Kenny Roberts

From CycleChaos
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Kenny Roberts
Kenny Roberts
Nationality United States

Grand Prix motorcycle racing career
Active years 1974, 1978 - 1983
Teams Yamaha
Grands Prix 60
Championships 500 cc - 1978, 1979, 1980
Wins 24
Podium finishes 44
Pole positions 22
Fastest laps 27
First Grand Prix 1974 250 cc Dutch TT
First win 1978 250 cc Venezuelan Grand Prix
Last win 1983 500 cc San Marino Grand Prix
Last Grand Prix 1983 500 cc San Marino Grand Prix

Kenneth Leroy Roberts (born 12/31/1951 in Modesto, California) is a former motorcycle racer and the first American to win the 500cc Road Racing World Championship.[1][2] Roberts won two AMA Grand National Championships in 1973 and 1974, three consecutive 500 cc World Championships in 1978, 1979 and 1980 along with three victories at the Daytona 200.[3][4] He is the father of the 2000 500cc World Champion, Kenny Roberts, Jr., the only father and son duo to have won the title.

Roberts is regarded as being one of the first riders to use his knee to balance the bike on the track in corners, and the first to use engine power to spin the rear tire exiting bends to help steer the bike (a technique known as "throttle steering", common among U.S. flat track racers). These techniques are used everywhere in the top levels of motorcycle road racing, though they are much less exaggerated with today's improvements in tire technology.

Racing history[edit]

Roberts made a name for himself by battling the dominant Harley-Davidson factory dirt track team aboard an underpowered Yamaha XS650 model twin cylinder street motorcycle (overbored to 750CC with a special frame) in the U.S. Grand National Championship, a series which encompassed events in four distinctive dirt track disciplines plus road racing. Roberts is one of only four riders in AMA racing history to win the AMA Grand Slam, representing national wins at a mile, half-mile, short track, TT and road race.[2][5] He made up for his bike's lack of power with an almost fearless, determined riding style. This fearless style was highlighted in 1975 when Roberts competed at the Indy Mile National aboard a dirt track motorcycle with a Yamaha TZ 750 two-stroke road racing engine wedged inside its frame.[2] On a bike that was considered unrideable due to its excessive horsepower, Roberts came from behind on the two-stroke, and overtook the factory Harley-Davidson duo of Korky Keener and Jay Springsteen on the last lap for one of the most famous wins in American dirt track racing history. Afterwards, Roberts was famously quoted as saying, "They don't pay me enough to ride that thing".[6]

Roberts ventured to Europe in 1978 to compete in the World Championship Grand Prix series.[2] He surprised many observers by winning the 500 cc crown in his first attempt, despite having no prior knowledge of the European circuits.[3][7][8] Roberts was also known for his epic battles with British racing legend Barry Sheene, and the subsequent Grand Prix World Champion, American Freddie Spencer. Roberts' battle with Sheene at the 1979 British Grand Prix at Silverstone has been cited as one of the greatest races of the 1970s.[9][10] His season long battle with Spencer for the 1983 500cc World Championship, in which they each won 6 races, and culminated in a last lap collision at the penultimate round in Sweden,[11] is considered one of the greatest seasons in motorcycle Grand Prix history, along with the 1967 500cc duel between Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini[12]. In a fitting end to a great career, Roberts won his last race in the final meeting of the 1983 season, the San Marino Grand Prix. Ironically, Roberts would have never competed in the world championships if Yamaha had had a bike able to compete against the Harley Davidson dirt track team.

