Kenny Roberts claimed his third consecutive top six finish on the ever-improving prototype 990cc Suzuki GSV-R racer in today's Pacific GP, and moved one place higher in the top 10 of the championship.

But by contrast team-mate Sete Gibernau's terrible weekend continued as his Suzuki's engine appeared to blow (pictured) in the early stages of the race - but neither he or the team would be drawn on what had gone wrong.

After a slow start to the season, Roberts' improving overall position is an illustration of the progress made in the 200-plus horsepower V4 machine's first year. Roberts, World Champion in 2000 on the two-stroke Suzuki, now lies eighth overall, with three races remaining.

"The result represents what we've achieved with it so far," said the American. "I can't yet use all my know-how and ability to ride the bike at 100 per cent. We're still at 70 or 80 per cent of that. We plan to make that better, and then I can use my talent to make it go faster.

"The most positive side is that we've had a lot of good meetings with top management from Suzuki this weekend, and they take all our comments and requests very seriously. I am confident they will respond and continue to make the bike better," he added.

Team-mate Gibernau did not finish the race and retired on the sixth lap. At the time, Gibernau was circulating in close formation with Roberts, the pair lying seventh and eighth.

Gibernau was visibly furious at his retirement - and refused to comment on what had gone wrong inside his machine to cause the plume of smoke from the rear.

"I got a good start, and Kenny and I were going round together, in a good position. Before I could start thinking about the rest of the race, I had to retire," was all he would say.

Team Manager Garry Taylor also refused to be specific - and won the award for stating the obvious - by saying: "Sete unfortunately didn't finish and retired."

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