Australian Moto3™ racer Joel Kelso has capped off a strong weekend in South America by taking a top-10 result in the Argentina Grand Prix on Monday morning, Australian time.
In a weekend format shortened to two days by freight delays, the Darwin teenager shone in Qualifying at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, taking his CIP Green Power KTM to fifth place on the grid. But for much of the session Kelso, who had never raced on the 4.8km track previously, led the time sheets, only to be pushed back to the second row in the closing minute of Saturday’s session.
Kelso was tipped off the front row by GASGAS Aspar Team teammates Sergio Garcia and Izan Guevara, who were split by the Sterilgarda Husqvarna of Ayumu Sasaki. That meant that there were no Hondas or KTMs on the front row for the first time anyone could remember in Moto3™.
Under blues skies on Sunday Kelso made a strong start but soon dropped back from the leaders, battling among a group of riders disputing eighth to 12th place during the 21-lap race. After a frantic battle, the 18-year-old came home in 10th place.
“This weekend was not so easy for us,” he said after the race.
“We struggled in FP1 and FP2. We managed to find a way to make a good qualifying, which was really positive to be starting from fifth position for the race.
“Honestly, we had higher hopes. We thought we could do better in the race today, but that is racing in Moto3™. We’ll keep working for the next one. Thanks to all the team and to all the sponsors for the support.”
What was impressive was that in only his seventh Moto3™ GP – and his first in Argentina – Kelso was one of the fastest riders in the race. Only three others managed to lap faster than the Aussie and they were all vastly more experienced in Moto3™; Andrea Migno, Jaume Masia and Ayumu Sasaki.
Garcia won the race in fine style, picking off Leopard Honda teammates Tatsuki Suzuki and Dennis Foggia on the final lap. The fifth win of his Moto3™ career moves Garcia to the top of the Moto3 points table with 58 points, four clear of pre-season favourite Foggia.
With the points he earned in Argentina, Kelso moved to 18th place in the championship on seven points. He is also third in the race for Rookie of the Year honours, behind Brazilian Diogo Moreira and Spain’s Daniel Holgado.
The next race in the 2022 Moto3™ World Championship is in Texas this weekend, at the Circuit of the Americas, just outside Austin.