SUZUKA: MILLER: TOUGH TO MISS THE PODIUM
Jack Miller admitted it was ‘tough' to miss out on the podium after showing such promise during a ‘physically and mentally' exhausting first attempt at the all-prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours in Japan.
By Neil Morrison
The Australian's MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda squad led the race early on while engaged in a thrilling duel with Yamaha's Factory Racing Team, as the much hyped Yamaha/Honda duel appeared on course to play out to a thrilling conclusion.
The second rider to go out on track after team-mate Takumi Takahashi, Miller lost the lead to Yamaha's Alex Lowes on lap 36, but handed over to third rider Takaaki Nakagami at the start of the third hour with hopes of victory very much intact.
In spite of a positive start to his run, Nakagami crashed at the hairpin, forcing a pit stop, which dropped the exotically assembled entry to fourth. Still, thanks to some hard riding from Takahashi and Miller, they once again found themselves within a shot of the podium.
That was until an issue with the CBR1000RR SP2's headlight extended what would have otherwise been a routine pit to well over two minutes. A rear tyre puncture complicated matters further, leaving the entry two laps down on Yamaha's lead entry at the chequered flag.
"We were unlucky this year," said Miller. "We were strong in the early stages, but we lost a minute or so in the closing stages with a broken headlight, and an ill-timed puncture. After that, though, we managed to pick up pace and finish the race. Considering that, fourth place isn't too bad.
"I was physically and mentally exhausted after the race. It was tough, especially missing out on the podium, but I know each member of the team gave it everything. It was my first endurance race, so today was a special day. I enjoyed the race. Next time I'm in an endurance race, I want to win."
Meanwhile, Nakagami said he surprised himself by falling when chasing down Michael van der Mark for the early lead. Other than offering his apologies to the team, the Japanese Moto2 man is hopeful of another opportunity at the event to, as he put it, ‘take revenge.'
"I'm disappointed with the results," said the Moto2 man. "It's hard to put my feelings in words, but my biggest mistake was falling on my stint. I had a good pace, and was catching up to Michael [van der Mark] in the lead, and I knew I was in for a decent fight.
"And I was off the track, surprising even myself. I'm sorry for the team and Honda. On my second stint, I was unlucky with a punctured rear tyre. The Suzuka 8 Hours was an amazing experience, so I hope I have another opportunity to take my revenge."
Takahashi was another to bemoan the bad luck of the day, and was already looking towards 2018's event, where HRC will be desperate to end Yamaha's recent winning run.
"Again, we had no luck this year, although we did everything we could," said the Japanese rider. "We have to now focus on next year. I didn't think everything would go so wrong, so maybe we were lucky to be on the podium until now.
"This year reminded us of how difficult the Suzuka 8hours is. We'll be back next year, so we'll consider this year a fresh start, and do our homework for next year. I don't know what the following year brings, but we'll build up our team and fight to win."
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