Townsville’s Jack Miller in action during free practice. Picture: Mark Stewart
Townsville’s Jack Miller in action during free practice. Picture: Mark Stewart

Miller to start from sixth on grid at Australian GP

JACK Miller has worked his way up to start from position six in Sunday's MotoGP Australian Grand Prix.

The Townsville-born rider finished less than a second behind Marc Marquez at Port Phillip on Saturday during qualifying.

The Spaniard finished with a pole-setting lap of 1:29.199, securing his fifth Australian GP pole position in a row.

Miller pushed his Ducati to the limits during Saturday's practice, crashing early on in Free Practice 4 but recovering for qualifying.

The 23-year-old finished eighth overall in practice yesterday, just behind world champion Marquez and only 0.7 seconds behind pacesetter Andrea Iannone.

He was second fastest in Practice 1 on Friday but dropped back later in the day.

"I am semi-happy with how things went (on Friday)," Miller said.

"I was able to get the most out of my rear tyre but there's definitely more up my sleeve - we just have to do some more homework.

"But it's still up in the air about what tyre we will opt for in Sunday's race."

"I had to put the elbow down (on the track) a few times (on Saturday) ... it was scary out there, that's for sure," Miller said of the greasy conditions.

 "You don't really know how wet it is so you're sort of just going into the darkness but I managed to stay on the bike and bring it home in sixth position.

"I would have liked to have got on the front row but, with how the conditions were, I'm just happy to be here in one piece and ready to take it to them (in the race)."

Miller is sitting 13th on the MotoGP standings.

The Alma Pramac Ducati rider finished sixth at the Australian GP last year, six seconds behind race winner Marquez.

If he wins on Sunday, it will add to his Moto3 success at Phillip Island in 2014.

Repsol Honda star Marquez love of the famed island circuit was evident as he excelled, despite intermittent rain during Saturday's second qualifying making life difficult for all.

 Marquez, who clinched his seventh world title last week in Japan, had struggled to find the right set-up for his machine during practice but timed his run to perfection to claim the 51st MotoGP pole of his career.

"It was so difficult to understand which parts (of the track) to push with the bike," Marquez said.

"We are riding very fast and you see small drops of rain on your visor and you don't know where the limit is.

"But for one lap, it completely stopped raining and I kept pushing and gave everything on that lap because I knew it was dry.

"Then I saw it was raining a little bit and would not take the risk unless somebody else improved because (Sunday) is the race and we have seen many crashes here."

Movistar Yamaha's Maverick Vinales will start from second, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha) third and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone fourth after topping the standings in free practice.

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi pushed his Movistar Yamaha into seventh place, with factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso - second in world championship standings - ninth.

Queenslander Mike Jones, an injury replacement rider on an Angel Nieto Team Ducati, will start from the 23rd and last position on the grid.

Popular Brit Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) will not take his place after suffering a broken ankle in Friday's practice.

Italtrans Racing's Mattia Pasini claimed pole position for the Moto2 race on his Kalex, with local hope Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) starting from 15th.

Spaniard Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini) blitzed the field in Moto3 qualifying to take pole position.

  - with AAP