Proton Team KR's V5 racer took a slight step on its journey towards maturity in Sunday's Portuguese GP, when both machines finished for the first time. Riders Jeremy McWilliams and Nobuatsu Aoki took the flag in 19th and 20th respectively, ahead of the factory Kawasakis and within sight of the factory Suzukis.

McWilliams and Aoki started from 16th and 23rd places on the grid, after both riders had worked their way through problems in qualifying. McWilliams set his time after reverting to the older, but currently quicker, 500cc two-stroke - but then fell off the lightweight three-cylinder bike when he tried to improve on Saturday.

Despite the performance advantage offered by the KR3 over one lap, the team stated there was never any question of racing the 500cc machine as they preferred to develop the V5 - accepting the consequences which go with that decision.

"I've never seen so many happy people after finishing four places from the points," admitted McWilliams. "It wasn't so much fun - we still have some real difficulties that slowed us in the race, and we obviously still have a little problem with straight line speed.

"Something went wrong about 12 laps out, with the engine making funny noises, but though it slowed me down a bit, it kept going to the end," continued the Ulsterman. "The new power has increased our chances a lot, but I was having some electronic problems downshifting the gears, and some handling issues as well. But it's the first time I've run full race distance, and that's how you find these things out."

"I was behind Jeremy, and though I could hear his engine was making noises ... I couldn't pass him, even if I slipstreamed him on the straight, because his engine was pushing better than mine," added Aoki. "I also had some problems with the engine management - it was jerking, and after that it lost power again; and the rear wheel was hopping into the corners in the last ten laps. I just had to make it to the finish, and we did that."

"It's a milestone - the first time we have got two of the new machines to the finish," confirmed team manager Chuck Aksland. "Considering the level of the competition, and that all but two of the starters made it to the end, the result is good. We got them both home, and made a lot of progress with the latest engine, and with chassis direction. We know we need more power, but we have a lot of guys working on that. It's good to go to the flyaways knowing that we can now make full race distance."



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