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A family affair: Kenny Roberts Sr. welcomes youngest son Kurtis back into GP

A family affair: Kenny Roberts Sr. welcomes youngest son Kurtis back into GP

This weekend the MotoGP World Championship welcomes the return of the youngest son of the Roberts family, Kurtis, to the Grand Prix fold as a wildcard rider. With rumours rife about what is in the future for Team KR for next year, and with the Proton team giving the American youngster his first World Championship 500cc race on board his father´s machine, spent a few minutes with Kenny Roberts Senior to see what lies in store for his team:

Are you looking forward to having the whole Roberts clan in presence this weekend?

KR: Certainly. It´s going to be another notch on his belt of experience, and it´s also a unique opportunity for us and also for Kurtis, because he´s contracted to Honda America, but they were kind enough, with their season being over, to allow him to come and ride our machine, which happens to be a two-stroke, which is something he´s never ridden before in his life. With the 2-strokes disappearing, I thought it was a good opportunity for him to witness at least the smallest touch of what will probably be history after next year.

You had a short test yesterday morning with Kurtis at Shah Alam, was it a useful session?

KR: It went fine. It´s obviously a lot smaller bike than he is used to riding and it was nice that he could actually ride it before doing battle on it first thing in the morning. It´s quite a bit different to what he´s used to riding. In some ways I hope he doesn´t go too fast and obviously in other ways I do want him to go faster, it´s just one of those things.

What expectations do you have of him this weekend?

KR: He will be riding a bit of history this weekend, so that´s something he can always have. In terms of performance, I would like to see that we can go smoothly, no pushing it to a limit that´s beyond ours or anyone else´s expectations, but to ride to the limit he wants to push it to. So we have no expectations of what he´s going to do. We don´t have to question his ability to ride a motorcycle. Right now he doesn´t have the experience to battle with these guys straight up, but this is one more rung on the ladder to what he wants to become in the motorcycle world.

What would your evaluation of this season with the Proton KR3 be?

KR: Well in a small way in qualifying it has exceeded expectations, but then in a large way in the racing as Jurgen would say there´s been some disappointment. There´s no doubt that Grand Prix racing is currently as competitive as it ever has been, so much competitive equipment and riders out on the track, so from that point of view the KR3 has performed as well as we could expect. So we´re disappointed but encouraged at the same time.Is it a disappointment to lose Jurgen from the set up?

KR: We are not Honda, and we are never going to be Honda. Right now we are still developing a company, a manufacturing capability and an engineering capability. We don´t have the money to flash around, our money goes on engineering. It´s unfortunate, but Jurgen needs to move on, he needs to have a chance at going for the World Championship.

What are your plans for replacing him in your MotoGP seeded team for next year?

KR: We will have two bikes but next year for us is a bit of a struggle. We are not settled on what we are going to do in the future as far as four-strokes go, which will revolutionise what we´re doing now. It´s still too early for us to talk about what we will do next year, however we can confirm that we will be here, even if it is with the two-stroke. Who´s going to ride, we don´t know yet, what they will ride on we don´t know either. It´s a matter of us going with the right company and getting the right capabilities to engineer the right motorcycle and getting the right team together. We feel we are in a good position to either build, maintain or develop a motorcycle for someone so we are engineering for our future.

Have there been any talks with Sauber, who at the last moment pulled out of entering MotoGP as a manufacturer?

KR: We have talked to Sauber, from time to time, but it´s too early to say anything about that.

Was it a disappointment for the World Championship trophy to leave the Roberts family last weekend?

KR: No, not really. I´ve lost it, Valentino´s going to lose it, everyone does at some stage. I´m not a trophy man, as anyone who has visited my house can see. When I was a rider I was more interested in the technical side of things, and I still am now. I´m not interested in that award stuff or the past, maybe the kids are the same way too, I don´t know.

500cc, 2001, Kurtis Roberts

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