Rising Australian star Jack Miller is on pace to secure the best qualifying position of his rookie MotoGP season after an impressive opening day of practice at Phillip Island.
Miller, 20, posted the fifth-quickest time in the first session on Friday and was 11th in the standings after two practices, with reigning world champion Marc Marquez putting up the fastest time on his Repsol Honda.
The Queenslander, who made the jump from Moto3 at the end of last season, hasn’t started better than with a 16th grid position on his LCR Honda in 15 races this year.
But he is confident of improving on that mark at his home grand prix.
“We’ve got a few areas on the bike that we need to work on but apart from that I’m pretty happy with how today went,” Miller said.
“The bike seems to be working better and better each session, I seem to be getting more and more comfortable with the track – we’re going to give it all we can.
“We’re struggling a little bit with the amount of wheel spin but we’re definitely giving it our all.
“I think the bike definitely does have (top-10) potential.”
Miller is riding a wave of confidence after Thursday’s announcement that he will move to a more competitive bike with the Belgium-based Marc VDS team next season.
His day wasn’t without its issues and he overshot corners on three occasions as he tested the limits of different tyre compounds, but they were only minor blemishes on an otherwise positive day.
“Hopefully we can keep that confidence going,” he said.
“I’m trying to do my best … I said all along that this was a track that was going to suit our bike because of the high corner speed.”
A third and final practice session takes place on Saturday morning and Miller will be hoping to be inside the top 10 riders on aggregate after all three sessions.
Those 10 riders go through to second qualifying where they will fight it out for pole position, while the remainder of the field tries to get as far up the grid as they can in first qualifying.
The other two Australians on the MotoGP grid, Anthony West and Damian Cudlin, were late injury replacements and the pair struggled as they got acclimatised to their unfamiliar machines.
They finished the day at the bottom of the rankings in 24th and 25th position respectively.
Technomag Racing’s Joshua Hook, the only Australian representative in the Moto2 category, finished down the order with the 25th-fastest time, with Spaniard Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) posting the quickest time.
Remy Gardner, son of Australian racing great Wayne, was 17th quickest in Moto3 on his CIP Mahindra bike, with Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira guiding his Red Bull KTM to the top of the standings.