Danny Kent Q&A: Britain's first GP champion since Sheene
Wiltshire-born Danny Kent ended an agonising 38-year wait for a British Grand Prix champion earlier this month at Valencia. He spoke to Jamie Klein about his remarkable season and his future plans.
The road to the Moto3 title was not a simple one for Danny Kent - but after a tense finale, the 22-year-old finally got the job done with an expertly judged ride in Spain, sealing a championship that had seemed destined to be his since early in the year.
In an exclusive Motorsport.com Q&A, Kent recalls a difficult final phase to his season, culminating in the Valencia showdown with Miguel Oliveira, offers his initial impressions of the Moto2 bike he'll be riding in 2016, and explains why he turned down the chance to jump straight to MotoGP.
How does it feel to have ended such a long wait for a British GP champion?
It’s an amazing feeling, not only because for a British rider it’s been 38 years since we’ve had a champion in this paddock, so it’s a dream come true. All the hard work when I was younger, all the dedication and sacrifices my parents have made, it’s paid off.
After a dominant start to the year, why was the second half more subdued?
There were two halves to the year – in the first half of the year we were very strong, we won six races, we had four pole positions. Since round two I was in the lead of the championship and I was able to extend that lead.
Then in the second part of the year, the target was on our back for everyone to chase us. We were a step ahead of everyone to begin with but then they caught us up and the racing was really close. KTM improved their bike a lot and Miguel [Oliveira] rode really well.
In the last four races we didn’t want to take any risks and lose points with stupid mistakes, and finally we got the job done in Valencia.
Talk us through the Valencia finale…
I wouldn’t say it was the hardest race of my career. We had a bad qualifying so it was a bit nerve-wracking because I needed a top 14 finish and I’d only qualified in 18th.
From my practice pace, I knew I could do it, and I got a good start, but the last four laps were the longest of my life – I knew I just had to take it easy and get across the line.
Why did you refuse several offers to move directly to MotoGP next year?
We had three offers to go to MotoGP [from Pramac, Aspar and Avintia], but there were a few reasons we turned down them, one of them being they weren’t the most amazing offers.
So we decided to stick with the same team and the same crew and try to have a strong year in Moto2 – all the factory MotoGP contracts expire at the end of 2016 so the plan is to go straight to a factory team.
Alex Rins has shown what you can do in the first year of Moto2, he’s won races and been at the front, so if we can do it, there’s a good chance we can go to MotoGP in 2017.
What are your expectations for your return Moto2 season?
We haven’t set ourselves any real targets – we just want to work hard over the winter physically, and we’ve had a two-day test in Jerez already.
That went really well, I’ve already lapped faster at Jerez [on the Kalex] than I ever managed in 2013 with the [Tech 3] Mistral 610, so it’s been a good start.
What were your first impressions of the Kalex in testing?
The feeling with the Kalex in the first test was really good. Coming back to Moto2 from Moto3 is hard to compare, because I’ve been away for two years, but I have a lot to learn. I’m used to riding Moto3 so I’ll need to change my riding style.
It’ll be good to work for Miguel, we’re good friends. Leopard has a great team, the top two riders in Moto3, and we have a strong crew around us.
Mahindra finishes third in Moto3 constructors' standings
Could Maria Herrera be MotoGP's big female star?