Safety advocate[edit]

Roberts is also remembered for being one of the first riders to take up the cause of rider safety. When Roberts arrived on the Grand Prix scene, motorcycle racers were competing at venues like Imatra in Finland that featured railroad crossings and hay bales wrapped around telephone poles. Roberts adopted a confrontational, sometimes belligerent stance with race promoters, challenging the previously accepted poor treatment that motorcycle racers of the day were accustomed to receiving. He organized a rider's revolt and threatened to start a competing race series called the World Series to challenge the FIM's monopoly on championship caliber motorcycle races. [1] Though the competing series failed to take off, it forced the FIM to take the riders seriously and make changes regarding their safety [13]

Manager[edit]

After his racing career ended in 1983, Roberts turned to team management, guiding such riders as Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Luca Cadalora and others to race wins.[2] As Team Yamaha's manager, Roberts won three 500 cc World Championships with Rainey and one 250 cc World Championship with John Kocinski.[2]

Deciding he wanted to be more involved in motorcycle designing, Roberts made the decision to leave Yamaha and start his own motorcycle company, Team Roberts.[2] The team was well-funded by Proton of Malaysia, but the results were not as hoped and the backing faded. After the 2007 season, Roberts pulled out of MotoGP competition due to the lack of sponsorship.

Honors[edit]

Motorcycle Grand Prix results [3][edit]

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Points 15 12 10 8 6 5 4 3 2 1

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Class Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Points Rank Wins
1974 250 cc Yamaha GER
-
NAT
-
IOM
-
NED
3
BEL
-
SWE
-
FIN
-
CZE
-
YUG
-
ESP
-
10 19th 0
1978 250 cc Yamaha VEN
1
ESP
2
FRA
2
NAT
-
NED
1
BEL
-
SWE
-
FIN
-
GBR
-
GER
-
CZE
-
YUG
-
54 4th 2
500 cc Yamaha VEN
-
ESP
2
AUT
1
FRA
1
NAT
1
NED
2
BEL
2
SWE
7
FIN
DNF
GBR
1
GER
3
110 1st 4
1979 500 cc Yamaha VEN
-
AUT
1
GER
2
NAT
1
ESP
1
YUG
1
NED
8
BEL
DNS
SWE
4
FIN
6
GBR
1
FRA
3
113 1st 5
1980 500 cc Yamaha NAT
1
ESP
1
FRA
1
NED
DNF
BEL
3
FIN
2
GBR
2
GER
4
87 1st 3
1981 500 cc Yamaha AUT
DNF
GER
1
NAT
1
FRA
5
YUG
3
NED
DNS
BEL
2
RSM
DNS
GBR
2
FIN
7
SWE
DNF
74 3rd 2
1982 500 cc Yamaha ARG
1
AUT
3
FRA
DNS
ESP
1
NAT
4
NED
2
BEL
4
YUG
DNS
GBR
DNS
SWE
DNS
RSM
DNS
GER
DNS
68 4th 2
1983 500 cc Yamaha RSA
2
FRA
4
NAT
DNF
GER
1
ESP
2
AUT
1
YUG
4
NED
1
BEL
1
GBR
1
SWE
2
RSM
1
142 2nd 6

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 50 Years Of Moto Grand Prix (1st edition). Hazelton Publishing Ltd, 1999. ISBN 1-874557-83-7
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" defined multiple times with different content
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Rider Statistics - Kenny Roberts", MotoGP.com. Retrieved on 2009-10-06.
  4. Daytona 200 winners at www.motorsportsetc.com
  5. American Motorcyclist, January 1975, Vol. 29, No. 1, ISSN 0277-9358
  6. The Bike That Wouldn't Die by Dean Adams, Superbike Planet, 1994
  7. American Motorcyclist, March 1979, Vol. 32, No. 2, ISSN 0277-9358
  8. American Motorcyclist, November 1978, Vol. 32, No. 11, ISSN 0277-9358
  9. Silverstone 1979 – a Roberts-Sheene classic at MotoGP.com
  10. A Thriller At Silverstone, by Sam Moses, Sports Illustrated, August 20, 1979
  11. Roberts vs Spencer by Paul Carruthers, Cycle News, August 5, 2009
  12. A Doodle Dandy Of A Dogfight, by Sam Moses, Sports Illustrated, August 1, 1983
  13. The Best Ever--Super Seventies, Superbike Planet, May 25, 2004
  14. Kenny Roberts at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
  15. Kenny Roberts at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame
  16. MotoGP Legends at MotoGP.com