Queenslander Jack Miller shone through the gloom at Assen in the Netherlands on Sunday to stun the MotoGP world with his maiden Grand Prix victory, which came after a two-part race that was red-flagged for torrential rain and saw just 13 riders see the chequered flag.
Jack becomes the first Australian to win a premier-class Grand Prix since Casey Stoner won the Australian Grand Prix in 2012, and becomes the first non-factory rider to win a MotoGP race since Toni Elias won in Portugal in 2006.
Starting from 18th on the grid after a crash in qualifying on Saturday, Jack stormed his way up to 12th on lap one and gradually moved forwards as the skies darkened, and was in eighth place on lap 15 of the scheduled 26 laps when worsening visibility, teeming rain and patches of standing water saw race officials throw the red flag.
The race was resumed after a half-hour delay, with grid positions for the 12-lap re-start determined by where riders had finished the red-flagged earlier race. Jack made up four places on the first lap to jump to fourth, then advanced into the podium positions on the next lap for the first time in his career when Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) crashed out of the race. Third became second on the next lap when race leader Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) fell, and on lap four, Jack passed championship leader Marc Marquez (Honda) to take the lead of a MotoGP race for the first time. He reeled off the final eight laps while barely putting a wheel offline in treacherous conditions that caught out many vastly more experienced riders to come home 1.991 seconds ahead of Marquez, with Scott Redding (Ducati) rounding out a most unlikely podium. Before the weekend, Jack was paying 1000 to 1 with the bookmakers for a victory at Assen.
Jack spent most of his in-lap on one wheel, his celebratory wheelies thrilling the 105,000-strong crowd, and was visibly emotional on the podium while the Australian national anthem was being played, and again in parc ferme.
“I don’t often say this but I’m lost for words,” Jack said.
“I feel incredibly emotional right now and it is hard to describe the sensation of winning for the first time in MotoGP. I felt confident and fast in the first part of the race but it was the right call to red flag it because the conditions were getting pretty dangerous. The track was really slippery for part two as well but I immediately felt comfortable. I could see a few riders making mistakes but I just kept my focus and concentrated on being fast and consistent without taking any silly risks. Once I passed Marc I just tried to block out the fact that I was heading for my first win and keep a clear mind. Coming out of the final chicane and seeing the chequered flag was just an unbelievable feeling.
“My family and I have made a lot of sacrifices to make today happen and it feels amazing. I can’t thank Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS enough. They have given me incredible support and never stopped believing in me. I must also thank Honda and their management for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to show what I can do at this level. It might take a while to sink in but I am going to enjoy tonight, that’s for sure!”
Jack jumps to 13th in the world championship standings with his seventh world championship victory overall, and has 33 points as the calendar shifts to Germany and the Sachsenring in three weeks’ time.
Full race results from Assen can be found on motogp.com here