THE SMILE has come back for Malmesbury-based motorcycling ace Danny Kent after his best race result for more than 18 months.
The 20-year-old Red Bull Husqvarna rider competed with the leaders throughout in the Moto3 German Grand Prix on the Sachsenring circuit before crossing the line in fifth.
Kent was beaten just a second by winner Jack Miller of Australia who pipped South Africa’s Brad Binder and he missed out on the final podium place by just one tenth of a second despite racing on rapidly deteriorating tyres.
It was Kent’s best finish since he won the second of his two Moto3 Grand Prix in Valencia back in November 2012, the year he finished fourth in the world championship.
Last season Kent endured a miserable time when promoted to the Moto2 series, failing to make a top 10 finish and slumping to 22nd in the world standings.
Sachsenring heralded a major improvement from the British rider - not just in the race but also in practice and qualifying.
He was second fastest to Miller in the combined free practice sessions and was fifth in Saturday’s qualifying, a session that was disrupted in the second half by rain.
On race day Kent got away smoothly from the middle of the second row of the grid. He was in fourth place at the first corner and managed to avoid getting caught up in race incidents during the opening stages that saw a number of riders exit the race.
While battles for the lead ensued between Miller and Alex Marquez, and later Binder, Kent remained tucked into the following group of three riders in an exciting phase of continual overtaking.
With 10 of the 27 laps to go, Miller and Binder were having a tight race up front, while Kent, Marquez and French rider Alex Masbou were slugging it out for third place.
The battle heated up over the final three laps but Kent had to settle for fifth place.
Kent’s performance will be a confidence booster and proof that he has the machinery, speed and the skills to race with the best riders in the class.
He has now moved up to 12th position in the world championship standings with 46 points.
Kent said: “It was definitely our best weekend of the season and our best race.
“We took a step forward at Assen and here we started from where we left off there. I’m definitely happy with how the weekend has gone and we were much closer to the winning rider at only one second behind.
“It’s also good for my confidence, because it shows I can be up at the front.”
Factory team boss Aki Ajo said: “He was fighting in the last laps, even to get the podium, and I am happy that Danny is back.”
During the short summer break before the next Grand Prix, Kent will be introducing world championship leader Miller and fellow Aussie rider Arthur Sissis to the delights of motocross while they stay with him in Malmesbury.
The next Grand Prix is at Indianapolis, US, on August 10.