of his name including the infamous World Champion machine that is Aki Ajo. The Finnish team manager is a household name in the paddock running his Red Bull KTM Ajo team in Moto3 and Moto2 boasting many championship winners including Sandro Cortese and Brad Binder with many other star riders coming through his team including Miguel Oliveira, Luis Salom, Raul Fernandez, some guy called Marc Marquez and now the 2021 Moto3 rookie championship leader Pedro Acosta who is setting the class on fire with his talent this year.
Jack Miller negotiated his own 2014 ride, his first paid seat.
Having Ajo’s attention is always a positive sign and Ajo was able to lure Miller to sign for his team for the 2014 season with Miller doing all the negotiating and even rejecting a contract proposal from Honda to remain with them in the now Moto3 class, this was Miller’s first-ever paid ride. Gone was the worry about money, he and his family could now relax and Miller could concentrate on putting in the work on track and not wondering if his next crash would bankrupt him and his family.
In his first and only season with Ajo Jack would take the class by storm winning on his debut in Qatar, it was his first podium and victory on the world stage and was the start of a courageous title charge, he would take second place overall behind Alex Marquez by just two tiny points with his P27 in Aragon after being knocked off by Mr Marquez majorly being a reason why he lost, even so he had a huge 6 wins and 10 podiums to his name. If his sudden and massively unexpected title charge seemingly coming from nowhere wasn’t shocking enough, his announcement of a three year deal with Honda to move to MotoGP certainly was!
He wanted to make a statement and be the first rider in the modern era to completely bypass Moto2 and jump straight into MotoGP moving from a 50hp 80kg machine to a 300hp 160kg monster, it was a huge task and he faced a lot of criticism for the move with people saying to his face in the paddock that he was going to fail and that he’d never make it. Originally he was meant to move to Moto2 with a supposedly bulletproof contract with Marc VDS however it clearly wasn’t bulletproof enough as we saw the move straight into MotoGP. Lucio Cecchinello was the man faced with the task of nurturing his talent and ensuring that Jack wouldn’t fall flat on his face, thankfully though Lucio had experience working with fast Australians if you remember their 2006 MotoGP rider…
It wasn’t going to be an easy job and Jack knew this, he had to work harder than he has ever worked before to improve his diet, his sleep and his training to make sure he was strong enough and fit enough to take on the huge task he had set himself, after all he is now a professional athlete at the top of his game and most importantly. He had made it.
He wasn’t put on a full factory RC213V but instead put on the open class Honda RC213V-RS with open spec electronics, it was basically a simplified version of its factory RC213V counterpart. It was missing a seamless shift gearbox but had pneumatic valves and ran the 2014 factory chassis unlike its 2014 predecessor RCV1000R which lacked pneumatic valves and ran FTR chassis’, the only advantage of the open spec machine was that it could carry up to 24 litres in a race which is 4 more than the RC213V. The bike according to Scott Redding was around 20 horsepower slower than the ‘factory’ RC213V with Nicky Hayden also confirming a 10mph (16km/h) deficit.
Now despite this disadvantage of machinery plus his requirement to put on muscle gaining no additional body fat and improve every single aspect of his racing, Miller genuinely did a very good job as a rookie and scored multiple points finishing in P19 overall with a total of 17 to his name, he even ran as high as fourth place at Silverstone before crashing out taking his teammate and close friend Cal Crutchlow with him, thankfully there was no love lost and they remained good friends spending lots of time together with helped Jack turn into the man he is today.
The first test at Valencia, just days before Miller had raced a Moto3 bike around the same circuit.
For 2016 he made the switch to Marc VDS being moved to the satellite team by Honda, he was finally donning the colours he had rejected in 2015 and was also given an upgrade to a Honda RC213V which would aid him in a shocking win at Assen 2016. You see Jack was never ‘supposed’ to win a race this early on in only his second year in the class after making the monumental move from Moto3 to MotoGP. There were many people doubting him saying that he would fail tremendously and end his career before it had really even begun, these people clearly had forgetten the humble beginnings Miller has come from, when you look back to his days of carting around in a motorhome across Europe with his family going from race to race you can see that he has had to work his way through the classes step by step and get there from hard work and squeezing every ounce of juice from every opportunity he was given.
If anything his surprise win wasn’t so surprising when you take into account the work that this man puts into his racecraft, he is one of the hardest working riders in the class and has gotten where he is purely from working hard so it was nearly inevitable that he was going to win a MotoGP race at some point. Of course his win was completely unexpected taking it in a wet Assen with Jack’s nickname briefly changing to ‘JackAssen’, he would make headlines for his win and also his ‘shoey’ celebration on the podium. A shoey is the act of pouring champagne into a used race boot and drinking it, seemly quite popular with the Aussies as F1 driver Daniel Riccardo is also a man known for this rather disgusting but funny celebration.
This celebration was actually a dig at his then-employer Honda who he had a strained relationship with, Miller had previously been fined by Honda for doing said celebration at a party with the manufacturer stating that he was ‘misbehaving’ and being ‘mischievous’ – it’s almost as if they didn’t watch his 2014 KTM season when he was exactly that in the public eye, Miller was very well known for goofing around and being a bit of a hooligan, going as far as calling Neil Hodgson a ‘wanker’ on live TV. When on the podium he knew he would make even more headlines with the celebration but also say to Honda ‘screw your rules’ in a typical Jack Miller style.
