Danny Kent believes he could have pulled away and win the French Moto3 encounter at Le Mans had it not been for a disastrous qualifying session which saw him start from 31st.

The championship leader and winner of three races in 2015, Kent made staggering progress off the line, ending the first lap 17th before climbing into the top ten five laps later.

By the time he joined the leading group of eight his tyres were 'all over the place', making life difficult when trying to overtake.

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"To be honest I can't complain with fourth position," said Kent straight after the race. "I knew going into the race that it was going to be a very hard race for us but we made it to the front. By the time that I caught the front group my rear tyre was all over the place, I used too much to catch the group.

"I think that if we had a good qualifying session yesterday that we had the pace to pull away at the front like we did in Austin and Argentina. We've got some more valuable points on the board and we've extended the lead to 37 points so we can be happy with this weekend's work."

Although off the podium for the first time all year, Kent's championship lead was reinforced thanks to crashes for Efren Vazquez and Fabio Quartararo. When Kent saw the latter fall he realised a result in the leading group would be sufficient.

"I didn't know that Efren had crashed out but I saw Fabio crashing and my mind relaxed a bit and I thought that if I'm not on the podium it's not a big deal because points make prizes at the end of the year. We're obviously here to win but we're here to win the championship so we need to get as many points as we can.

"I had a small chance to win but Bastianani passed me on the last lap and pushed me a bit wide and in the last two sectors it's very difficult to get past. I was struggling a bit on the straights because my bike wasn't very fast and even in the slipstream I couldn't get past them.

"Maybe I could have made a lunge into the last corner but I wasn't going to take those risks at the end of the race. Braking wasn't too bad for us but it's normal that when you start from the back of the grid you use too much tyres coming through the pack and I'm sure that if I started at the front that I could have saved some tyres and pushed at the end."

Asked what his expectations were going into the race, Kent displayed all the confidence that has made him, until now, irresistible in the junior class.

"On the grid I thought that we could win the race to be honest. We've had the pace all weekend to win and I knew that we could. I'm a bit disappointed but at the end of the day we got the points. Efren crashed, Fabio crashed and we lost a few points to Bastinanini but we're 37 points in the lead now.

"I went into the race acting as if it was any other race and I kept my mind focused. I knew that the first few laps were important to get past as many riders as possible but we used too much tyre to catch the group so we're happy with fourth."