For Team Roberts and their KTM powered Proton KR machine, the French Grand Prix was a 'testing' weekend in more ways than one.

The race itself could hardly have been more disappointing, with rider Shane Byrne the victim of a first-lap crash that left him with painful contusions to his back, though no serious injuries. The rider was at a loss to explain the fall.

In spite of this, and a catalogue of technical problems during two days of qualifying, there was much to encourage the team. The arrival of a new-generation motor, plus a new chassis and swing-arm proved immediately promising, signalling a step forward in both areas.

On the chassis side, changes had been made to help Bryne's front-end feel. "We changed some of the geometry and shifted the weight distribution, and he felt the improvement immediately," said team manager Chuck Aksland.

However, the introduction of the brand-new KTM V4 engine was more 'complex' with constant teething problems - not really surprisingly, since the first day of practice at Le Mans was its shake-down test... and the first time it had been in a motorcycle chassis.

"Again, Shakey said straight away that he could feel that the improvements with the new engine," said Aksland. "Practice was hit by bad weather, which really cut down on test time, and though we had three of the new engines, they came up with a problem that KTM are investigating.

"I'm confident it's nothing serious, but it meant we had to switch back to the first-generation motor for qualifying and the race."

Byrne nevertheless qualified 17th, ahead of Roby Rolfo's Ducati, Jurgen van den Goorbergh's Honda and both Blata WCMs.

"The overall signs are good, though, and there is a two-week break before the next race. It will give Shakey a chance to recover, and also for KTM to iron out the teething problems with the motor," added Aksland.

 

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