Danny Kent has said he will approach the Valencia finale with confidence knowing that securing two world championship points will be enough to become the 2015 Moto3 world champion.
Having recovered from a nervous opening two laps in Sepang, Kent sat fifth in the midst of a simmering seven-way shootout for the podium with just over two minutes of the absorbing 18-lap encounter to go, a position that would have been enough to give him the title.
Yet while suffering from a speed deficit on the Malaysian track's two sizable straights, Kent was unable to stave off Nico Antonelli and Jakub Kornfeil on the run towards the usual final corner sort out.
As Miguel Oliveira – the only man standing between Kent and the UK's first grand prix world title in 38 years - swooped under team-mate Brad Binder to clinch the win, Kent was shuffled back to seventh, ensuring he must endure a nervous final race in Valencia to raise the championship trophy aloft.
“It was a difficult race,” said a slightly frustrated Kent after competing in grueling 50 percent humidity. “For the whole of the race we seemed to be struggling on speed. All weekend we've been struggling but not as much as we was then. I don't know if you could see it on the TV. I was in the slipstream of four bikes but they were all pulling away from me.
“This made the race a lot more difficult for me. What I lost on the straights I then had to gain back in the corners. I took more risks going into the corner with brake pressure. We got points. We go back to Europe only needing to score two points and that's if Oliveira wins. We go back home, train hard and go to Valencia strong. You, we'll look forward to it.”
It initially appeared Kent would be nowhere close to the top ten after he ended a tentative second lap outside the point scoring places, having dropped seven places from his ninth place grid slot.
This cautious approach wasn't a tactic, he explained, and was a result of not perfecting the start with his NSF250R, a problem Kent has endured through the season.
“All year we've struggled with the starts with the Honda. It's why I get very frustrated in qualifying when I'm not able to do what I want. I know the start's very difficult. Then when I pass in the corners the slow ones pass me back on the straights. I get stuck with the slower group.
“Then I caught the leading group and as soon as I got to them there was nothing I could do. Even if I had got to first I would have got to the back straight and four of them would have passed me.
“We've just been struggling in the second half of the year with speed. We've changed nothing on the bike. My weight is the same as at the beginning of the year. Then I was able to at least stay in front on the straight. Now four or five of them pass me. Me and the team are a bit baffled as to what the problem is. I don't want to make any excuses but you can clearly see on the TV that we were struggling.”
In the face of Miguel Oliveira's excellent form that has carried the Portuguese rider to five consecutive top-two finishes – including three wins -, Kent's advantage in the championship standings sits at 24 points. Now 14th place in Valencia, a track at which he won in 2012, will be enough to secure the title.
“I can say that I'm a little bit disappointed. We want to win the championship. I'd rather win the championship in Valencia than not at all. We'll keep on trying. At the end of the day we got points and we go to Valencia happy. Every rider will say the same. It's a lot easier to chase than it is to lead.
“I'm getting a lot of criticism saying Oliveira is the better rider. If he was the better rider he'd be leading the championship. We all went to Qatar and have done 17 races. He's had his bad luck. I've had mine. We did all of our hard work in the first half of the season. He's doing what he needs to do in the second half. Oliveira is a really good rider. You can't knock that. He's always been a good rider. He's closing on the lead but we'll see in Valencia.
“It's a positive track for me. In winter testing we were strong there. we can't compare winter testing to the race weekend. It might be raining. But I enjoy it and we'll go there and I think we can get the two points.”