Jack Miller was left “disappointed” in Motegi as he faded late from podium contention at the Japanese Grand Prix, and was left fighting in “survival mode”.
Starting sixth, Miller was third midway through the opening lap before slotting in behind Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and Petronas Yamaha SRT duo Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.
Miller quickly cleared Morbideilli on Lap 3 to make a push towards a fourth podium of the season.
For so long, it seemed as though Miller was living up to pre-race predictions of a podium at the Twin Ring Motegi, having been consistent on the same soft rear in dry Friday practice.
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However, Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) all queued up behind, motoring past Miller one by one.
By Lap 15, Miller was seventh, having also been cleared by Alex Rins (Suzuki).
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) also got past, before Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) relegated him to 10th by race’s end.
It was a deflating result for the Australian, considering he was in the mix with eventual winner Marquez and runner-up Quartararo early doors.
“We had an issue with the rear grip,” Miller said after the race.
“It came around lap five or seven. Since then I was more-or-less in survival mode.
“I don’t know what happened. I felt really comfortable, really strong, I was just trying to stay with Marc and Fabio and then all of a sudden I couldn’t push anymore.”
The leaders were comfortably in the 1m46s bracket all race, and Miller held firm with them.
However, towards the end of the race, Miller was lapping 1m47s and 1m48s, and was nearly 19 seconds off Marquez at the flag.
The signs first hit when Morbidelli passed, which coincided with Miller’s first lap inside the 1m47s bracket all race.
Meanwhile, Miller’s rookie Pramac teammate Francesco Bagnaia finished in 13th.
It was a second race running that from so much hope, Miller has stumbled — although his accidental kill switch drama in Thailand was an error, the fade in Japan requires a more thorough review.
Using the medium rear tyre, Dovizioso claimed third, and pushed rookie Quartararo on the final lap for P2.
Ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, Miller’s hopes of beating Quartararo to top independent honours look to be over, with the Frenchman 48 points ahead with only 75 points remaining.
“We have to go through the data and understand what went wrong and where,” he said.
“Really disappointed, but we brought it home. It’s not where we wanted to be after fighting for the podium at the start.
“I believe we had more today, but we weren’t able to show it.”