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Wednesday March 22, 2006

King Kenny and son ready to take on the world


LONDON: Motorcycling's King Kenny, three times 500cc world champion Kenny Roberts, is looking forward to the start of a new Grand Prix season more than he has in years. 

The 54-year-old Californian has come back from the brink after a 2005 nightmare that threatened to sink his British-based MotoGP team. 

Team KR missed a fistful of races after engine suppliers KTM pulled out but now they are revving up for the new season starting in Spain on Sunday with Honda support and another champion in the saddle – Roberts' son Kenny junior who has joined from Suzuki. 

“We're back to it being an all-American team and enjoying it,” Roberts senior told Reuters.  

“Kenny's got a big smile on his face, he really actually enjoys riding the thing and we enjoy building it. 

“It's sort of a dream come true really. 

“There's been a lot of smoke and mirrors over the last 10 years and we really have not been able to enjoy the success that quite frankly we should have had at times. 

“This puts us back up into the game in a very big way.” 

Roberts won three 500cc titles from 1978-80 and was acclaimed as a pioneering showman on two wheels. 

He retired and came back as a Yamaha team boss before, in 1996, building his own Grand Prix bike with initial backing from Malaysia's Proton. 

They struggled to match the dominant Japanese teams but having a competitive Honda engine, and the 2000 world champion, on board has raised morale no end. 

“It's really a big shot in the arm for Team Roberts for Honda to help us and for Kenny to come back,” said Roberts. 

“Now we're raising our game again and getting everybody honed in to not thinking about what it costs but about how we can win. 

Roberts said there were pros and cons in having his son riding for him. 

On the plus side, his expertise would pay immediate dividends in terms of technical feedback: “Racing against the best companies in the world, you really need someone on it that can guide you. 

“We don't have all the resources that everybody else has so we've got to have better people, a better rider and better direction,” said Roberts. 

“But it's not easy having your son race for you. Quite frankly, it's not an easy sport. It's not as safe as golf.  

“And half the time I'm hoping they slow down and half the time I need them to speed up.” – Reuters  

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