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Kenny Roberts Sr. looking ahead to a 4 stroke future with Proton

Kenny Roberts Sr. looking ahead to a 4 stroke future with Proton

Throughout his career as a rider, Kenny Roberts was known for his ambition, dedication and professionalism - qualities which propelled him to three 500cc World Championship titles in a row. As a team owner he went on to enjoy a further four titles in the sport´s premier class and, since 1996, these same attributes have enabled him to fulfil his ambition as a motorcycle manufacturer in his own right. The lightweight KR3 made its debut in 1997 and its development in the face of full factory competition has been steady, yet impressive. However, the dawn of the 4 stroke era and the anticipated arrival of new manufacturers to the MotoGP World Championship has raised questions about the future of smaller, less affluent teams and in 2002 the ambition, dedication and professionalism of Proton Team KR will be tested to new limits.

Their talismanic boss has already set the standard, doubling the size of the squad from last season and sealing the signatures of experienced duo Jeremy McWilliams and Nobuatsu Aoki. ´We´re now ready for a two man team,´ explained Roberts. ´We´ve been struggling a little bit in the manufacturing area but every year it gets a little bit better and I think we´re ready to take this step. The experience of McWilliams and Aoki is going to help us a lot. It´s very difficult to do a full Grand Prix season with just one rider especially when you are depending on him for testing and development too. You don´t really know what you are missing until you have two guys of this quality. They push each other and they push the engineering staff. It´s definitely a lot different than having a one rider team.´

The Proton KR3 qualified on the front row just once last season, at the hands of Jurgen vd Goorbergh, and whilst Roberts admits that they hope to be more competitive this time around, he insists that the main focus of their work is fixed on a long term goal. ´We want to be more competitive, not in relation to the rest of the field but for ourselves. We manufacture and build everything for this motorcycle so we are currently looking into 4 stroke possibilities. When we do get a 4 stroke motor we want to be ready in the chassis department, in the procuring of all the parts and making everything right so that it all fits together and we´re ready to win a race. Right now it´s just a case of trying to get better in terms of our own development and making sure that we are ready as a manufacturer of chassis and motorcycle so that when we do get a 4 stroke it´s going to be a good 4 stroke.´

The 4 stroke versus 2 stroke debate rages on throughout the MotoGP fraternity, and with fans divided over what sort of machine will lift the 2002 title, even one of the sport´s longest standing and highly respected figureheads is refusing to commit. ´That´s the nice thing about this season – you´re not going to be able to pick a winner,´ he smiled. ´It´s largely up to the equipment and what you´re able to put on the racetrack. You´re always going to have the good riders but the equipment now will make a huge difference. I think the 4 strokes are going to have an abundance of power. They´re going to be big, a little bit heavy and very, very fast. Whether that is going to transmit onto the circuit, we don´t know. It´s certainly going to add a new dimension to Grand Prix racing!´

500cc, 2001, Kurtis Roberts

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