DOUBLE-STRENGTH ROBERTS TEAM LEARNS WET LESSONS Mugello, Italy - June 2, 2007: Kenny Roberts Jr. and his younger brother Kurtis qualified 18th and 19th for tomorrow's Italian GP, in a wet final qualifying session where the bad weather of the ...
DOUBLE-STRENGTH ROBERTS TEAM LEARNS WET LESSONS
Mugello, Italy - June 2, 2007: Kenny Roberts Jr. and his younger brother Kurtis qualified 18th and 19th for tomorrow's Italian GP, in a wet final qualifying session where the bad weather of the previous afternoon continued.
Atrocious conditions marred both days of practice, with only one dry session, on Friday morning. Come what may, it was grist to the mill to the two brothers and the team, in the quest to gather data that will help bring the new 2007 Honda-powered KR hybrid to the competitive form it enjoyed last year.
Kenny Jr. has been the team's sole rider, last year and this. Kurtis was brought in for this race to help with machine development. The younger Roberts, who last raced in MotoGP for the same team in 2005, has been racing in the AMA Superbike class at home in the USA.
Pole position at the spectacular 5.245km Mugello circuit, in the hills outside Florence, went to title leader Casey Stoner (Ducati). In the conditions, his time of 2'00/359 was more than 12 seconds slower than the circuit's previous best lap.
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. - 18th position, 2'06.660
As I was saying from mid-season last year, we've needed two riders, but for some reason we were prohibited, and we're paying for that now. With Kurtis on the second bike, right away he was able to help, so I'm only having to work 50 percent as hard and we're getting double the input. In the rain when I was on soft tyres, Kurtis actually passed me and took off, and was doing quite good times compared to the other Hondas. So he's able to give good feedback. Our situation is a reflection of the tyre rule and not having enough feedback to the engineers, so it's good to have Kurtis here.
KURTIS ROBERTS - 19th position, 2'07.571
It's been a strange weekend to come back, just because the weather is changing so much. It's kind of hard to get used to everything with it dry and wet. Maybe after three days of this it'll be easier, because we will have been through all the weather scenarios we could with this bike. But it's been fun, and interesting. And it's moving forward, I think, though it's hard just to jump onto something like this and be right up front. It's not like a Superbike. I think if we'd been out this session on the right tyres at the right time we might have been further up the field. At the same time, you can't put too much pressure on when it's your first race back, on a Honda-powered 800 you've never ridden before. My last ride was at the end of 2005 on the five-cylinder 990 Proton. This bike is a lot different - more than I expected. It doesn't have nearly the torque that the old bikes did. It feels like a 250 almost, because you're carrying so much corner speed. It's something to get used to for me.
CHUCK AKSLAND - Team Manager
I think probably this weekend, even with the bad weather, we've probably learned more than we have in all the races combined. Kurtis is adding another voice to the debriefs, pretty much matching Kenny's comments. The object is to try and make the bike better. We've always said we need two riders to back things up and give us a better perspective, and from that side it's really helped. The weather hasn't helped, though. We've had only one dry session, basically, and from that we had a lot of things we wanted to change for the next one, but obviously it was raining.
Kurtis is here for two races. Then after each race we need to analyse where we are, and make decisions from race to race. To continue running two riders, engine mileage is the problem. But we have to thank Honda for giving us the chance to do this, even though it's not ideal working round a two-rider programme with equipment for one rider.