Kenny Roberts Jr
2006 seemed to prove that there was still room on the MotoGP grid for independent teams - with Kenny Roberts Jr steering his father's, Honda powered, Team Roberts KR211V to two podium finishes and four front row qualifying performances.
As such, there were high hopes for the second year of the Roberts Jr/Honda/Team KR partnership, but 2007 was to be a massive disappointment and neither the team nor Kenny Jr appeared on track during 2008.
Having grown up in racing paddocks, as Kenny Sr. plied his trade in the 1970s and 1980s, Kenny Jr was riding mini-bikes almost as soon as he was out of nappies. Then came the gradual conversion to racing, first on dirt and then on tarmac.
Dad was a three times 500cc world champion, and Kenny Jr remains the only son of a former world champion to have lifted a world crown too, for Suzuki in 2000. The switch to four-stroke racing in 2002 hit Suzuki hard and Roberts managed just two podiums and one pole position from 2002 until his return to Team Roberts at the end of 2005.
KR Jr previously rode for Kenny Sr. when his father established the Modenas team in 1997. He piloted it again in 1998 and fought hard to achieve a 13th place overall in the world championship. That bike evolved into the machine on which Jeremy McWilliams set the fastest-ever lap of Phillip Island by a two-stroke in 2002 (a record that still stands).
By the time Kenny Jr returned for the 2006 season, Team KR was emerging from a ill-fated engine partnership with KTM, but the switch to Honda power and Kenny Jr's world championship winning pedigree provided the boast Team Roberts had been searching for.
But 2007 was to see a total reversal in form, with the new Honda engine drastically underpowered and Michelin struggling to adapt to the new tyre regulations. Nobody understood the reality of the technical limitations more than the massively experienced Kenny Jr, and - having taken a best finish of 13th from the first five rounds - the Californian withdrew from racing to await further technical developments.
But a performance breakthrough never came, despite relentless chassis development at Team KR's Banbury base, and Kenny's place for the remainder of the season was taken by younger brother Kurtis, who claimed a best finish of 12th.
Team Roberts was subsequently forced to withdraw from the 2008 championship prior to the start of the season due to a lack of funding, a decision which also marked the end of Kenny Jr’s grand prix career.Career Highlights:
- 1988 : Motocross
- 1989 : Minibike Racing
- 1990 : Road racing debut 250cc Willow Springs.
- 1991 : 2nd 250cc WERA Championship Yamaha
- 1992 : 4th 250cc AMA Championship
- 1993 : 250cc GP debut.
- 1994 : 18th 250cc World Championship Yamaha
- 1995 : 8th 250cc World Championship Yamaha
- 1996 : 13th 500cc World Championship Yamaha
- 1997 : 16th 500cc World Championship Modenas
- 1998 : 13th 500cc World Championship Modenas
- 1999 : 2nd 500cc World Championship Suzuki – race wins 4
- 2000 : 500cc World Champion Suzuki – race wins 4
- 2001 : 11th 500cc World Championship Suzuki
- 2002 : 9th MotoGP World Championship Suzuki
- 2003 : 19th MotoGP World Championship Suzuki
- 2004 : 18th MotoGP World Championship Suzuki
- 2005 : 11th MotoGP World Championship Suzuki
- 2006 : 6th MotoGP World Championship KR211V
- 2007 : 24th MotoGP World Championship KR212V