Joel Kelso’s strong conclusion to the Moto3™ season continued in Malaysia on Sunday, the Australian finishing in seventh place for his fourth top-10 result this season, and his third points-scoring performance in succession.
The 20-year-old qualified seventh at Sepang, lamenting that he “couldn’t quite get a clean lap together” in Q2 on Saturday while missing the second row of the grid by two-thousandths of a second, and was elbowed back to 10th in the first-lap skirmishes soon after the lights went out for Sunday’s 15-lap race.
The CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP rider dropped back to 14th on lap four, just hanging on to the front breakaway group. A dramatic four-rider crash on the next lap at Turn 4 then eliminated title-contenders David Alonso (GasGas) and Dani Holgado (KTM), Kelso having to check up and take avoiding action but managing to stay onboard.
The near-miss saw Kelso fall 2.3secs back from the front group, and he engaged in a battle with last year’s KTM teammate Kaito Toba (Honda) before the Japanese rider crashed out at Turn 8 with four laps remaining, Kelso retaining 10th place.
The Australian then gained three spots when KTM’s Jose Antonio Rueda took out title contending-teammate and Australian Grand Prix winner Deniz Oncu at the final corner with three laps left.
Kelso was then embroiled in a fight with CFMOTO teammate Xavier Artigas and Honda’s Adrian Fernandez for sixth on the last lap, Kelso ending up at the back of the trio at the chequered flag as they were separated by just two-tenths of a second. After the race, he was promoted one place to seventh after Spaniard David Munoz (KTM) was penalised for irresponsible riding and demoted from fifth at the flag to 17th.
Kelso finished 7.400secs behind race-winner Collin Veijer (Husqvarna), the 18-year-old rookie becoming the first Dutch winner in any world championship class for 33 years.
“Overall it was a positive today, even though I was a little bit disappointed with where I finished in the group at the end – it was possible for a P4 position,” Kelso said.
“To avoid the crash was massive, we probably lost four to five seconds and then I pulled the group behind me up to the first four positions, so the pace was really good there. I just got in a heated battle the last two laps that cost us a little bit but overall, P7 is not bad.”
The result saw Kelso gain one place in the championship standings to sit 18th overall with 49 points ahead of the penultimate round of the season in Qatar next weekend.
Joel's Malaysian Grand Prix by the numbers
- Qualified: 7th
- Race (15 laps): 7th
- Fastest lap: 2mins 12.678secs (11th), lap 3
- Points this event: 8
- Points this season: 49 (18th in world championship)