Stoner’s Swansong

Arthur Sissis - left with big shoes to fill
Arthur Sissis – left with big shoes to fill

It’s difficult to predict who the next Australian GP champion will be, but the last decade and a half has belonged to riders who did their time in the small-bore GP classes, graduating through to the premier class rides – Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa are all examples of this.

So while many are lamenting no obvious replacement for the retiring Casey Stoner, we shouldn’t forget we have two teenagers in Moto3…
On race day at Phillip Island Adelaide native Arthur Sissis would go on to get third, an amazing ride.
He began his racing days like his compatriot Casey Stoner, riding speedway and dirt track as a youngster.

“My sister, she taught me how to ride a motorbike when I was little”, admits Sissis. “Then I was just riding speedway but I always wanted to race road bikes.”

The dirt was his method of honing his skills in preparation for a road racing career that would hit the international stage in 2009 – competing in the prestigious Red Bull Rookies Cup.

The family bought a van in Europe and lived in that for seven months or so. In a show of real commitment, during this time Sissis was also carving a solid reputation on the domestic road racing scene, claiming the South Australian and national 125cc titles in 2008 and the 250cc category in 2009. In 2010, with more experience under his belt, Sissis raced again in the Rookies Cup, this time finishing an encouraging thirteenth. However it would be the breakthrough year of 2011 and a runner up finish in the Rookies cup that would earn him his first call up to Grand Prix, riding in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Shortly after that he was confirmed for his first full time ride in Grand Prix, riding in the Moto3 category for the Red Bull KTM team.
During his first stints overseas Sissis says he missed home a lot. “I’ve been doing this now for the last four years, and this year has been the longest I think, ten months. But you have to do what you have to do.”

As for his results this year, Sissis was surprised at how competitive he was at the beginning of the 2012 season, starting in the unknown category of Moto3.

“At the start of the season I thought, maybe top fifteen. Then when I got that good result in Qatar I thought I could challenge for the top ten in every race. Some races I’ve been in the top ten and some races I’ve been close, but it’s been pretty hard. As far as machinery goes, Sissis believes he is on a machine capable of winning – but there are some differences to his rivals.

He explained that while he has the same bike as his teammates, some of them have lighter fairings while his own are heavier, simply because he would not make the minimum weight limit otherwise. Learning new tracks has been the biggest challenge for Sissis this year. Even though he has raced in Europe for several seasons in the Rookies Cup, he is still visiting tracks for the first time.

“When they are so much faster in the first session and you’re a few seconds back it makes it hard trying to catch up. So by qualifying you’re starting at the back and then in the race you try to catch up with the front guys and it makes it hard. Next year Sissis hopes to be challenging for the top five, when the experience gained this year should pay off. “It’s really good to be team-mates with Sandro and Danny because they are so experienced. They help me a lot as well. We share data and when I’m on the track they will give me a few laps to learn the track or something, they’re really good.”

Sissis seems to know where his immediate future is headed. Joking, but at the same time not joking, he finishes by telling us, “I have another year in this team, I’ve got one year to learn, and one year to win.”

Jack Miller - flying the Aussie flag in Moto3
Jack Miller – flying the Aussie flag in Moto3

Jack Miller is the other teenager flying the flag for Australia this year in the newly created Moto3 class.
His 21st position at Phillip Island wasn’t what he would have wanted but believes he’s also hampered somewhat by uncompetitive machinery.
The international lifestyle of Grand Prix motorcycle racing is also far removed from Townsville, Queensland, where the seventeen year old grew up on the family cattle property. His racing career began on dirt track, where he had won his first national long track title by the age of eight.
After switching to road racing at fourteen Miller has gone on to hit some remarkable milestones early in his career, the highlight winning the German IDM 125cc Championship in 2011.

“We were lucky enough to win the German Championship”, explains Miller. “I also picked up a podium when the bike didn’t break down in the Spanish Championship. It was a decent year where I was picked up to do the last five races of last year and then this full year in Moto3.”

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the ambitious Aussie with some up and down results throughout 2012. As with any new class of racing, there has been a settling in period as manufacturers adapt their machinery to a new set of rules.
Miller says that throughout the year the Honda machinery that he is riding has become less competitive which has actually seen many of his rivals abandon the manufacturer in Moto3.

“I was hoping to finish the championship off in the top ten, but all of the teams that bought Honda’s in the first place, they changed chassis. A lot went to FTR – some went to Suter. Come testing there were thirteen or fourteen Honda’s, now there is only one. We are the only ones left on the Honda and the engine is great, but the chassis is just basic, you know, you can’t adjust anything on it…so we are really struggling with setup and also development.

Miller explains that it is not only cost that stops him from changing chassis – but also his team boss. “The team boss didn’t really want to change anything. He’s happy with it (the Honda) but he’s not the one riding it. It makes it hard for me…this year has been a great learning year but for next year we are really looking at getting onto a competitive bike and trying to do the best that I can do.”

“We’re getting there slowly and steadily, these last couple of races we have been getting better and better and we are getting quicker in the dry so hopefully we can keep the progression going forward.”
Even though he has been living and riding overseas for the last few seasons, Miller says he still finds adapting to life in Europe challenging.

“For the last three years I’ve lived in three different countries. I lived in Spain, then Holland last year and this year I’m in Italy. A lot of Pigeon English and sign language can get you a long way.”
Australians have a solid history of performing well at their home circuit and for Jack Miller, his affection for Phillip Island is as strong as his compatriots.

“For me, it is one of my favourite circuits. I love it, it’s got a heap of fast stuff and then a couple of technical little corners, but this year it is incredibly bumpy. I mean, even from what it was last year it is getting worse and worse but they said it is getting resurfaced for the next GP so that will be good. It’s definitely due for a remake!”

As far as the future goes, Miller says he has had offers to move up to Moto2 but another year in Moto3 is most likely. “I myself would really like to do another year in Moto3. I think Moto2 is a great championship. The guys in there, it’s like Moto3, it is so close.”

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