The Red Bull KTM Ajo team celebrated a three-way podium in the final race of the inaugural Moto3 GP season in Valencia Spain on Sunday with Danny Kent of Britain stealing victory from teammate and World Champion Sandro Cortese in the final corner and Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who also set a lap record, in third.
Moto3 GP finished the season as it had begun with plenty of drama right down to the wire. With the championship already in Cortese’s bag it might have been just another out in on the Valencia circuit but the competitive nature of the small class was never going to let that happen. The final dash to the finish was just as hard fought as it has been throughout the season.
Before the race, pundits had speculated that the main action as going to be between Luis Salom (Kalex-KTM) and Maverick Viñales (Honda) to settle who would take the minor championship placings behind Cortese and while this did play a role, the action was always going to be up the front end of the field. Salom finished behind Viñales in the race but still had enough points to give his second overall.
Cortese took an early lead in the 23-lap race on the rain-soaked circuit and held onto it right until the last corner. He admitted after the race that he didn’t realize Kent was so close behind him going into the finishing straight. “I was in the front for 20 laps. I looked at the big screen and I thought I had enough advantage to take the win then Danny got me in the last corner.”
The German rider still leaves the season showered in accolades. He sealed the first ever Moto3 GP World Championship and wrote himself into the MotoGP statistics as the rider with the biggest number of podiums in a single season in the small displacement bikes. Cortese won in Portugal, Germany, San Marino, Malaysia and Australia and was on the podium in 15 of 17 races. Both he and Kent advance to Moto2 next season.
Kent said he had a good feeling with the bike all weekend but admitted he ‘had a moment’ with South African Brad Binder (Kalex-KTM) near the end of the race. “Then I just pushed a bit more in the final corner,” he said. It was Kent’s second win after his first in Japan. It was also a great weekend for rookie Binder who ended on a high note with fourth place, his best result of the season.
Certainly this unluckiest rider on the Valencia track was Jonas Folger (Kalex-KTM). He rode into pole position in Saturday’s qualifying only to experience technical difficulties in the sighting lap on the rain soaked circuit. The Aspar team managed to get the bike back and started in time for him to start the race from the pit lane but Folger had to retire five laps into the race. The young German has had a great second half of the season after joining the Aspar team at the half way mark. Since then he has constantly been a podium contender and picked up his first GP win in Brno, Czech Republic.
The season has been a hugely successful one of KTM after the Austrian manufacturer re-entered the MotoGP competition in the new Moto3 GP category. KTM had previously withdrawn after the phasing out of the 250 and 125 cc classes.
Pit Beirer, KTM’s Head of Motorsport, speaking fro the Valencia circuit said it had been a wonderful way to finish what had been a great season. “Fantastic to finish with three boys in the podium in the last race but we have great riders, a great Moto3 bike and a great team under Aki Ajo,” he said. “I want to express a big thanks to Aki, all of his team and everyone back at KTM in Austria who have given us this great bike. Now we are already working on the future because Sandro was actually riding the new 2013 Moto3 GP bike this weekend. We wanted to use this chance to get feedback.
KTM was also the clear winner in the Manufacturers’ Standings finishing with 346 points, 40 points ahead of FTR Honda.
Image courtesy KTM