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EXCLUSIVE Moto2: Danny Kent - Q&A

29 January 2013

By Christian Tiburtius

2012 was a breakthrough year for British teenager Danny Kent, who claimed his first podiums, pole and race victories in only his second full season in grand prix.

Riding for the factory KTM team in the new Moto3 category, Kent finished fourth in the world championship, won by experienced team-mate Sandro Cortese.

Both Kent and Cortese are now stepping up to the 600cc Moto2 class - Kent signing a two-year deal with the French-based Tech 3 team, which races its own chassis design.

Kent took time out from his busy training schedule to talk to Crash.net about his career to date, the defining moments of 2012 - including upsetting team leader Cortese with the first of his two victories - and the season ahead…

Crash.net:
How's the off season going?

Danny Kent:
It's going really well. I'm working really hard making the step up to Moto2 and doing a lot of training with James Toseland. It's going to be a lot harder with double the weight and double the power to what I'm used to.

Crash.net:
Moto2 is probably the most competitive grand prix class, how are you feeling going into it?

Danny Kent:
I'm excited and eager, and doing this training with a double world champion who has raced the best is really helping. Everyone knows that he is one of the fittest motorcycle racers and working with him has made me realise how hard you have to train.

We have the same manager, Roger Burnett, and he got me in contact with James who invited me to do some training. My fitness is already a lot better than it was last year, it's made me think about things in a different way. My mind's strong and my body's strong for my first year in Moto2

Crash.net:
Why do you race with the number 52?

Danny Kent:
When I first started I was a big fan of James [Toseland] and my first ever minimoto sponsor's daughter was going out with James at the time and I met him through that. And that's how I got to use 52.

Crash.net:
When you first told your parents you wanted to be a motorcycle racer, what did they say?

Danny Kent:
It didn't really come about in that way. I used to go to a local go-kart track, but instead of karts, I went on the minimotos. I really enjoyed it and my dad bought me one for Christmas and I started going to the local track every Friday.

Then people started coming up to me saying that I should get into the British Championship. At that point I didn't really know what WSBK or MotoGP was, I was just doing it for fun.

I started to win races, but it really kicked in in 2008 when I was picked up by the Red Bull MotoGP academy. When you've got people like Red Bull and a big Spanish team believing in you, you sit down and think, 'I can make this into a career, this could be my job'.

I then went into the Red Bull Rookies cup and at that time James was in MotoGP and saw that my number was 52, and his manager Roger was also number 52, so we started speaking.

Crash.net:
Were you also doing normal schooling at that time?

Danny Kent:
I was still in school, but being picked up by the Red Bull MotoGP academy in 2008 meant that I was spending most of my time in Barcelona and I couldn't spend so much time at school.

At that time I had to take a risky decision between putting everything into my racing or putting everything into school. So I left school at 13-14 to concentrate 100% on my racing.

My parents said they believed in me and would stick by me whatever choice I made as long as I worked hard on it. They used to push me hard for my training but they've got a bit more laid back now.

My parents have got me to where I am now and I'm really thankful to them, but now it's up to me.

Crash.net:
If you hadn't been a bike racer, what would you have been?

Danny Kent:
That's a difficult question. I've always been into Motorsport, basically anything with an engine, but now the only thing I can think of is where I am now.

Crash.net:
Tell us about the Red Bull Rookies Cup…

Danny Kent:
I did two years there and I loved it. It's such a great championship with it being inside the MotoGP paddock. All the teams know it's where there's good racing and it's where up-and-coming riders come from.

Unless you've got a lot of money, the Rookies is the championship to be in. Everyone's on the same bike, same tyres and it's down to the rider.

They pay for more or less everything and you just have to pay for travel and accommodation. There's no other championship which does that. It's great, I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to get into racing and it's probably the best decision I've made in my racing career.

Crash.net:
How did your riding style develop?

Danny Kent:
I didn't copy anyone, every rider just has their own style and it's however you feel comfortable when putting your leg over the bike. I just let it come naturally

Crash.net:
You had a really strong end to last season, winning two of the last four races, what made the difference?

