Jack writes about getting his season back on track at the Dutch TT, his new Ducati deal, and what really happened with those Honda contract rumours …
It’s been a while since I’ve had something good to write about, as we didn’t manage to finish the last two races – one of them my fault in Mugello, one where we had a mechanical (failure) in Barcelona. So even to finish at Assen was good, and to be back in the top 10 again was better. But it would have been better still if I was a little bit further up the front.
The race for the win at Assen was pretty intense as you all saw, and the slightly frustrating part for me was that I had a better view of it than most of you because I was right there behind it, but never really close enough to get involved. Definitely looked like some fun up there. Those eight bikes up the front seemed to be changing places every corner and I could see it, but it was just a bit too far for me today.
I was happy to finish, especially with the way the rear tyre was dying on me at the end, but you always want more. Thirteen seconds behind (race winner) Marc (Marquez) at the front isn’t a lot, and 11 seconds off Alex Rins who was second is about four-tenths of a second a lap. But I didn’t think there was much more for me today, and looking back at the race 45 minutes after getting off the bike, it was hard to see where I could have gained much more time. I lacked a little bit of edge grip with the tyre for the whole race compared to the guys in front of me, and I just couldn’t hang with them at the pace they were running. Annoying a bit, but that’s the facts. I’ve finished six races this year and all of them in the top 10, so it was good to keep that run going.
My race was clean, and I expected the race pace to be a bit faster for the guys right at the front, so maybe the wind played a part there – it was a lot windier today than it had been all weekend, and they were carving each other up at the front which affected the lap times too. My pace was pretty stable and that was something after a difficult weekend – we just missed making Q2 on Saturday in final practice, and then I just missed getting out of Q1 and was a row back on the grid from where I probably wanted to be. Friday started rough for me and we really chipped away at the problems we had, so to bring it home in that sort of race – made a good start, didn’t make any mistakes, stayed calm – was as good as it was going to get. Did what needed to be done, basically.
I was ahead of my teammate Danilo (Petrucci) when he crashed out and I had (Andrea) Iannone in front of me, so I was getting ready to attack him in the final laps for 10th as I didn’t have a lot of pressure from behind. He was struggling with tyres or something and ran wide at the final chicane, but there was no penalty for him because he backed off and didn’t try to take advantage of the mistake. The first time, anyway. A couple of laps later he did the same thing and didn’t back off to hand back the time he gained, maybe he thought he’d get away with it and see if he could live with the consequences. I knew he had a two-second penalty, and he would have as well. So as long as I stayed closer than two seconds, he’d hand me a place for free. I was actually close enough to have a lunge at him if I had to, but there wasn’t a lot of point. Why risk it? I was going to get the position at the end anyway. So, 11th over the line, but 10th in the results.
I’ve not spoken not you all since I confirmed I’d be staying here at Alma Pramac Racing, which happened at the last race in Barcelona. I’m so stoked to be back here again next year and on a factory Ducati too, and there’s a lot of pressure off my shoulders for the rest of this year having next year sorted out so early. So it’s time to get down to business now, keep the momentum going from the start of the season where I’ve had a pole in Argentina and a fourth in the dry in Le Mans, and try to avoid races like Italy and Catalunya where we don’t make the most of things. The rest of this year is head down, keep learning and make myself ready for the factory bike and the extra responsibility next year. Knowing where I’ll be in 2019 already takes the pressure off and gets the distractions out of the way so I can build from here. It’s more than I could have hoped for this early in the year, normally things aren’t as settled as that for me, or at least they haven’t been much in the past.
The Repsol Honda stuff? You might have read that I’d signed to go there around Mugello time, and don’t worry, I read it too … So let’s clear that up: there was talk, definitely, but no contract negotiations. It’s a big step from talking about something to negotiating to signing … so I don’t know who said what to who or whatever to turn that into a story that I’d definitely be racing there next year. Talking … it’s always good to know what your options could have been over there. Signing something? That’s a lot different …
Germany is next in a couple of weeks, and we’re almost at the halfway stage of the season already. It’s a really particular sort of a track with left-handers one after the other, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Ducati goes around there – I’ll speak to you from Sachsenring.
This story originally appeared on redbull.com
Photos courtesy of Alma Pramac Racing