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The Brits are back

The Brits are back

My patriotic side couldn’t write this latest column without casting a look back at a memorable weekend for British motorcycling at COTA.

With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.

The long wait might continue for a British rider to win a premier class race for the first time since Barry Sheene in Sweden in 1982. But two British wins on the same day for the first time in 38 years in Austin felt like the dawn of a new era for success-starved British Grand Prix fans.

In Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding there’s the strongest line-up from UK shores in MotoGP during my time in the paddock. And in Moto3 and Moto2, we have already seen in just two races that Danny Kent and Sam Lowes have what it takes to become Britain’s first Grand Prix world champion since Sheene won his second 500cc crown in 1977.

Kent looks completely rejuvenated since his switch to Honda and the new Leopard Racing squad for 2015. Honda’s NSF250RW has stolen a march on KTM and has injected a level of confidence in Kent we’ve not seen since he won two out of the last four races in the inaugural Moto3 World Championship in 2012. Since then he’s flattered to deceive.

A nightmare season at Tech 3 in Moto2 in 2013 saw him beat a hasty retreat back to Moto3, where he was expected to be a serious title contender in the Red Bull Ajo Motorsport squad. But his challenge never seriously materialised and just two podiums saw him comprehensively outgunned by Jack Miller on almost identical machinery.

Kent never felt like he got the support he needed to thrive at Red Bull KTM, with Miller the clear number one rider. At Leopard Racing, masterminded by Stefan Kiefer, who helped Stefan Bradl win the 2011 Moto2 crown, Kent has been reborn. A happy rider is a fast rider, as Kent demonstrated in dominant fashion in Texas.

Moto3 is famed for its close and combative action, with victories more often than not decided centimetres from the finish. So Kent’s win by 8.5s was not only the biggest dry race Moto3 victory ever, it was embarrassingly one-sided by normal standards.

Traditionally a slow starter at the beginning of the season (Kent’s first podium in 2014 didn’t come until round 11 in Brno), Kent already has two podiums and a pole position. Gone is the fragile mental state that always seemed to be his weakness at Tech 3 in Moto2 and last season in Moto3. In its place is a rider that’s worked on being mentally tougher, more focused and motivated to grasp what surely is his last chance in Moto3.

He’s certainly proven the doubters wrong and if he wins again in Argentina this weekend, he’d become the first British rider to claim back-to-back victories since Sheene back in 1971!

Speaking of silencing the critics, what about Sam Lowes?

After he claimed a career first Moto2 pole position in Qatar but crashed out early in the race, the knockers had a field day. Lowes is blindingly fast but way too error prone, cried the critics. That assessment hardly vanished when he crashed three times in the build-up to the Texas race.

But he rebounded in the best possible way to claim an outstanding career first win in what was a triumph for skill and courage over adversity. Raw speed has never been in question with Lowes. In fact, I’d say he’s probably the fastest rider in an incredibly competitive Moto2 field.

If he can iron out the mistakes and show consistency, he is going to be a big threat for the title.

Sorry, but just a quick reminder about the significance for British racing last weekend:

The last time two British riders won a Grand Prix on the same day was way back in 1977. I was four-years-old. I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long for the same thing to happen again.

MotoGP, 2015, RED BULL GRAND PRIX OF THE AMERICAS, Danny Kent, Sam Lowes

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