Jack reflects on a last-gasp charge for the podium that was a long time coming in Aragon, and why he’s still got some unfinished business in 2019.
Been a while since we’ve done one of these – then again, it’s been a while since I had something this good to talk about. All weekend here at Aragon I felt I had the pace and the confidence to finish on the podium, so to get it done is an awesome way to wrap up this part of the European season.
Misano last week, I was nowhere. The new track surface there and the track temps meant I never felt good with the front end of the bike all weekend and I was trying to stay on, basically. I kept on where some others didn’t, got some points and tried to put that one behind me.
Aragon felt different from the moment we got out there on Friday and I was inside the top six in both sessions and on my way to Q2 for Saturday, which meant I didn’t mind when it was wet Saturday morning. Fourth on the grid and nearly a second faster than the next-best Ducati later on Saturday was awesome, but not a massive surprise either because the bike was working so well, I really couldn’t fault it. It was up to me to make it work because if it didn’t, it was going to be me that was the reason why.
The race, I had to be patient. It probably didn’t look like it when I got up to second after not even one lap, but then I started to think of my FP4 pace the day before when I did 17 pretty good laps with the soft rear tyre I’d decided to use for the race, and then think of further back this year at Le Mans when I was second behind Marc (Marquez) early on and went after him.
That day, it was catching and passing Marc early that stuffed the rest of my race because I’d spun the tyre up too much, and it probably cost me a podium because I finished fourth. Today, I saw him starting to come towards me for a few corners and wondered for a second if I could have a race with him, but he cleared off so fast that I almost needed binoculars to see him after a lap or two. So I tried to be a bit more patient and make sure I had something left for the last five laps. Mav (Maverick Vinales) came past me, ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) came past me, but no worries. I didn’t like it, but I knew I had to save something. It’s hard not to over-react when that happens and lose your head, but I stuck to the plan. Stay in the 1:49s, bide my time, be consistent.
I could see Mav was starting to struggle a bit in the final few laps and that was my chance, and then it was just about being clean and not giving him an opening to get me back on the final lap at the parts of the track where the Yamaha was stronger. Once we got to the back straight, with me on a Ducati, it was pretty much done. My third podium for the year, but you’d have to say first place of the three as far as using my head and riding smarter goes. I really had to work for this one, so it was definitely rewarding.
It’s such a good way to come to the end of the European part of the season – well, until the last round at Valencia anyway – and it was even better that my mate Billy van Eerde was able to go two steps better than me and win his first Red Bull Rookies Cup race this weekend on Saturday. That’s unreal for him and his family, I’m stoked that was able to break through. There’ll be more coming for him, so I was rapt to be there in the pits when he came back before the podium.
I decided late last week that I was going to do the four flyways that are coming up from home in Australia, so I’m off to Townsville tomorrow and will do Thailand from there in a couple of weeks. I’m still ticking off some goals for this year and the main one now is to finish ahead of Fabio (Quartararo) in the independent riders’ championship. He’s only six points ahead of me now with five races left, so I’ve got a good shot. Before then, it’s time for a few days with some mates and family before I head off to work again. And I’ll definitely be aiming for another podium or two before the end of the season.
Photos courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool and Pramac Racing