Danny Kent:
There are loads of reasons really. In pre-season testing last year we were the fastest KTM or Moto3 rider and faster than Sandro, so many people were saying that I could be a contender for the title.

But riding a race is so different and it was only my second year in a world championship and I didn't have enough experience and self-belief to know if I could fight for it. For me it changed around halfway through the year when I got my first podium at Assen and that's when it clicked that I could actually battle to win races. I basically got the self-belief.

Also we struggled a little because we were always on development with KTM and we were always a few races behind Sandro in terms of equipment.

As the number one rider in the team, he got the new chassis before us, but halfway through the year KTM didn't do as much development which meant that Sandro and I had the same sort of machinery and that's when we got closer and felt that we could beat him.

Crash.net:
Let's go back to your first win, in the Japanese GP. With a few corners to go you were right behind Cortese, but you also knew Cortese had a chance of winning the championship that day - take us through your thoughts at the time…

Danny Kent:
To be honest, I just wanted to win that race. I'd got my first pole and there were no team orders and I said in the interview before the race that if I could win the race, I would and if it meant having to pass Sandro, I would. But at the same time I wouldn't do anything stupid.

In many people's eyes, I left him enough room. Also if I hadn't passed Sandro into that corner, Tonucci would have got us both and we could have crashed. If you're in the slipstream going into the last corners, you're not just going to sit behind him, you're going to do what's best for your career and what's best for your team.

Some of the mechanics were disappointed because of the world championship, but my mechanics were very happy and at the time I had just signed my contract to go into Moto2 so I had to do whatever was best for my career.

The win helped me in every way and gave me the self-confidence I needed.

If Sandro had won the championship in Japan, it would have been great for the team and they would have got their bonuses, but I had already signed for Moto2 and I needed to sparkle and do what's best for me.

Sandro was really angry after the race but when he sat down and watched the replay he saw that I was nowhere near him and when he went inside Tonucci [and then fell] that was his problem, my pass had been totally separate.

We sat down with the team boss later and it was fine for the next race, we still talk.

Crash.net:
How about the second win, at the Valencia finale?

Danny Kent:
Honestly, I was really surprised. It was quite a miserable weekend weather-wise and to be honest with you I didn't feel comfortable on the bike. We also had a few little problems for the race when it started raining.

I was really nervous because of the bad feeling with the bike. So when I came over the finish line fighting for the lead I was really surprised. A lot of it is believing in yourself, if you know you can do it, anything can happen and Japan really helped with that.

I just feel that if we had what Sandro had at the same races he wouldn't have got the upper hand. But I can understand the team's position in making a rider with six years' experience their number one rider.

Crash.net:
When did you sign for Tech 3?

Danny Kent:
It was literally just before I flew off to the Japanese race. The pressure was off my shoulders and I knew where we were going. It was nice not to have to focus on next year and just concentrate on the job in hand.

I already get on really well with [Tech 3 boss] Herve Poncharal and I've got a good feeling about the team. I feel welcome and comfortable. I know that they're back in France working hard now so that's why I'm back here training my ***** off with James!

Crash.net:
Other hotly-tipped young riders such as Maverick Vinales have stayed in Moto3, whereas you've shot straight through to Moto2…

Danny Kent:
It's all about different attitudes in riders and when you're in the paddock the teams see everything and if they think you're meant to be in MotoGP the right people will take you in that direction.

Crash.net:
Could you follow Bradley Smith into Tech 3's MotoGP team?

Danny Kent:
I haven't even had a race in Moto2 yet so I can't really say. But we're going to try to replicate what Bradley did and get some good results. Tech 3 is definitely a good stepping stone to MotoGP though, as long as you've got the talent and work hard, you'll get to the top anyway.

Crash.net:
If you were offered a good ride in WSBK, would you consider it?

Danny Kent:
I don't really want to talk about that now as we've still got a full season of Moto2 to go, however I would definitely consider it. But that's where Roger comes in, he's managed James Toseland and Neil Hodgson and I've put my belief into him

Crash.net:
What kind of results are you realistically expecting from the Tech 3 chassis in Moto2 this year?

