Getting across the line in a World Championship
Getting over the line is always one of the most difficult things in sports. It's taken for granted that if you're at the highest level that you have the talent to be a contender but being a winner? Winning can never be taken for granted.
How often do you see teams throw away a one-nil lead in the closing minutes of matches, how often even in this year's Rugby World Cup have we seen teams with a lead in the closing stages give away a penalty that costs them the match. In boxing you regularly see a "lucky punch" in the closing rounds from the fighter who's so far behind on points that only a knockout blow will suffice.
Danny Kent is in the dominant position at the moment in Moto3. The Englishman can end Britain's 38 year wait for a Grand Prix world champion but recent races have seen him stumble with crashes in Aragon and Phillip Island. Getting over the line is hard...
What is it that makes it so difficult? Nick Faldo used to say that the reason he was good under pressure when he won six majors in golf was because he could "hit a shot that meant everything as if it meant nothing." This skill deserted him later in his career but the point remained the same. The winner always feel the same nerves as everyone else but they can put them aside for long enough to get the job done.
Kent has shown this year that he's a winner and would be a very worthy champion. His rides early in the season were incredible and it gave him plenty of breathing room in the championship but it also provides a different challenge; dealing with the expectation from the media, fans and people in the paddock that you've already won the championship.
Neil Hodgson had a similar predicament in his World Superbike title year. The Burnley native opened a huge lead in the standings with a string of wins and then had to close out the championship. Hodgson spoke to MCN about what a rider feels as the title win gets closer.
"You have to deal with the expectations from other people through the year. When you win a lot of races early in the season, like Danny has done and I did, it means that you're always being chased by the other riders. Having to deal with that on a constant basis, and always having a target on your back is difficult.
"If you look at some of the incidents that Danny has had it's because guys know that they're racing with the championship leader and even if it's for sixth place or tenth place they'll fight with everything they have because of the effect it can have to beat the championship leader. The pressure is always there and it's always building but you find a way to get through it if you win the championship.
"Danny has done really well this year-his rides in Texas and Argentina were fantastic-and he's shown that he's a great rider. He just needs to get over the line to win and hopefully he'll do it this weekend in Malaysia."
In the midst of his MotoGP title fight Jorge Lorenzo outlined how difficult it is to win a title and that luck and good fortune plays a role for any rider.
"There are a lot of things that influence the result," said Lorenzo. "It's not only you, but the bike, it's the tyres , it's the rest of the riders who can influence the results of some riders. A lot of things can happen. Sometimes you are very lucky, you can have a lucky season in some races and this can give you an advantage in the points, and sometimes the opposite can happen."
Cal Crutchlow, who won the 2009 World Supersport title, had to wait until the last round of the championship to claim his crown but he went into the race solely looking to ride safely and within his limits to give him the best chance to win the title.
"When I raced in Supersport, honestly, I just did what I had to do," said Crutchlow. "I had to finish the race, I don't know where I had to finish, maybe top twelve, and I finished fourth. If I was Danny, honestly, I'd just do what I had to do to win the championship. You've got all these other guys who want to win races, Danny's proved his point that he can win races here at Grand Prix level. So I think he just needs to take the championship now and then he can race for the win at Valencia."
Kent will start tomorrow's race from sixth on the grid and knows that shadowing Miguel Oliveira will be enough for him to claim the title. It's easy to take a 40 point championship lead for granted but nothing can be taken for guaranteed when there's so many variables in play.