Moto3: 2022 rookie profile – Joel Kelso
Aussie Joel Kelso is a hugely exciting prospect for this season in Moto3.
Joel Kelso proved he has got what it takes to battle with the best in the world this year after scooping up three impressive victories in the 2021 CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship, coming home in a solid P4 overall, not only this but Joel has made his debut in the Moto3 World Championship with the CIP team who he will ride for this year taking points in Portugal.
Kelso made his humble beginnings as a flat track and MX racer back in his home country of Australia, quickly proving to be fast enough to gain support from major factories that were helping to finance his career. At the age of 11 he made the switch over to tarmac racing in a junior championship before moving over to the highly competitive Australian championship where he competed in the Moto3 class, eventually taking the title. Normally at this point a rider would aim to move up a category, however Joel had bigger and better things in mind as he took the plunge and moved to Europe alone at just 16 years old to live in Italy despite not speaking a word of the language.
This move was because he had secured himself a seat in the Italian CIV Pre-Moto3 series with low expectations of top 15 finishes, these expectations would soon be blown out of the water as he was breaking lap records consistently and scoring podium finishes which gained him a wildcard in the CIV Moto3 class, racing in both the Pre-Moto3 and Moto3 series in the same race weekend, sprinting through the paddock between the sessions which were all back to back.
Victory number 2 at Misano.
He proved he had the drive, dedication and motivation, and caught the eye of ex-Grand Prix rider Alessandro Tonucci who signed him up to race in the CIV Moto3 series for the Le0pard squad, he once again exceeded expectations in the class and got a chance to also race in the European Talent Cup to gain experience on the tracks he would eventually come to ride in the CEV Moto3 class with the AGR team. He would also make his CEV Moto3 debut with Le0pard at Catalunya, scoring mid P20 positions in a field of 40+ riders.
After a successful year in Italy he signed a deal to move over to the AGR Team for 2020 in the CEV Moto3 series, arguably the best class there is for promoting talented riders into the world championship, the 2020 season went as well as you’d expect for a rookie who was riding against riders on tracks they’d been racing since they were 10 years old, Kelso scored a few top 10 finishes and proved his worth to the AGR team and they continued together for 2021.
2021 was the year it all came together, after a tough start with some awful luck causing him three DNF’s in the opening three races he was able to bounce back and take his best ever result at the time of P8 in Catalunya before absolutely stunning everyone just two rounds later at Portimao. Portimao was incredible for the Aussie lad, he managed to bag himself pole position and a debut victory in the series after dominating all weekend, a fire was lit and this would be the start of his Moto3 World Championship dream after he was invited by the CIP team to race in Sachsenring and Assen, two tracks he had not seen before.
Joel Kelso donning his 2022 CIP colours.
Both races were about learning for Joel, he was riding an outdated Moto3 machine in the Junior World Championship and had to get to grips with the faster and “completely different” 2021 bike, he finished just outside of the points in Germany and could’ve battled in Assen once again for a spot in the top 15 however a ride through penalty ruined his chances from the very first lap of the race. These races wouldn’t be his only in the world championship, he was called back to the scene of his first victory at Portimao by CIP to replace Maximilian Kofler who couldn’t ride Portimao or Valencia due to Covid, taking his first 2 points in the World Championship at Portimao before a DNF in Valencia out of the points stopped him from progressing.
Back in the CEV he was able to bag himself two more wins at Misano and Valencia, the Valencia victory coming just a week after his World Championship appearance meaning he was already equipped with the knowledge of the circuit and where he was fast, these two wins promoted him right up to P4 overall in the standings and proved to the CIP team that he was indeed the correct choice for 2022.
If you’d like to hear more about Joel you can read our interview with him here or listen to our podcast with him here.
Featured images – CEV Repsol + Dorna