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MotoGP, Beirer: "Miller feedback definitely made KTM better in 2023. We'll support him"

"We will do so until the end of the season. Brad Binder benefited enormously from the improvements that Jack brought to the team. We still have thirteen Grands Prixs ahead of us, and we'll support Jack and Augusto Fernandez one-hundred percent until the last lap at the Valencia GP."  

MotoGP: Beirer:

After the 2023 season, KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer didn't make a secret of the fact that Jack Miller hadn't met the high expectations of the Austrian team. In 2022, the Australian rider had won in Jerez and in Le Mans with the Lenovo Ducati factory team, taking 5th place overall in the World Championship. But, last year, on the Red Bull KTM, “Thriller Miller” ended his MotoGP season only in 11th  place, 304 points behind his former Ducati teammate, Pecco Bagnaia.

The best chance to turn a mediocre season around came at the final race of the season in Valencia, when Miller was in the lead in 19 of 27 laps, Miller had a one-two victory, and Binder and the Red Bull KTM team were flying high. But Miller then crashed, and the season finale ended in disappointment.

Nevertheless, the season had started out in a promising way for “Thriller Miller”. He praised the potential of the KTM RC16 during the winter tests. He conquered a 7th  place (Portimão) and a 6th place (Las Termas de Río Hondo) in the first four races. And, in Jerez, he put himself in the limelight with his first podium, taking 3rd place behind Brad Binder. After the Spanish GP, he held a 4th place in the World Championship behind Bagnaia, Bezzecchi, and Binder.

During the course of the 2023 season, some KTM technicians acknowledged that Miller and his crew chief, Cristhian Pupulin, had brought a lot of technical know-how from Borgo Panigale to Munderfing. But, in 2023, Binder benefited more from those modifications than Miller did.

Yes, that's true. Jack and his crew opened a few new doors for us, which allowed us to make some positive changes on the 2023 bike,Pit Beirer confirmed. "We  certainly gained a few new insights thanks to Jack. For example, we managed to improve rear wheel traction under acceleration, which brought us closer to the top in 2023. The support from the rear wheel when braking and turning has also improved. We made significant progress in these areas last year. But Jack wasn't able to benefit as much as Brad, and it was difficult to understand why, because it was Jack who had come up with all these desires and suggestions. He felt comfortable with the modifications for a short time in spring, and the lap times he hammered down in Jerez where nothing less than brutal. But, later on, he wasn’t able to get the most out of his package any longer."

JackAss' strong start in 2023 was followed by numerous setbacks and only two 6th places in the main Sunday events: first, at the Sachsenring in June, then at Motegi in October.

I have no explanation for his lack of performance,”  Pit Beirer wondered about Jack Miller, since the Australian rider certainly has the talent,  skills, and  experience to fight at the very top of motorcycle racing’s premier class. After a stunning Moto3 season in 2014, during which he celebrated seven race wins with Team Red Bull Ajo-KTM and lost the title against Alex Márquez (Honda) by just 2 points (278 to 276), he was chosen by Honda to bypass the Moto2 category and go straight to MotoGP racing in 2015. Skipping the middle class altogether was considered a daring and risky move, but Miller learned quickly and lived up to the challenge in the Italian LCR-Honda-Team, where he took the spot of former Moto2 world champion Stefan Bradl. Miller’s best moment was to come after he transferred to Marc VDS Racing in 2016, a Belgian independent team that raced Honda MotoGP bikes at that time. With a fearless and stunning ride during a wet Assen Grand Prix, Miller scored a sensational victory and earned himself the reputation as super hero in wet and slippery conditions.

Jack certainly has the expertise and experience to do very well,” Pit Beirer said about the Australian who raced factory bikes for Honda, Ducati, and KTM, and is competing in his tenth MotoGP season. "His feedback definitely made us better in 2023. He opened up new avenues for us with his way of working and his way of setting up the bike. At the beginning, he was the fastest KTM rider straight away. Later on, Brad Binder benefited enormously from the improvements that Jack brought to the team. Jack, on the other hand, wasn’t able to benefit from his own development work. My guess is that he simply was distracted during the summer,”  Pit Beirer explained.

In mid-September, shortly after the Misano GP, his daughter, Pip-Florence, was born, and KTM’s Head of Motorsport referred to the new addition to the Miller family.

Starting a family in Australia in the middle of the season is perhaps something that doesn't leave a rider completely unaffected, Pit Beirer said after the 20023 season. “But we supported Jack throughout the year, also because we couldn't find any obvious mistakes, apart from the fact that he lost the front on various occasions. This can send a rider into a downward spiral because, after such a crash, he wants to prove even more how capable he is. He pushes even harder and is even more likely to crash. Once the self-confidence of a rider takes a blow, things become more and more difficult. This is why Jack didn't have any highlights in the summer of 2023. Only in the last three Grand Prix, with the switch to the carbon chassis, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Jack had two decent races in the fall of 2023, with 8th place at Sepang and 9th place at Doha. By workiing closely together, we built him up again and, in the final race in Valencia, he was back to his usual speed. Jack was as fast as he had been in the spring,” Beirer recalled. “I also want to point out that, despite all the criticism about Jack, compared to 2022, he clocked faster lap times in most of the races in 2023, even when he was battling for tenth places. He didn’t have a slump, a real drop in performance. Instead, while he was steady, the MotoGP field around him was taking brutal developmental steps."

KTM had high hopes for Jack Miller, as the former rain specialist won the MotoGP races in Jerez and Le Mans with Ducati in 2022. He made a strong impression in KTM from the very first winter tests in 2023, but he was never really able to live up to the expectations after the 2023 Jerez GP.

Beirer: “It’s no secret that we would've liked better results from Jack, and from Augusto Fernández, too. But we're not going to do any rider bashing now. Both riders will need help from us on the bike for the rest of the season, because they obviously don't feel really at ease. Afterwards, it's goign to be up to them to take the next step. We must and want to solve this task together."

But the spots in Hervé Poncharal's new Red Bull KTM Tech3 team will be taken by Maverick Viñales, alongside Enea Bastianini in 2025. “We're extremely proud and happy that we've signed two extremely strong riders with Acosta and Brad Binder for the next two years of the Red Bull KTM factory team,”  Pit Beirer said. "Now our goal is to achieve better results with Augusto and Jack than during the last three Grand Prixs. That is our full focus now for Assen and Sachsenring. We still have thirteen Grands Prixs ahead of us, and we'll support both riders one-hundred percent until the last lap at the Valencia GP."

Beirer added: “We want to work together on Jack's and Augusto's performances. But the fact that the Monday test after the Grand Prix at Mugello, was rained out was really cruel for us, because we had a lot of things with us that we wanted to try, in order to get Jack’s and Augusto's bikes into better shape. Instead, that Monday test was worthless to us. Therefore, our immediate goal hasn’t changed: We want to find a solution that will allow Jack to show his true potential again and to turn things around, so we can make the best out of the remaining thirteen Grand Prixs of this season!"


Translated by Leila Myftija

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