March 23, 2006 at 11:27 pm #11779ScooterChicParticipant
bike legend Kenny Roberts has warned his rivals that one of the most famous names in bike racing will be a serious contender in MotoGP again this year.
Roberts says his Team KR will win again after securing Honda engines and taking on his son – who shares his father’s name and, like him, is an ex-champion.
“It’s the first time in 10 years that we’ve had an engine we can honestly say is competitive,” he told BBC Sport.
“We’re going in thinking we can do very well and maybe even win some races.”
It is all a big change from last year, when Team KR missed five races because of a funding crisis following the withdrawal of engine supplier KTM.
Securing Honda is in itself a huge coup. It is rare for the Japanese manufacturer to permit another team to use one of its engines, and Roberts Sr admits even he was surprised when they were given the go-ahead.
Rossi’s not just out of the packet, he’s been there a while, so it’ll take a very good team and rider to put him under pressure – and we think we have a good package
“When I first heard, I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was quite amazed that we’d impressed them,” he said.
“For the first time in modern history, they’ve let an engine out of the factory, which shows that over 10 years (as a team), we’re proved we’re worthy of such an honour.”
“King Kenny”, as he was known, was world 500cc champion from 1978-1980, and his battles with Barry Sheene have gone down in sporting history.
As a man who dominated his era in a similar way to how Valentino Rossi does now, he is a man whose assessment of the current world champion carries some weight.
BBC pundits on MotoGP ’06
“You have to put him under pressure to get his weaknesses out, but over the last few years he’s risen above the pressure and not made those mistakes,” he said.
“Once someone with that natural talent rises above the rest, it’s difficult to get someone to take over.
Kenny Jr came second behind Rossi at Donington last year
“He’s not just out of the packet, he’s been there a while, so it’ll take a very good team and rider to put him under pressure – and we think we have a good package.”
Kenny Jr followed in his father’s footsteps, winning the world title in 2000, and his father says he has the ability to challenge again this season, which starts in Spain this weekend.
“He’s one of the few riders who has the week-in, week-out talent to be able to be there with Rossi.
“You don’t need to beat Rossi to put him under pressure, you just need to be there. Hopefully we’ll be able to apply that kind of pressure.”
MotoGP coverage on the BBC
Roberts’ intense rivalry with Sheene defined his era.
And although no-one has emerged as a consistent challenger to Rossi, Roberts Sr says he does not see this as damaging for the sport.
I think you’ll see great things from Dani Pedrosa
“Rossi’s lost some races which he should have won, so I don’t see it as being a turn-off. I don’t think we’ll have the problem that we had in the Mick Doohan era – there’s good bikes and good young riders out there,” he said.
Which leads onto the topic of potential future champions. And Roberts Sr says there is one rider who stands out from the field.
“It’d like to think Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins will be up there, but I think Dani Pedrosa is a real wild card,” he said.
“He’s come up the same route Rossi did, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does.
“I think he has the talent to make an instant impact. He’s small, but that’s not a disadvantage – the more talent you have, the less strength you need.
“He’s been going very quick for his first time on the bike, so I think you’ll see great things from Dani Pedrosa.”
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