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What would happen if you took a young (19-year-old), talented and brash rider who has experience in the lowest class of GP racing and put him directly into the premier class without the chance to gain experience in Moto2?
We’re about to find out. Jack Miller is officially going to LCR Honda alongside Cal Crutchlow, though the young Aussie will be on the Honda customer bike rather than the factory supported RC213V Crutchlow is taking over from Stefan Bradl.
I have written before about how strongly I’m against this move, or any instance of promoting young riders too quickly.
And I wrote earlier this week about how factories are trying to claim the best young riders for future service. No one does this more efficiently than Honda. For as much pride as Honda takes in its motorcycles, they know very well that in order to win regularly you also need the best riders.
Miller has a three-year contract with HRC, and will fulfill the first two years with LCR.
Each side in the bargain is gambling on how Miller will adapt without any Moto2 experience. Miller could take to the big bike as naturally as Marc Marquez did in his rookie season. But Marquez had two years of Moto2 to prepare for the larger machine. HRC is no doubt hoping that Miller will not be one of those riders who went quickly on the small bike but just couldn’t adapt to the larger one.
It’s a sound business decision for Honda as now they have all three Moto3 title contenders in line to serve HRC’s future plans. Alex Marquez and Alex Rins are already sponsored by Repsol, managed by Marc Marquez’ manager, and riding Hondas in Moto3.
If Miller doesn’t adapt well, HRC has other options. If he does, they face another embarrassment of riches for rider talent.
For Miller the gamble is a bit different. His best case scenario is adapting quickly and safely to the customer Honda MotoGP bike, to the new and more demanding sponsor requirements, and to the greater attention and scrutiny from fans and media. Some would say the larger bike is the lesser challenge.
I don’t care to dwell on how things might go poorly for Miller. What concerns me is that we have three classes of Grand Prix motorbike racings for some very good reasons. We have a minimum age for riders to join Moto3, although the powers that be feel free to ignore then rule when it suits them to do so. So far I’ve not heard talk of letting Fabio Quartararo go to the premier class next year, which is reassuring.
Before talk of Miller skipping Moto2 began, I was writing about how bright a future he had. I was assuming at least one year in Moto2 to refine his skill and adjust (to more power, more pressure, more scrutiny) before joining the premier class.
I still think he has fantastic potential. I just hope missing out on a year in Moto2 won’t mean he arrives at LCR next season too green to live up to expectations that have in the past proven too much for riders both older and more experienced than he. The folks at Honda certainly know more about young motorcycle riders than I do, so I will keep my fingers crossed for a great rookie season and successful premier class future for Jack Miller.
Photograph: ©2014 by Scott Jones / PHOTO.GP – All Rights Reserved
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