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Rossi takes his 83rd win on board his Yamaha YZF-R1M at the season opener of MotoGP in Qatar. | EVENTS

Much attention was focused on Jack Miller, in his premier-class debut after his almost unprecedented leap-frog move direct from Moto3.

We spoke to him exclusively after the first two days of practice, and he described the progress that meant he had been able to lap within 1.34 seconds of the leader, ending up 21st overall

The Townsville racer was in his typically cheerful mood as he spoke about his progress on the Open category CWM Honda RS.

“Every time I ride the bike I seem to be able to drop a little bit of time off – getting a little more comfortable, changing my style, progressing and progressing. Feeling more physically strong as well,” he said.

“My first race, third free practice and I’m 1.3 off. Can’t ask for any better than that, that’s for sure.“If we look back I don’t think I could have picked a more competitive year to come into MotoGP, over the past six years. When was the last time you saw down to 21 was 1.3 seconds?

“It’s almost like being in Moto3 again.” There was more to come, he continued.“I need to work more on the mind-over-matter thing of putting the soft tyre in and really pushing the thing over the limit … With a hard tyre in I can run the same times as with a soft tyre, so I’m not really getting the benefit out of the soft like I should be.

“Once I get behind someone I find it’s much easier. All my fast laps I’ve done alone. And pretty much the whole winter test too.

“For my riding style, I come in too hard, I push the front tyre too hard, squash it too much. As soon as I’m in a group I have to start braking earlier, and I think: Gee, that was easier.

“I think I always go better in the race anyway.

“I haven’t really had any scares so far. This track is pretty scary: you’ve got turns two and ten, the two lefts after a long time on the right. It’s always a bit scary coming in there. We’re running the harder option and not many of the factory guys are doing that, but it seems to be working well for us. We seem to be able to keep the temperature in and it’s doesn’t squash down too much. I’m liking it.

“The two lefts, you have to be a bit more careful with it.”

His target was to finish in the top 15. “I still think that aiming for points is definitely a reasonable goal. We’re not far away in position, and time-wise we’re really close.