Moto3 looks set to bring Britain its first GP title since Barry Sheene in 1977
Way back in 1977 when Barry Sheene won Britain’s last Grand Prix world title, it was 16 years before Danny Kent was even born.
But 38 years after Sheene’s triumph, Kent is less than three months away from ending one of the longest droughts in British sporting history.
Five wins and three other podiums have put the Gloucestershire 21-year-old in a commanding position and he looks odds-on to write his name into British racing folklore.
Just seven races stand between Kent taking his place on a star-studded list of British world champions including Sheene, Mike Hailwood, John Surtees, Phil Read and Geoff Duke.
All of those legendary names come from a bygone era. But as he stands on the brink of history, the magnitude of what he could be poised to accomplish does not escape the young star.
“I’ve watched TV programmes and read about Sheene and he was an icon of British racing. I understand how huge he was, so when people put my name alongside his, it gives me goosebumps,” says Kent.
He adds: “When you say ‘bike racing’ in Britain, if people don’t say Valentino Rossi then they say Barry Sheene. To be beating some of his records is amazing and being the next British world champion would not only be massive for me but it will be a great opportunity for the sport to grow in the UK.”
Kent’s five wins in 2015 have already seen him become the most successful British rider in a single season since Sheene captured his second 500cc crown in 1977.
A measure of Kent’s meteoric rise will be seen at Silverstone this weekend, with the Northamptonshire track dedicating a grandstand just to him (see page 14 for booking details).
Kent is also mulling over a lucrative three-year deal to move to Pramac Ducati in MotoGP in 2016, as well as having the pick of some top Moto2 seats.
But he hasn’t had things all his own way. His outstanding season hit its first blip in the recent back-to-back clashes in Indianapolis and Brno, where he missed the podium for the first time in successive races. That commanding title advantage was slashed by 21 points in just seven days by closest challenger Enea Bastianini and he now has a lead of 45 heading into his home round this weekend.
Kent has been the epitome of ice cool and calm all season and says he is not beginning to feel the burden of pressure that is coming with him edging ever closer to a life-changing title success.
He says: “A lot of people are asking me if I feel pressure to make sure I do become Britain’s first world champion since Sheene. I don’t honestly feel any pressure at all and if anything it gives me more motivation. When I see it in the papers that I could be Britain’s first world champion in a generation it drives me on to work harder.”
Kent says he actually felt under more stress and strain at the start of the season, with 2015 effectively a make-or-break campaign.
Last year’s results on the Husqvarna machine were largely underwhelming – a record made worse by the fact the Husky was in essence just a rebranded KTM (like the bike on which Kent’s close pal Jack Miller almost won the title).
Kent scored just two podiums in 2014 and a switch to the Honda that Alex Marquez won last year’s crown on meant there could be no more excuses in his third season in the brutally competitive lightweight class.
“I knew I could find a ride in the future, but it wouldn’t be the competitive ride where I could go out and win the championship. I knew if I didn’t have a good year that it was going to make the rest of my career difficult. I believe I could have done what I am doing in previous years, but I’ve never felt like I’ve had the whole package. I was fast in testing but I have done that before and then come to the first race and not even been in the top 10. So the podium in Qatar proved to me that I could start the year strong and the momentum built from there.”