Motorcycling great Mick Doohan says gun teenager Jack Miller could become a MotoGP world championship contender as early next year after his impressive season-opening victory in the entry-level Moto3.
The 19-year-old stood atop the podium at the Qatar Grand Prix for the first time on Sunday following his maiden race for potent outfit Red Bull KTM.
In doing so, he became the first Australian to win in the smallest cylinder class (125cc) since Casey Stoner in Malaysia a decade ago.
“I think he’s just confirmed everyone’s belief in him – that given the right machinery he’s capable of heading out there and winning,” Doohan told AAP on Tuesday.
“It makes that dream a little bit closer for him – of Moto2, but perhaps even bypass Moto2 and go straight into MotoGP if the right team were to become available for him.
“The sport loves him and that’s half the battle. He’s well liked within the paddock and the people who run the sport enjoy having him around.
“And we certainly need another Aussie to be running up the front in MotoGP.”
The five-time MotoGP world champion reckons few question marks remain next to Miller’s name and his ability.
His seventh-placing on a less competitive Honda in Moto3 last year proved he had race craft, and his not-so-small frame means he is physically capable of handling a MotoGP machine.
“With him being in the circus at the moment and winning in Moto3, he is certainly the standout to be our next star in MotoGP,” said Doohan, who is in Kuala Lumpur as a judge for the Laureus World Sports Awards.
“I think he’s got the ability to go all the way.”
However, Doohan warned Miller that he would be better off staying in Moto3 than jumping to a third-tier team in the premier class.
“Because that wouldn’t do his career any good,” he said.
“But unfortunately there aren’t too many times that, like when (Valentino) Rossi inherited my bike when I was injured or (Marc) Marquez inherited Stoner’s bike when he retired suddenly, those opportunities don’t come around that often.
“The template at the moment is to go into a second-tier team and if a second-tier team was available to him, I’d jump at that rather than stay in a smaller category because sometimes you can stay around too long there as well.”
Miller leads the standings ahead of the second round at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in three weeks.