until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Miller's KTM MotoGP destiny is no longer in his hands

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Is there anything Jack Miller can actually do now to ensure he keeps his current MotoGP ride beyond 2024?

Theoretically, the answer to that question is yes. Miller could, in theory, win every sprint and every race for the rest of the season, by 10-20 seconds each time, in which case he would obviously get a new works KTM deal and also probably be inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame immediately upon taking the chequered flag in Valencia. It is, I guess, a mathematical possibility.

But that's not how anybody views things. Miller could make a gigantic leap forward, but the more realistic and more informative way to look at his prospects is the question of whether he 'maximises' his season in accordance to his existing range of performance, which both he himself and all of MotoGP have a decent idea of given his 159 premier-class starts.

The difference between a very poor Miller season from here on out and a really good one is probably around 100 points at most. That matters in a title fight contest but that's a massive long shot. And thus the total points haul actually matters only a little bit - certainly less than the points haul in comparison to that of another rider, who is of course Pedro Acosta.

Pedro Acosta Gas Gas MotoGP

Will it make a real difference for KTM's thinking over who to place alongside the already under-contract Brad Binder in the 'orange team' in 2025 if Miller is 50 points behind Acosta, level with Acosta or 50 points ahead of Acosta?

It feels unlikely. Yet going by the season so far a more decisive supremacy over Acosta looks largely off the table.

Acosta dazzled at Portimao, seeing off not just Miller but Binder en route to a Maverick Vinales crash-aided first podium.

It came relatively out of nowhere - the works KTMs seemed to have an answer for Acosta for most of the weekend, until suddenly they didn't. This probably correlated with Portimao being a track where MotoGP hadn't tested, so one where the rookie's in-weekend progression was steeper. For Miller, a worrying addendum is that at the track where MotoGP had tested, Lusail, Acosta more or less had him covered throughout.

Like Binder on the other side of the garage - and like so much of MotoGP - Miller has not shied away from giving Acosta his due, but also went a step further in admitting the rookie was already an essential reference point.

"He's not really on top of the bike - he's out of the bike quite a lot!" said Miller when asked specifically about Acosta's riding style. "He has everything touching the ground. Looks like his head is about to touch the ground at some points.

"The style is impressive, especially when you're behind. I can only wish to ride like that. I'm a little less stylish, maybe.

"You've only got to look at [Jorge] Martin and him [to see how riding style is changing].

Jack Miller KTM MotoGP

"If you look at my style back in 2016 to what it is now, I think my style's changed quite a lot - but obviously not enough. I need to keep working on it. I'll go back and do some more Pilates."

Some self-deprecation, some of it obviously tongue-in-cheek - but you can also take a lot of it at face value, because it is Miller. The Australian clearly feels generally undervalued by the MotoGP media, probably rightly so, but he has long had a pragmatic outlook on these kinds of things. When Pecco Bagnaia conclusively wrestled 'number one' status away from Miller at the works Ducati team, Miller had no issue acknowledging he was being beaten.

And there was no point denying he got beaten by Acosta in Qatar and Portimao.

KTM riders' median sectors in the Portuguese GP*

Binder 20.74s
Acosta +0.07s
Miller +0.11s
Fernandez +0.28s

Acosta 31.66s
Miller +0.13s
Binder +0.15s
Fernandez +0.17s

Acosta 15.04s
Binder +0.05s
Miller +0.10s
Fernandez +0.14s

Acosta 31.61s
Binder +0.16s
Miller +0.23s
Fernandez +0.30s

*excluding first lap

Jack Miller KTM MotoGP

Miller's assessment of where he was losing out seems to pass a very rudimentary trial-by-data - he suggested his big problem was the two long downhill right-handers concluding the lap, where he lacked rear contact and bled laptime.

That does look the case (both of those corners are naturally in that final sector) - but even removing sector four still leaves Acosta with a considerable edge.

Yet in accepting the quality of Acosta's outing, Miller also used it to talk up the RC16's development - a development he has long expressed personal pride in.

"He's riding well, and he can put the bike where he wants to," he said of Acosta. "That's a positive thing, we've improved this KTM by an incredible amount in the last 12 months. And he has taken full advantage of it.

"Now we need to use him as the target and try to understand what he's doing differently and learn from him. I'm 29 but I'm still learning every exit."

Unfortunately for Miller, the rate of progression for a rider at age 29 logically isn't expected to be the same as one for a rider at age 19. Or maybe the more pertinent comparison is season 10 in MotoGP versus season one. There are exceptions, but not a lot of them.

Jack Miller KTM MotoGP

Arguably, KTM got exactly what it signed up for with Miller, or at least exactly what it should've expected.

You can have a reasonable discussion over whether he's proven a no-doubter upgrade on Miguel Oliveira - but he has been quick in qualifying (and his arrival seems to have correlated with the RC16 just getting a lot better over one lap), has provided valuable feedback after years of experience with the 'golden standard' Desmosedici and has sounded like the consummate team player at every step of the way, just as he had done at Ducati.

But he also retains his idiosyncrasies, the most glaring one being that - as harsh as it sounds - when you see Miller hit the front after one of his traditionally-mega starts, you just don't believe he'll stay in that position for the rest of the race. The one time he looked like he finally would do so with the KTM was Valencia 2023, and ultimately he crashed.

Jack Miller KTM MotoGP

Miller says he's worked "extremely hard" on this in the off-season, both physically and mentally, and there's only so much we can glean so far as to the success of that work. Portimao, it must be said, looked like more of the same.

Acosta, for his part, hasn't had the chance yet to even show off any potential weaknesses, much less work on them. He projects so much easier as the "complete package" that KTM needs, and that it may need as early as 2025.

KTM has been very coy on Acosta's contractual situation. Its motorsport boss Pit Beirer claimed recently on a MotoGP.com broadcast that he wasn't entirely abreast of what Acosta's contract said, which strains credibility, but it has been widely acknowledged there's a team-side option on his services for 2025.

And it has been reported by Spanish Motorsport.com that, just as Acosta's 2024 contract with KTM was contingent on a promotion to MotoGP, so the 2025 deal is contingent on a place in the works outfit.

Acosta could, in theory, pass that up and accept continuity at Tech3. Oliveira did that back in 2019 (when Johann Zarco walked out), though Oliveira was then very publicly regretting that decision because he'd believed KTM would fill the seat with a placeholder veteran in Mika Kallio rather than another young up-and-comer in Binder, 'jumping the queue'.

In any case, that was a different KTM RC16. And while Acosta is clearly already doing big things with Tech3, you would expect him to feel that a works seat is the better route to maximising his championship position in 2025. That position doesn't really matter in 2024 - but on current trajectory it absolutely will in 2025.

Jack Miller KTM MotoGP

Miller can't meaningfully influence whether Acosta wants that orange bike. And if he wants it, KTM can't afford to say no. Which means Miller can't keep it. Almost regardless of what he does on track.

He can refuse to accept that, and try to push beyond what has so far been his MotoGP ceiling. Or he can acknowledge Acosta as an unstoppable force and make sure that he continues to be a valuable asset for KTM, so that it doesn't even really have a decision to make as to who to pick to fill the Tech3 spot Acosta would vacate.

As both a long-respected team player but also a rider who believes he can be up there with the best of them, Miller may very well opt for some mixture of the two.

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