Is this MotoGP's next superstar American rider?

Will a strong early start to the Moto2 season put Joe Roberts in the Trackhouse Aprilia MotoGP window for 2025?

Joe Roberts, Moto2 race, Portuguese MotoGP, 24 March
Joe Roberts, Moto2 race, Portuguese MotoGP, 24 March

During January's Trackhouse launch, former grand prix racer John Hopkins suggested the new US team looks no further than his American Racing Moto2 rider Joe Roberts for a future homegrown MotoGP star.

With Roberts running second in the early Moto2 standings, and current Trackhouse riders Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez out of contract at the end of this season, might such a MotoGP move become a reality for 2025?

“I actually went to their [Trackhouse] team unveiling, it was ten minutes from my house in LA,” said Roberts. “It was a really cool event that they put on. I got to know some of the guys there. They are really nice people.

“Yeah, if the [Trackhouse MotoGP] opportunity comes knocking, why not! For sure, it’d be awesome. But I’ve just to focus on this championship right now.”

Roberts was previously offered an Aprilia MotoGP ride in 2021 but joined fellow Moto2 riders Marco Bezzecchi and Fabio di Giannantonio in turning down what was then a far less competitive RS-GP.

At that time, Roberts also felt he didn’t have the necessary experience to justify a seat in the premier class, having only three seasons in grand prix under his belt and a single Moto2 podium to his name.

Roberts instead chose a switch from American Racing to the more proven Italtrans outfit as his next career step.

But his results initially declined, being absent from the rostrum throughout 2021 before a triumphant debut grand prix victory at a re-started Portimao race in early 2022.

The sporadic podiums (four in four seasons) continued until the end of last year, when he opted for a return ‘home’ to American Racing for the new Pirelli era.

Seventh place in Qatar was followed by second place in Portimao, putting the 26-year-old in an early second in the standings behind Aron Canet.

“We include John [Hopkins] a lot in our technical briefings and I just think we’ve found something that is rideable, I’m able to adapt my lines,” Roberts said of his strong start to this season.

“Whereas the last few years I was only able to ride one way around the track and then as the tyres wore off, I wasn’t able to really adapt to that change.

“Now I have the bike set-up better. You can turn it, you can also use the rear brake and slide into the corner, which gives me a bit of room to play and helps with the tyres especially.

“I just think it’s a really good working environment we have right now.

“The [Pirelli] tyres for me, I generally like the feeling with the front. Most riders are the same but if I can’t get that turning out of the front tyre it’s really difficult for me.

“So that’s something the Pirellis have really brought me, with the softer rubber. But with [the harder option] we were really competitive in testing as well.

“I’m really looking to the rest of the season. I think we’ve got a super competitive package and the goal is to be right where we are now, if not one step ahead.”

It remains to be seen if Roberts can indeed break the previous inconsistency but there’s no doubt he’s performing at exactly the right time as far as 2025 contract negotiations.

American riders dominated grand prix racing from Kenny Roberts in the late 1970s to Kevin Schwantz in 1993. However, the last American champion was the late Nicky Hayden in 2006 and the most recent race win by Ben Spies in 2011.

The MotoGP class has been without a single full-time American since Hayden in 2015.

The literature accompanying the recent takeover of MotoGP’s commercial rights by Liberty Media included the goal of ‘Expansion… Especially in Key Growth Markets including US’. Something for which an American rider would be a major asset.

Round 3 of the 2024 season will be Trackhouse and Roberts’ home American round at COTA.

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