Danny Kent:
Honestly I don't think the chassis is as bad as people make out, when Bradley went out on it in the first year he had three podiums. There are a lot of people riding the Suters and Kalexes and they have a lot of feedback coming back to develop the bike, but with the Mistral they only have two riders so development is slower.

But we are using a brand new chassis this season anyway. I'm going to the team on Tuesday [today] to see the new bike and I'm looking forward to that.

Crash.net:
How has winter testing gone so far?

Danny Kent:
We did two days at the end of last season, but every time I got on the bike I was learning something new. It was a good start and I got a good feeling for the bike and I'm just looking forward to the official tests now. The main thing is that the Moto2 bike is a lot faster and heavier, I just need to do as many laps as possible.

Crash.net:
If you were offered a result of tenth place in your first Moto2 race, would you be happy?

Danny Kent:
Yeah, I think I would be happy with tenth at Qatar, but anything can happen. Marquez went straight to winning races whereas Terol struggled a bit. But it's self-belief, working hard and training physically and mentally

Crash.net:
What do you think about the lack of close racing in MotoGP?

Danny Kent:
One thing I don't like is that MotoGP is meant to be just one class and with the CRTs you've got two and you see the first CRT on their own podium. It should be only one race.

I've read that in the future the CRTs are going to be able to buy a Honda or the Yamaha engine and that could make the factories a bit more worried and bring the field closer.

But at the moment it seems like a lot of people only tune in to see Moto3 and Moto2 and in MotoGP it's only one of three riders who can win.

Crash.net:
Are you ever recognised when you're out?

Danny Kent:
Sometimes, but mainly locally. I don't mind it because it shows people follow motorcycle racing. It's good to know that it's not all football and people watch MotoGP as well. I also like doing interviews, it gets your name out there more and helps you to talk to your fans.

I really like Twitter [@DannyKent52 - Crash.net], I have a lot of fans talking to me through that and I like to reply to them when I can. People often don't know what goes on in the paddock so appreciate getting an inside view. My fans are important to me, without them I wouldn't be where I am.

Crash.net:
How do you travel to races and who do you travel with?

Danny Kent:
Last year we travelled with the team and when I get some more money, I'd like to pay for my parents to come out, but they come to a lot of the European ones anyway. Normally I fly out to each race, the team books the flight and they're there at the airport waiting for me on the other side. If I stay over then I'm in hotels.

Next season I will use GP Rooms which is like a huge articulated lorry which slides out and has been converted into rooms for 6 or 7 riders with everything you need. It's at the track, so if you need a lie down or need to think about something you can go there

I often hang out with Arthur Sissis, he's a good laugh and we get on well together. But you spend most of your time in your box looking at your data for the next race.

Crash.net:
Are you a nervous rider, do you sleep well before a race?

Danny Kent:
I wouldn't say I'm nervous, I like to get an early night, but I often find it hard to sleep because I'm so excited to ride again and I'm always checking my phone to check if it's time to wake up and get ready.

I can be a bit fitful before a race. But during the race you're in the zone, when you're doing those kinds of speeds, you've just got to concentrate on what you're doing and nerves don't come into it.

Crash.net:
Do you own a motorbike?

Danny Kent:
The KTM team gave me the KTM 125 Duke to ride on the road, but the weather hasn't been great so I haven't been out on it too much.

Crash.net:
Have you ever had to deal with disappointment?

Danny Kent:
To be honest with you, we've never really had any bad years. But in the early days it was always quite hard with the funding and worrying where the next money was coming from.

My parents and sponsors such as Phil Burgan of MMCG, Joe Henderson from Henderson Insurance and AKP paid for it all, my dad was actually my mechanic in the Red Bull Rookies. We won some races so he can't have been too bad…

Crash.net:
Did you get a Christmas card from Sandro?

Danny Kent:
(Laughs) No I didn't!

End.


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