Two Aussies will feature on the grid for the first time in 13 years when the Australian MotoGP returns to Phillip Island next year after a date for the race was confirmed.
The dates have been locked in for the Australian round of the 2022 MotoGP season, which will feature two Aussies on the grid for the first time in 13 years.
Jack Miller and Remy Gardner will line up at Phillip Island on October 14-16 after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 races. Miller said it would be great to race again at the revered circuit.
“For us MotoGP riders, it’s back where we belong,’’ Miller said. “There’s nowhere else like it and racing at home in front of family and friends for us Aussies will be extra special this time – I can’t wait.”
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Miller (Ducati) and Gardner (KTM) become the first Aussie pair riding in the elite class since Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen in 2009.
Miller, currently fourth in this year’s championship, scored a memorable third placing in the last race at Phillip Island, in 2019.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief Andrew Westacott said the island race would again deliver crucial support to a local community doing it tough during the pandemic.
“It’s been far too long since fans made the pilgrimage to Phillip Island,” he said. “I can’t wait to see the MotoGP faithful back at the circuit, for what never fails to be an action-packed weekend.”
The Australian MotoGP is contracted to be run at the 4.445km island track until 2026.
Next year’s Australian round will be run between rounds in Thailand (October 2) and Malaysia (October 23).
The 2022 championship will feature 21 races, starting in Qatar on March 6 and finishing in Valencia on November 6.
The calendar will include additional races in Finland and Indonesia.
Miller explodes at bitter rival
A furious Jack Miller was caught up in a post-race confrontation with Joan Mir after the world champion bumped the Aussie off the track on the closing lap of the US MotoGP at Austin.
Miller upbraided Mir on the cool-down lap, at one stage grabbing the Spaniard’s helmet.
The race was won by Honda star Marc Marquez who secured his seventh victory at the Circuit of the Americas track, while runner-up Fabio Quartararo could wrap up the world title in the next round at Misano.
Miller had started from 10th and stormed through the pack to be fourth by halfway in the race, but lost pace in the closing laps.
Mir’s Suzuki careered into Miller on the last lap, the latest chapter in a growing rivalry between the two.
Despite his clear anger post-race, Miller later said he believed he had controlled himself. “I was struggling with my front tyre, I tried to protect the line … but you can’t protect when someone runs into the side of you, can you?’’ he said.
“I swear, every time I race with the guy he seems to run into me … it’s not just the last two races either. I think there’s better ways you can go about the situation.
“I was fading at the end of the race, don’t get me wrong, but that didn’t need to happen.’’
Mir was demoted one position for irresponsible riding and later apologised.
“I’m sorry for the touch with Jack, but it’s a shame I had a penalty because it was not a deliberate hit.”
Miller moved up to fourth in the world title race but, mathematically, can no longer rein in Quartararo.
Miller’s teammate Pecco Bagnaia is the only rider who can catch the Frenchman but he himself lost ground despite finishing third and his now 52 points adrift.
In Moto2, Remy Gardner’s championship lead was cut to just 11 points when he crashed out as nearest rival and teammate Raul Fernandez claimed the chequered flag.
Gardner slid out of contention while chasing Fernandez with 12 laps to go.
Aussie ace Miller chases team MotoGP glory
– Todd Balym and AFP
Australian rider Jack Miller believes a series podium finish is within his grasp as he looks to complete his best MotoGP season and secure the teams’ championship ahead of the crucial final stages of the year starting with the US Grand Prix this weekend.
Miller has fought his way up to fifth on the championship standings with two race victories this year and while he’s striving for a top three finish overall this season, equally important is how he can help Ducati Lenovo to the teams’ title.
They currently trail Monster Energy Yamaha by just three points with four rounds remaining, while Miller is now fifth in the title race on 140 points, just behind Frenchman Johann Zarco (141 points) with Spain’s Joan Mir within sight on 167 points.
Miller has raced five times at the Austin racetrack and with a podium finish in his last start in the Texas two years ago he is confident he can keep chipping away at the men in front of him in his quest for a podium result in the championship.
“We’re at that time of the year now when you look more at the championship standings to see what’s possible, and for us the teams’ championship is within reach, for sure,” Miller said.
“We’re creeping closer and closer to the factory Yamaha boys. Last year we helped Ducati get the constructors’ title and that was fantastic, so to get the teams’ one this time would be massive for us.
“For me, seventh is the best I’ve done over a season before now so I’d love to get myself on the rostrum, inside the top three, and I reckon that’s possible.
“I’m only a point off (Johann) Zarco in fourth now and 27 behind Mir in third, so there’s a bit of work to do with four races to go, but it’s achievable so I need to keep chipping away at it.”
Miller’s teammate Francesco Bagnaia is still in the overall title hunt on 186 points, but he needs to reduce the massive gap to Yamaha’s leader Fabio Quartararo (234 points) in the coming rounds if he is to be any chance at forcing the championship into a deciding final round in Valencia.
There are still 100 points up for grabs in the title race and after back-to-back victories Bagnaia now has three rounds to close that gap to within 24 points to be any chance at snatching the crown at the final round in Spain on November 14.
“The gap in the Championship is still big, and there are only four races left, so it will be crucial to be consistent and bring home as many points as possible,” Bagnaia said.
Quartararo is bidding to become France’s first ever MotoGP world champion and after five race wins this season he has a strong 48-point title buffer but with Bagnaia in red-hot form the 22-year-old has “decided not to think about the championship”.
“At the start of the year, I said to myself, whether or not I’m fighting for the title, I want to win races,” he said. “I want it to continue like this.”
On paper, the Circuit of the Americas may favour the Ducatis, who can use their engine power in the long 1.2-kilometre straight. A greater threat on the day is more likely to be six-time world champion Marc Marquez.
The Honda rider, who is still feeling his way back to full fitness after a debilitating crash last season, has won six times out of seven in Texas since the first edition in 2013.
On circuits which turn anticlockwise, Marquez has always been almost unbeatable. And even though he is not yet back to 100 per cent since his serious accident last year, his right arm injury is less of a handicap when it comes to turning mainly to the left.
The proof of that lies in his results. On the two anticlockwise tracks visited this season, he won in Germany and finished second in Aragon.
In Moto2, Australian Remy Gardner (Kalex) is 34 points ahead of his teammate Raul Fernandez but the latter has won the last two races.
Gardner almost stole victory from his teammate with a late surge in the San Marino Grand Prix last start, their one-two finish their sixth of the season and the 11th podium in 14 races for the young Aussie star on the rise.
Originally published as MotoGP 2022 calendar: Dates locked in for Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island