Sunday, October 26

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Queenslander Jack Miller wrote a new page in the Marquez family’s Rules of Engagement at Sepang in Malaysia on Sunday, October 26.

After he and Alex Marquez tangled at Aragon, with Miller going down and out of the race, the young Spaniard has been on a roll.

Actually, Marquez has been on a roll since Assen, scoring 146 points to Miller’s 114 to arrive at Sepang 20 points in front in the title chase, with two rounds remaining.

Bouyed by his win at Phillip Island the week before, Miller knew that the best way to deal with the situation was go out and win at Sepang.  In Moto3, that’s easy to say, but much, much harder to achieve given the fiercely competitive nature of the class.

Miller’s task was not made any easier by the fact that the single cylinder 250cc Honda four-strokes have an edge in top speed on his Red Bull KTM, and although there are only six Hondas in the Moto3 class, three of them are in the hands of very talented young Spaniards – Marquez, Efren Vazquez and Alex Rins - with a fourth raced by Frenchman Alexi Masbou.

Having come off second best to Marquez at Assen, Miller wasn’t about to make the same mistake again.  No way was he going to expose himself to the Spaniard by running around the outside in corners, nor would he run in deep on the brakes outside any of the other protagonists.

Although he has only tangled with Alex Marquez and has yet to encounter two-time MotoGP champ Marc, Miller could not fail to be aware of the move put on Jorge Lorenzo on the final corner of the last lap at Jerez on Sunday, May 5, 2013.

In a Moto3 race not dissimilar from an old Hollywood western, Miller played the part of the lone cowboy set upon by the local gang of bad arses.  In these depictions, the lone cowboy takes a whipping, but keeps getting up to knock the baddies down.

In the Hollywood script, the lone cowboy ends up bloodied, but victorious.

Real life, especially in the Moto3 world, is somewhat different.

Miller got off to a terrific start but had been bundled back to third by the time they crossed the start/finish line the first time.

The official record shows that Vazquez led at the end of the first and second laps, Miller was in front at the end of the third, Vazquez led the next before Marquez had a go in front.  Then it was Miller, Vazquez, Rins, Miller, Vazquez, Miller, Vazquez, Miller and then Vazquez again.

That does not begin to describe the task Miller had on his hands.  But he stuck to a simple plan.  Every time someone passed him, he passed them right back, using all his skill modulating the brakes on his Red Bull KTM to take the lead back as quickly as possible.

Several times the Australian ended up slip-streaming not one, not two, but three Hondas on the second part of either of the two straights, then diving down the inside to snatch the lead.  In the process he and Marquez made contact several times, but each time Miller was on the inside and clearly had the line.

One time Marquez was clearly surprised to find the Aussie underneath him as he attempted to turn in.  They bumped, Marquez ran wide and Miller had the lead, again.

It says a lot about Miller’s temperament that he refused to let the Honda men rattle his cage.  On the contrary, the Aussie was giving at least as good as he got, and kept getting up for another shot.

At one point, with five laps to go, it seemed the rival gang had won.  Miller was third or fourth and seemed to be boxed in.  But he worked his way out of that situation got the lead back and defended it for all he was worth.

But on the final corner, Vazquez got the better of him and won by two-tenths of a second with Rins third.

Marquez?

He made a mistake and dropped to fifth.

Suddenly Miller’s chances of taking the Moto3 crown before he moves on to race MotoGP with LCR Honda look a lot more positive.

From 20 points behind he is now 11 points down on Marquez with one round to go.  That race is at Valencia, a tight, almost karting layout, which should suit Miller down to the ground.

It’s still a long shot, but clearly Miller is cut from similar cloth to Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan.

No wonder Honda Racing Corporation Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto is delighted Miller has signed a three year MotoGP contract with Honda.

For full results click here.

FOOTNOTE: After the race, Marquez team lodged a protest against Jack Miller, alleging he had been overly aggressive.  The protest was dismissed.  Peter McLaren of Crash.net provides a detailed account.  Read it here