Kurtis Roberts will have a hard job tomorrow in his first race at the slow and challenging Estoril circuit. A slip-up on his qualifying tyre meant he was unable to improve his time when it mattered, and the 28-year-old second son of a legend will...
Kurtis Roberts will have a hard job tomorrow in his first race at the slow and challenging Estoril circuit. A slip-up on his qualifying tyre meant he was unable to improve his time when it mattered, and the 28-year-old second son of a legend will start the race from 19th position, at the back of the grid.
It represents a big change in fortune for the independent team. At last year's Portuguese GP, Kurtis's elder brother Kenny Roberts finished a close third after battling to the finish for the lead, setting the lap record as he did so.
That was on the 990cc Honda-powered KR211V, with the chassis built in England at the team's state-of-the-art facility. This year the engine size has dropped to 800cc and riders Kenny and Kurtis have been left complaining of a shortage of acceleration and speed. The Honda factory machines and some of the satellite-teams have had engine upgrades, but Team Roberts still has the same motor as at the start of the year.
A freak accident after the last race has also cast a shadow over this weekend. Kurtis cut his left foot on Sunday night at Misano, severing the artery and requiring stitches. That meant he was unable to take part in tests at the Italian track the next day, where the team had expected to work with Michelin on improving tyre performance.
The Portuguese GP is the last round of the European season. Next weekend the team will join the MotoGP circus in Japan before moving on to Australia and Malaysia. The final round is at Valencia.
KURTIS ROBERTS - 19th Position, 1:39.017*
It's my first time here, and it's a pretty strange track to learn, with the bumps and slow corners. But I've been chipping away at it session by session. I should have qualified better, but I made a mistake on my fast lap, and then tried to get another lap out of the qualifying tyre -- but it didn't make it. My other problem is my left foot. I cut it at Misano the night after the race. I was wearing flip-flops and I caught it on something sharp. I've never seen so much blood - I cut the artery, and needed ten stitches. It's a bit painful still, but it's not hampering me too much.
KENNY ROBERTS - TEAM PRINCIPAL
The chassis performance keeps on improving and Kurtis keeps getting better with more experience. Even though it's his first time here, when we overlay his data on Kenny Junior's from last year, he's at the same corner speed or faster, as the 800 should be compared with the 990. Last year that was enough for the lap record and to fight to win the race.The problem is the same as all season: we're doing what we can with what we've got, but we need more acceleration and speed from the motor.