New Proton Team KR riders Jeremy McWilliams and Nobuatsu Aoki made their first acquaintance with the Proton KR3 machines they will ride in the forthcoming MotoGP season last week - and both came away full of enthusiasm after matching the three-cylinder lightweight's best ever lap times at the Spanish GP circuit at Jerez.

In spite of dirty track conditions (the circuit is undergoing major reconstruction work), both Proton riders were circulating at close to lap record speed by the end of three days of testing.

"It's about the fastest we've ever been around here - and the conditions are anything but ideal. It's very encouraging at this point. Apart from the last 20 minutes, when Jeremy fell off - the tests were flawless," said team owner Kenny Roberts Senior.

"In fact, they came up a little early for us, and we didn't really have all our ducks in a row," the former triple World Champion added. "From here on, it can only get better."

McWilliams was not hurt in the fall, which came towards the end of a test over full race distance on race-compound tyres. The engine seized, almost certainly as a result of dirt ingested from the dust-strewn track.

Ulsterman McWilliams and Japanese star Aoki were both pleasantly surprised, not only with the machine and its obvious potential, but also with the performance of the Bridgestone tyres, new to the top class of GP racing.

They were testing both 16.5-inch and 17-inch rear tyres, and a variety of compounds and constructions including full race tyres.

"When I first got on the bike, the chassis settings were all wrong for me," said Jeremy McWilliams. "My first thought was that it will take a lot of work to get the bike to suit my style. In fact, the team made the right adjustments really quickly, and even by the end of the first afternoon I was really happy, because I could see what a lot of potential is in the bike.

"The chassis is fantastic - the KR3 is better under hard late braking than any bike I've ever ridden. I don't think Nobu or I have missed a single corner apex, which is pretty impressive for the first test.

"There are still some more changes to make, and we can improve it even more. One slight weakness is in the corner exit - but again this is such a good team, and engine chief Bud Aksland was able to make some changes that have already improved that aspect.

"All round, I was very pleasantly surprised - especially with the standard of the new Bridgestone tyres. I'm only kicking myself that I wasn't on this bike one year earlier."

"I am really happy - it's like magic." Exclaimed Nobuatsu Aoki. "I never expected the bike to be so good, for the first test to go so well, and for the tyres to be so good first time.

"I spent last season development-testing the Bridgestone tyres, but this bike is quite a lot different - 15 kilogrammes lighter than the four-cylinder. This was the first test with the tyres, and they performed very well and we came to some important conclusions. I'm looking forward to future tyre developments that are targeted to the KR3 in particular.

"The rear tyres were fantastic - especially the 16.5. I couldn't have expected them to suit the bike so well.

"My first impression of the KR3 is the very good chassis and handling. I expected the bike to be small and cramped - but it's not a problem. It's a real 500.

"It's going to be a hard season, but I'm really looking forward to it."

This was the first of several tests in the run up to the season, which starts on April 7 with the Japanese GP at Suzuka. The next tests take place at Valencia on February 15 to 17.


Loading Comments...