Team Roberts Struggles with new chassis in Japan*
Team Roberts' Kenny Roberts Jr. started the Japanese Grand Prix with the momentum of the third fastest time in the Sunday morning warm-up. But as the battle began it soon became apparent that the rising track temperature was adversely affecting the 'New Generation' chassis of the KR211V powered by Honda and the two-time winner on the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit struggled to a ninth place finish.
"Hopefully it's our worst race of the next two anyway," Roberts said as the 2006 MotoGP World Championship draws to a close.
From 14th on the grid, Roberts bolted quickly into tenth, then ninth on the second lap, his forward progress taking him to the back of world championship leader Nicky Hayden.
He was soon joined in the fray by Toni Elias (Honda), the trio running in close formation until they were caught up by yet another Honda rider, Casey Stoner. The young Australian was in front of Roberts when he crashed just past the mid-point of the 24 lap race.
By then it was clear that the 'New Generation' chassis, which had arrived just prior to the race weekend, didn't suit the atypically high temperatures of the high-grip Motegi tarmac.
"It's just like I always had a huge headwind," Roberts said of his attempts to catch Elias. "It's like when I stopped, I was stopping too much, when I'd get on the gas, I was fighting it. Struggled, just struggled. There wasn't any type of rhythm to it."
Roberts found he was better off running by himself and settled into tenth, gaining one spot on the final lap when Shinya Nakano crashed.
*Kenny Roberts Jr., Ninth Place*
Felt great this morning. Seems like when I get out on my own and get in my own rhythm and I don't have to slam the brakes on or really accelerate hard, I'm OK. But when I've got to start doing that I start getting sucked in and it feels like I'm going to run in the back of people. And when I get on the gas at the same time I just spin, so it's like I keep a certain distance and then I'm OK. It's like I'm riding just too much corner speed. And we've been trying to fix that. That was obviously one of the things we were trying to get rear grip out of it so I can avoid doing that.
*Team Owner Kenny Roberts *
It just wasn't there all weekend. This is the new chassis. Again, we have very little time, very little experience with it. It could very well be two, three-tenths off; we don't know that. In the morning warm-up it was fine and then the race gets hotter. These are just things you learn. Everybody's so damn close. It doesn't take much to tune yourself out of a half a second a lap. We've always had a stopping problem and that's really an area where we want to work that's largely a suspension and maybe a little bit of aerodynamic work to make it stop better. It's always stopping on its nose and moving; which makes it difficult to out-stop anybody.