Australian GP: Team Roberts Saturday notes

ROBERTS JUST MISSES SURPRISE FRONT ROW Phillip Island, Australia - September 16, 2006: Kenny Roberts Jr. (KR211V) was bumped to the second row of the grid after the chequered flag had fallen for the end of today's qualifying session, and will ...

ROBERTS JUST MISSES SURPRISE FRONT ROW

Phillip Island, Australia - September 16, 2006: Kenny Roberts Jr. (KR211V) was bumped to the second row of the grid after the chequered flag had fallen for the end of today's qualifying session, and will start tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix from fourth position, leading the second row of the grid.

It is the 2000 World Champion's second successive start from this position, after qualifying on the front row of the grid for the previous two rounds. Kenny lapped the scenic 4.448km seaside circuit, overlooking the Bass Strait, in 1'29.662, more than half a second faster than the existing lap record.

The time was a surprise to the rider, who had hoped to follow Nicky Hayden's factory Honda on his last run on soft-compound qualifying tyres. Instead his fellow-American switched positions on the out lap, and was able to use Kenny as a measure, helping him to claim pole position.

Kenny used the older version of the machine, but expects to race the newer bike, which has a fabricated rather than a machine chassis, and a revised rear suspension layout. "He only qualified the old one because we had put new steering geometry on it," said his race engineer Tom Jojic.

Qualifying times were very close, with the first eight riders within a second of pole.

Kenny's strong qualifying continues the drive towards being fully competitive for the independent racing constructors. The KR211V marries a V5 Honda engine with a chassis designed and built at the Team Roberts's England base. Results have been strong, including a first top-three MotoGP finish at the Catalunyan GP in Barcelona.

Footnote: Kenny will race with a special sticker on the front of the machine, in memory of the late Australian saloon-car racing hero Peter Brock, who was killed in a rallying accident little over a week ago. The sticker shows the Australian flag, with Brock's racing number - 05 - superimposed.

KENNY ROBERTS Jr. - Fourth Position, 1:29.662 I really didn't think I had a lap in me like that, to get so close to the front row. We've been struggling for rear grip, and we made a few changes since this morning.

On my second qualifier I thought I could follow Nicky (Hayden) ... but he wanted to follow me. I surprised myself. I had a really steady lap, pretty smooth. I think I could have gone quicker if I had somebody to gauge off. But it's only qualifying, and anywhere in the top three rows for me would have been good. Fourth is a bonus.

We tried a slightly steeper steering head this afternoon, and that seemed to pick us up some time and a better feeling. It's similar to what Barcelona was, though you wouldn't think of the two tracks together. We'll try that in the second bike tomorrow, and a shock setting that we tried to begin with that seemed to give us a little bit better grip.

Qualifying is kind of insignificant, because (Loris) Capirossi and Sete (Gibernau) are way down, but they're ultra fast on race tyres. It's going to be a weird race.

KENNY ROBERTS - TEAM OWNER

The secret is to follow Nicky, and not let Nicky follow us. It's nice around here to get a bit of a tow, because it breaks the wind. I was quite impressed by Kenny's lap, on his own. I'm still not super-confident in race trim, though this race-track should favour us a little more than the last one. We need to start doing better in the races before I'll have much confidence.

-credit: tr

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