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Kenny Roberts

Kenny Roberts
Motorcycle Grand Prix Career
Nationality 22px-Flag of the United States.png United States
Active years 1974, 1978 - 1983
Team(s) Yamaha
Grands Prix 60
Championships 500cc - 1978, 1979, 1980
Wins 24
Podium finishes    44
Pole positions 22
Fastest laps 27
First Grand Prix 1974 250cc Dutch TT
First win 1978 250cc Venezuelan Grand Prix
Last win 1983 500cc San Marino Grand Prix
Last Grand Prix 1983 500cc San Marino Grand Prix
Kenny Roberts on the 500cc Yamaha


Kenny Leroy Roberts (born December 31, 1951 in Modesto, California) is a former motorcycle racer and the first American to win the 500cc Road Racing World Championship.

Roberts won two AMA Grand National Championships in 1973-1974, three consecutive 500cc World Championships in 1978-1980 and three victories at the Daytona 200. He is the father of Kenny Roberts Jr and Kurtis Roberts, both also champion motorcycle racers.

Roberts is regarded as being one of the first riders to use his knee to balance the bike on the track in corners, and the first to use engine power to spin the rear tyre exiting bends to help steer the bike (a technique known as "throttle steering", common among U.S. flat track racers). These techniques are used everywhere in the top levels of motorcycle road racing, though they are much less exaggerated with today's improvements in tire technology.

Racing History

Roberts made a name for himself by battling the dominant Harley-Davidson factory dirt track team aboard an underpowered Yamaha in the U.S. Grand National Championship, a series which encompassed events in four distinctive dirt track disciplines plus road racing. He became one of the few riders to win a national event in each of the four dirt disciplines and a road race. He made up for his bike's lack of horsepower with an almost fearless, determined riding style. This fearless style was highlighted in 1975 when Roberts competed at the Indy Mile National aboard a dirt track motorcycle with a Yamaha TZ 750 two-stroke road racing engine wedged inside its frame. On a bike that was considered unrideable due to its excessive horsepower, Roberts came from behind on the two-stroke, and overtook the factory Harley-Davidson duo of Korky Keener and Jay Springsteen on the last lap for one of the most famous wins in American dirt track racing history. Afterwards, Roberts was famously quoted as saying, "They don't pay me enough to ride that thing." [1]

Roberts ventured to Europe in 1978 to compete in the World Championship Grand Prix series. He surprised many observers by winning the 500cc crown in his first attempt, despite having no prior knowledge of the European circuits. Roberts was also known for his epic battles with British racing legend Barry Sheene, and the subsequent Grand Prix World Champion, American Freddie Spencer. His season long battle with Spencer for the 1983 500cc World Championship, in which they each won 6 races, and culminated in a last lap collision at the penultimate round in Sweden, is considered one of the greatest seasons in motorcycle Grand Prix history, along with the 1967 500cc duel between Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini. In a fitting end to a great career, Roberts won his last race in the final meeting of the 1983 season, the Italian Grand Prix.

Safety Advocate

Roberts is also remembered for being one of the first riders to take up the cause of rider safety. When Roberts arrived on the Grand Prix scene, motorcycle racers were competing at venues like Imatra in Finland that featured railroad crossings and hay bales wrapped around telephone poles. Roberts adopted a confrontational, sometimes beligerent stance with race promoters, challenging the previously accepted poor treatment that motorcycle racers of the day were accustomed to receiving. He organized a rider's revolt and threatened to start a competing race series called the World Series to challenge the FIM's monopoly on championship caliber motorcycle races. Though the competing series failed to take off, it forced the FIM to take the riders seriously and make changes regarding their safety.

Manager

After his racing career ended in 1983, Roberts turned to team management, guiding such riders as Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Luca Cadalora and others to race wins. As Team Yamaha's manager, Roberts won three 500cc World Championships with Rainey and one 250cc World Championship with John Kocinski.

Deciding he wanted to be more involved in motorcycle designing, Roberts made the decision to start his own motorcycle company. The venture was not as successful as his Yamaha years but proved he could do it. The team was well-funded by Proton of Malaysia, but the results were not as hoped and the backing faded. A high point came with the introduction of four-strokes in MotoGP; the Roberts bike was beating the old two-stroke lap times at some circuits and earning front row qualifying spots against the other factory four-strokes.

As of 2006, the team is still in operation and, ironically, is going back to a Japanese engine supplier. Honda will provide the RC211V V5 engine with the frame being designed by Team Roberts. It will be ridden by 2000 World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr, the first son of a World Champion to win the World Championship.


Awards


Motorcycle Grands Prix Results

Year Class Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Points Rank Wins
1974 250cc Yamaha W.GER
DNS
NAT
DNS
GBR
DNS
NED
10
BEL
DNS
SWE
DNS
FIN
DNS
CZE
DNS
YUG
DNS
ESP
DNS
10 19th 0
1978 250cc Yamaha VEN
15
ESP
12
AUT
12
FRA
DNF
NED
15
BEL
DNS
SWE
DNS
FIN
DNS
GBR
DNS
W.GER
DNS
CZE
DNS
YUG
DNS
54 4th 2
1978 500cc Yamaha VEN
DNF
ESP
12
AUT
15
FRA
15
NAT
15
NED
12
BEL
12
SWE
4
FIN
DNF
GBR
15
W.GER
10
110 1st 4
1979 500cc Yamaha VEN
DNS
AUT
15
W.GER
12
NAT
15
ESP
15
YUG
15
NED
3
BEL
DNS
SWE
8
FIN
5
GBR
15
FRA
10
113 1st 5
1980 500cc Yamaha NAT
15
ESP
15
FRA
15
NED
DNF
BEL
10
FIN
12
GBR
12
W.GER
8
87 1st 3
1981 500cc Yamaha AUT
DNS
W.GER
15
NAT
15
FRA
6
YUG
10
NED
DNS
BEL
12
SM
DNS
GBR
12
FIN
4
SWE
DNF
74 3rd 2
1982 500cc Yamaha ARG
15
AUT
10
FRA
DNS
ESP
15
NAT
8
NED
12
BEL
8
YUG
DNF
GBR
DNF
SWE
DNF
SM
DNF
W.GER
DNF
68 4th 2
1983 500cc Yamaha SAF
12
FRA
8
NAT
DNF
W.GER
15
ESP
12
AUT
15
YUG
8
NED
15
BEL
15
GBR
15
SWE
12
SM
15
142 2nd 6

References

External links

  • Team KR - Official site of the Proton KR GP team