Former 500cc world champion Kenny Roberts has confessed that having his son Kurtis race for his Proton KR team in 2004 has both good and bad points...

Indeed, it will be the second time that 'King' Kenny has had the extra burden of a son in his racing team: Kenny Roberts Jr raced for his father on a Yamaha, and then on the 500 two-stroke Modenas KR3... then went on to win the 500cc World Championship in 2000, riding a Suzuki.

"We needed a younger and more aggressive rider, and Kurtis is one of those guys, on a very short list," began Kenny Sr. "The downside is that he is my son, and I am responsible for the equipment he will race. That puts a lot more pressure on me.

"One thing is we're a much better company now than when Kenny rode our bike. That gives me more confidence - I know we are a lot more capable now than we were then," he continued. "Kurtis is a very talented kid, and he is maturing very quickly. When you have talent and once you get maturity, you're ready for GP racing.

"He will have to up his game. When I came to Europe, I also had to get faster. That happens when you come into an arena with more and better competition. I think he's ready for it, as Nicky Hayden was ready," concluded Kenny.

Kurtis and the team reached final agreement this week, after the 25-year-old ex-AMA Superbike race winner tested the KR V5 at Valencia late last year (pictured).

It marks a return to GP racing for Kurtis, who campaigned a privateer 250cc machine in 1997, at the age of 18. Kurtis raced in the USA thereafter, winning three AMA titles (SuperSport 600 and twice Formula Xtreme) by the age of 21 before switching to the AMA Superbike class, he won two races last year on the way to a second successive top-three championship finish.

"I'm very excited about MotoGP. It's like going home for me - the tracks, the people and the atmosphere. It's where I grew up, and it's where every racer wants to be," said Kurtis.

"I was very happy with the bike at Valencia tests. It seems like a good starting point. It's very neutral, and doesn't do anything funny. It's obvious we can go round the race-track fast. We don't go down the straightaway nearly as fast as I'd like to yet, but that's getting better all the time," he added.

Nobuatsu Aoki will race alongside Kurtis this season, the Japanese providing team stability as he starts his third season with the independent outfit.

The only question mark that remains is over tyre supplier: Team KR lost the support of Bridgestone at the end of last season, and while they have tested Dunlops, the team haven't ruled out clinching a much desired Michelin supply.

 

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