With the start of the 2019 MotoGP season only a few weeks away, racers have their heads down making final preparations for the upcoming Malaysia preseason test. Pramac Ducati racer Jack Miller, anxious to get the Michelin slicks spinning, is visiting Southern California for some uninterrupted training time. We caught up with him on a sunny afternoon while burning laps, with his mates, on a borrowed Ducati flat-tracker.

“This is my third year in a row coming out for the second half of our summer break (it’s summer at home in Australia), or winter break,” he laughs. “A bunch of us come out so we can cycle. There’s a group of us with Wardy [AMA Motocross and Supermoto champ Jeff Ward] and O’Show [125cc Motocross and Supercross champ Johnny O’Mara] and their crew. So we just go out and cycle, mountain bike, and, of course, motocross.”

In spite of their age (well past their 50s), both O’Mara and Ward are known in the SoCal cycling communities for their process on a pedal bike, able to routinely outride top-level riders less than half their age.

“They’re super gnarly on the bicycles,” Miller tells us. “I just try and tag along with them and follow them as much as we can.

Pramac Ducati MotoGP racer Jack Miller on Ducati Scrambler
Pramac Ducati MotoGP racer Jack Miller gets some seat time aboard a Ducati Scrambler flat-tracker during his winter training break in California.Adam Waheed

“If I sit at home in Australia, it’s summer, so everyone’s around and they all want to catch up and have a beer,” when asked why he came to California instead of staying home in Australia. “It’s not ideal for training, so I come out here and sort of separate myself a little bit from it and just have this month sort of to focus and just really put in work to prepare.

“I love it out here, especially in Southern California,” he says. “The tracks, the people. It’s great. The only thing I don’t like is the traffic, but the rest is unreal. If there was any other place in the world I’d rather live than Australia, it would be out here for sure.”

Having grown up riding dirt bikes as a kid, it’s no surprise that Miller gets it off pavement. “I did motocross and dirt track my whole career until I was 14. Then I swapped to road racing,” he tells us. “I just got over being injured and stuff like that; more from motocross than anything. I guess you could say I just did dirt track as a side hobby. But I was always really good at dirt tracks, and then I got the opportunity to go race road bikes, so I chased that dream instead.

“Today is the first time I’ve done dirt track in America, but having this, seeing this, it’s unreal,” he says of the private 1/8-mile track located just south of the SoCal sportbike riding hot spot, Ortega Highway.

If you pay attention to Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez’s Instagram feeds, you’ll see that flat-track riding is the latest training rage for top-level MotoGP racers. And there’s a reason for that says Miller.

Jack Miller flat track riding
Even in today’s age of electronics, Jack Miller says flat-track riding and racing is a key teaching tool for riders, demonstrating proper throttle control.Adam Waheed

“Flat track teaches you throttle control and also about bike position,” Miller explains. “How much angle you’re using for the drive point of the bike to really get that ultimate drive. Because you’re racing around a circle, you have to find the little things to really make that step forward to be faster than the other guys. So you’re always searching for what to do next, what’s the little things that you need to work on.”

In just a few weeks, Miller will be back with the Pramac Ducati team at the ultra-fast (and hot) Sepang circuit for a six-day in total test the first week of February. This time, however, he’ll be riding the GP19 Ducati Desmosedici.

“Last year I was on the year-old bike, which was the GP17,” Miller tells us. “This year, my teammate who I had at the time, Danilo Petrucci, has gone to factory Ducati. So I’ve stepped up my role in the team and I’ve got a new teammate who’s in the same position I was in last year. So Ducati is using our program as sort of like a stepping-stone. It’s a factory-supported satellite team.

“For the last test at Jerez, I was on the 18/19. I was on like a hybrid between the two. So I should have the full ’19 bike. Really looking forward to having the factory bike this year. It’s going to be unreal. We’ll wait and see what the test items are, but I’m sure there’ll be a lot, that’s for sure.”

Jack Miller and Marcel Schrötter
GP racers Jack Miller and Marcel Schrötter (Moto2) get some seat time prior to next month’s official Sepang MotoGP test.Adam Waheed

Without a doubt the globe-trotting 19-round MotoGP season is one of the most prestigious motorsport series in the world. But how did Miller get into this elite league?

“It’s something that sort of just each door opened up into the other, and then before I knew it, I was in MotoGP,” the 23-year-old racer says. “I love it. It’s a great job. I’ve got my friends here. It’s a good paddock. It’s a good place to be around. You’re over it at the end of the year, but coming this time of the season you’re keen to get underway again already.”

Now that Miller is on full-factory equipment he talks about how he plans on climbing the GP ladder: “This year is the first time I’ve ever been on the latest-model bike in my whole MotoGP career. So this is really a big step. Just to be on the same machinery as the other guys is going to help. I think there are a few other things, little things. I think if we have a good winter test, a couple tests, and really do the work then, I think it’ll make our season a lot easier.

"I feel the new bike, especially since Gigi's [Dall'Igna] been there, has really improved year by year," Miller tells us. "Coming from the Honda that I was riding before, it's a lot more calm, the bike," Miller describes. "Everyone's like, it's an animal, it's a beast. Yeah, it's fast, but the engine character is so smooth. I don't think I really got the same thing like [Valentino] Rossi and Casey [Stoner] had back in '07 through to 2012."