Jack writes about his second successive seventh place at his home GP, and a Phillip Island weekend that was close to being much more memorable.
Same result after a different approach this time … to be honest, not the way I was hoping my home GP at Phillip Island would work out. I was patient, didn’t overcook the tyres like last year, but I ran out of grip again. So, still seventh position. I’m not too happy, but on a bike that wasn’t in the top 10 here last year, I’ll take it.
I didn’t expect to be leading as early as I did when I passed Marc (Marquez) on the first lap, but the opportunity arose, so I put myself there. I was really just trying to save the tyre. For the first three-quarters of the race, the bike was really slow off the corners, and I was actually happy with that. I had a really dull (engine) map and tried to preserve the tyre as much as I could, but it wasn’t enough. I was on the softest map known to man, I think. So, happy enough with the result, but especially because of how conservative I was in the early laps, I expected a little bit more. But it was still a good weekend for me.
There’s nothing like racing at home for me. OK, there’s a lot of commitments and people pulling you this way and that way, but I remember what it was like when I was struggling to make a name for myself, the early 125cc days and when things weren’t going all that well when you were happy that some people even knew who you were … This is so much better. Some people get distracted by the crowds and family being here, the media and all of that, but I’m fine with it. Yes, it adds some pressure but I put plenty of pressure on myself each weekend anyway, so it’s not that much of a change. It’s mostly positive energy so I’ll take it. I always just hope that people have a good time and that the weather doesn’t ruin it for the fans, which is always a massive factor down here. The crowds were big this year too, I was told more than any year since Casey (Stoner) had his last race here in 2012, so that was awesome to see.
I’ve had good results at the Island in the past of course, and last year when I led the first four laps (and to be honest, had no idea how to play the race once I got up the front) was one of the best moments of my career. It’s such an awesome circuit and it can be a challenge with the wind and whatnot, but that’s the same for all us riders. I just feel comfortable here and it’s such a challenge that you’re locked in for every lap.
I was right up there from the first practice, although some of you would have seen my old mate Cal (Crutchlow) wasn’t all that happy with me after FP1 when I was second by about three-hundredths of a second to Maverick (Vinales). He and I were at a barbeque on Thursday night before the race and he decided he was putting a bet on me to lead FP1, I think I was paying $26 or something … I’d have been annoyed too!
It sucked for Cal to have his accident on Friday where he fractured his ankle, and it sounds like he might be in Melbourne for a while recovering as he has some more treatment to come after his surgery. Hs wife Lucy is down here now too. Cal and I are good mates as everyone knows so it was a shame he wasn’t racing on Sunday with us, and he’s handy around the Island as well. Cal being Cal, he was on the phone Saturday morning giving me tips on how I could race with the guys up the front … As soon as he stopped being the opposition, he was on my side. He seems to be in good spirits and you know him, he’ll do everything he can to get back on the bike as soon as possible. Whether that’s this year … it’s hard to say. There’s a lot of healing he needs to do first.
I went into the race still thinking a podium was achievable after qualifying … another second-row start here, but that qualifying was a scary one when it started spitting with rain just as it started. I’m not going to lie, it was heart-in-mouth stuff. There was a lot of mist, more mist than rain, sticking to your visor, so you didn’t really know how wet it was which is actually worse than it being full wet. At least you know what to expect when it’s properly wet. You were going into the darkness, you just didn’t know. So to bring it home in sixth position, with how the conditions were, I was happy to be in one piece. My elbow got a bit of a workout keeping me upright once or twice …
The other thing about this weekend? Who I rode for. I was a bit flat on Sunday after the Japan race when I arrived at the Island because I still thinking about a chance to ride something different that didn’t quite happen. When we were in Japan, Jorge (Lorenzo) pulled out with injury and was ruled out for the Island as well, so it looked like I may have an opportunity to have a ride of the factory bike alongside ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) at my home GP. Before the race at Motegi, that was the plan we’d decided on with Ducati. But then it all went pear-shaped on Sunday in Japan for me; I crashed out of the race, and when ‘Dovi’ fell off and didn’t score any points, Ducati were more keen to me to stay on my usual bike for Australia so we could try to keep the lead in the independent teams’ championship with Alma Pramac Racing, because the manufacturers’ championship for Ducati was more or less out of reach after no points in Japan.
They put (Alvaro) Bautista on Jorge’s bike for the Island instead, so it probably wasn’t much of a surprise that I was a bit disappointed after Motegi when the plans changed and I’d ended up on my bum in the gravel and stuffed my own race. I got over it quickly enough, but you had to wonder what it would have been like. Aussies on red factory Ducatis tend to go alright at Phillip Island, don’t they …
Anyway, there’s no point looking backwards. It’s onwards and upwards, looking forward to getting my hands on the factory bike starting at Valencia in the last test of the year. But first comes Malaysia and next weekend. I’ll speak to you from there.
This story originally appeared on redbull.com
Photos courtesy of Alma Pramac Racing