Miller’s win really was a testament to not only his sheer dedication to winning and putting his all into racing but also a great highlight of how far he has come to stand on top of the MotoGP podium, from driving around Europe with his mother in a motorhome to being left completely alone as a teenager needing to fend for himself, working his way through the ranks and negotiating his own deals with teams and sponsors. Jack really has had his work cut out for him and it’s sad really when you look at riders like Jorge Lorenzo who slate him for ‘only’ having one (now two) wins at the age of 26, when you compare what Lorenzo had coming into the sport with money thrown at him left right and centre, factory machinery and top dollar sponsors and his father pushing him every step of the way, looking back to Jack’s story it’s miraculous Miller has even made it this far.
The race-winning overtake, ballsy overtaking a rider as strong as Marc Marquez at the last chicane but Miller had his eyes on the win.
To no surprise Honda decided at the end of 2017 they were not going to renew their deal with the Australian rider, thankfully for Jack this wasn’t much of an issue as Ducati had set their sights on him and signed him to race for their Pramac Racing team alongside Danilo Petrucci, a smart move if you remember the success Australian riders Casey Stoner and Troy Bayliss have had on the Bologna machines. The gamble Ducati made proved to be an instant success with Miller taking consistent top 10 finishes and gelling incredibly well with the factory and also the team.
Over the 2019 and 2020 seasons Jack would really shine and show his true colours and naturally god-given talent scrubbing and rubbing his way through the field taking multiple podiums but never a second race win in the class, in 2020 he actually had one of the best records of the entire field over the 14 races on the MotoGP calendar. In 14 races he suffered 4 DNF’s but was in the top 10 for every race he finished with 40% of those top 10 finishes being on the podium taking his first, second and third P2 finishes in the class, crazy really to think he had won a race and finished in third but never second place. His massive podium haul of 5 in 2019 plus his tender age of 24 at the time and also the fact that he finished the 2019 season just 11 points behind Danilo Petrucci put Ducati in a very good place with their young prospect and they made the decision to promote him to their prestigious factory team, this is not a team any old rider gets into and we all know how tough and ruthless Ducati are, Jack knew there would be immense pressure in the team along with a higher role of development but after three years at Pramac he had been turned into a mature, strong and impressive rider who still had much more to give to the sport and signed a 1+1 deal on the dotted line.
Now we all know what social media is like – it’s a place where anyone can voice their opinions even if it is wildly incorrect and invalid. If anything it can be pretty toxic and awful at times with Maverick Vinales even quitting Twitter over online abuse, so after a tough start to his 2021 Factory Ducati campaign you can imagine what the trolls and MotoGP ‘experts’ had to say about Miller from the comfort of their sofa after completing 20 laps of the McDonalds drive-thru, people were already giving away Jack Miller’s seat to Johann Zarco or even Jorge Martin after just three races which saw the Australian rider finish in P9 twice in Qatar and crash in Portimao. People said he wasn’t good enough, that Ducati had made a mistake and that Miller was bad after just three races completely ignoring the fact that he struggled tremendously with arm pump in Qatar and had all his stitches from arm pump surgery ripped out in his Portimao crash.
We won’t post the photo of his missing stitching, here’s a burnout instead.
He was in a lot of pain in Qatar and even more pain following an operation before Portimao but in typical Jack Miller style he rallied on relentlessly, gritting his teeth and stopping at nothing to prove these people wrong and show Ducati that he was the right man for the job, especially seeing his teammate Francesco Bagnaia scoop up podium after podium on the same bike.
Jerez was where it all went down, the scene was set to be the race win of Fabio Quartararo who led out front with Miller even saying that he was not fast enough to keep up with the rapid Frenchman. Sadly for Quartararo it wasn’t his day to be victorious, that trophy had Miller’s name written all over it and Fabio would slowly but surely tumble down the standings to P13 after struggling with arm pump which was evident at Qatar and Portimao and is a reoccurring issue from 2019, not that Miller cared, he was a MotoGP race winner for the second time!
After taking over at the front Jack Miller would click off the laps one by one in arguably one of the longest races of his career as he watched the lap counter go down one by one every 1 minute 40 seconds until eventually, he crossed the line victorious, he was a race winner once again but this time in the dry at a circuit which Ducati had not won at since Loris Capirossi in 2006 a whole 15 years prior. Some say Miller doesn’t deserve the win due to Fabio but these people are clearly clueless, whoever crosses the line first wins the race it is simple fact and the fact of the matter is that Jack Miller was the strongest rider on the day and took home an incredibly emotional victory as he realised the gravity of the situation, he had done it again but this time in full factory colours, he really had made it from the very bottom to stand on the top step of the podium for one of the strongest manufacturers in history with Ducati boasting Isle of Man TT wins, World Superbike titles and even the 2007 MotoGP World Championship thanks to compatriot Casey Stoner who is another household name in Australia.
Jack Miller your story is one which will be told for many years to come, every crash, every drop of blood, every tear and every decision to keep going even when you thought it was all over has been worth it, your strength and courage is commendable and MotoGP needs more riders like you.
The dream team.
Featured images – Red Bull