Tetbury racer misses first GP win by less than a second
MAKE NO mistake, Danny Kent has world championship-winning credentials and proved it with a spectacular first Grand Prix podium of his career at Assen on Saturday.
Such are the tiny margins in top class motor cycle racing that he pipped Luis Salom for third by just 1/1000th of a second – and he was just 8/10ths behind the winner and championship leader Maverick Vinales.
And that despite almost being knocked off his bike at one point by his own Red Bull Ajo Motorsport team-mate and Assen runner-up Sandro Cortese from Germany.
Significantly, Kent scrapped with this trio – the top three in the world championships standings – throughout the 22-lap race.
After a workmanlike start to his first campaign in Moto3, the Tetbury rider appears to have turned the corner and it will come as no surprise if he battles it out at the business end of the Moto3 races for the remainder of the season.
Kent raced rapidly all weekend after getting a new factory chassis and engine upgrade. He put his KTM into second position on the grid, his best qualifying position of 2012.
The 18-year-old got off to a spectacular start and led the race for the opening lap, although he came under a barrage of pressure and dropped back to ninth.
He gamely fought back to fifth and with five laps to go had his first brush with Cortese as the German made contact in an aggressive overtaking move.
Perhaps Cortese felt Kent, as the junior member of the team, should have been helping his cause against Vinales rather than going for the win. He appeared to make his feelings plain when clattering dangerously into Kent and forcing him to ease off the throttle soon after the Tetbury lad had briefly led with four laps to go.
But, at this relatively early stage of the season (seven of 18 races finished) it is still every man for himself – and Kent was in no mood to back down.
Going into the final lap Kent again took the lead and held it until the last few corners. But he lacked enough experience of top-end racing to last home and dropped back to fourth position after some scintillating overtaking manoeuvres from his rivals.
Salom led into the final chicane only to misjudge his braking which allowed Vinales to get first run on the opposition in the race to the flag.
Kent rallied and caught Salom on the line for a deserved podium place and he may even have overtaken Cortese in a few more yards.
Kent said: “I got a real confidence boost with my sixth place finish at Silverstone, but that position was due to other riders’ silly mistakes.
“At Assen, I was up there from the start and it was great to get my first podium.
“I really enjoyed the battle, Sandro hit me twice and I could easily have come off.
“It was four abreast at the last corner and anyone’s race.
“I was racing on a new factory chassis for the first time – Sandro had been using one for the previous two races.
“Assen is only one race and I have got to keep a level head.
“This weekend it is Sachsenring in Germany, which is one of my favourite tracks so I am hoping for the best.”
MOTO3 STANDINGS (after 7 of the 18 rounds): 1 Maverick Vinales (Sp) 130; 2 Sandro Cortese (Ger) 123; 3 Luis Salom (Sp) 88; 9 Danny Kent (GB) 42.