Suzuki's Kenny Roberts Jr. kept pace with race leaders Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau in the closing stages of Yesterday's Catalan Grand Prix... but was one lap down after pitting for safety reasons to change his rear tyre.

In fact, the 2000 World Champion's concerns were groundless, but he lost 11th place as a result of his caution. Roberts rejoined with a new tyre and made up for his problems with a thrilling final six laps, running with leaders Rossi and Gibernau.

"I had the best seat in the house, I was staying far enough away not to influence the outcome of the race in anyway, and for me it was a nice few laps behind Sete and Valentino. I know once we get our bike working as good as theirs later in the year, I will be able to influence the outcome," he declared.

"It was cool watching Kenny stay with the leaders," added team manager Garry Taylor with a wry smile. "I'm not so na?ve as not to know why that was. But Kenny reminded everyone what he could do, on a level playing field."

In common with the other teams using Bridgestone tyres, the Suzuki team was concerned about the rear rubber. A rear Bridgestone failed dramatically at the Italian GP a week ago and the Japanese tyre company built completely new reinforced tyres in the intervening days.

Even so, there were naturally concerns for the race, run in blazing heat. This was the reason for Roberts's caution, but in the event, none of the Suzuki riders had tyre problems.

"I pulled in because I had a feeling that something was wrong and it made me a little nervous," admitted Kenny, who was injured in a pre-season fall after a tyre failed. "In the position I was in, I felt it'd be better to come in and check. I think I must have hit something in the track because everything looked good."

Roberts was racing a modified version of the GSV-R V4 engine and his late race speed was a welcome sign that the team's development programme is heading in the right direction.

 

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