“It is starting to get ridiculous”
Kurtis Roberts had a short afternoon at Sunday's Portuguese GP, pulling in after two of 28 laps of the 4.182-km Estoril circuit outside Lisbon with a slipping clutch that robbed him of any chance of finishing the race.
13 finishers, the younger son of a legend would have been certain of adding to his points score, and in the first lap he had already improved on his starting position, moving through to 18th place.
But by then Roberts was already having trouble with clutch slip, and when there was no improvement, he was obliged to pull in.
This was just another problem for the 28-year-old rider, already struggling with a lack of top speed and acceleration from his England-built machine that marries a Honda V4 engine with a hand-made chassis. All Honda satellite teams complained about engine performance at the start of the year, but after 14 of 18 races, Team Roberts is the only team not to have benefited from engine upgrades. The race was won by Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), from Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and Casey Stoner (Ducati).
The Portuguese GP is the last round of the European season. Next weekend the team will join the MotoGP circus in Japan before moving on to Australia and Malaysia. The final round is at Valencia.
“The clutch went out after the start, slipping a lot for a lap and half. I don't know why. The only thing I can think is I had a hard time getting the gear into neutral on the grid. It wasn't like I was hard on it. I was just sitting there hunting for neutral. I started fine, but it started to slip after turn four or five, and it didn't get any better.
There was a rumour that Honda will have some more horsepower for us at the next race, and I hope it's true, because this is starting to get ridiculous. It's frustrating when you are the only guy that hasn't had the engine update yet. I've tried to be positive all year, up until now - but it's getting stupid. I don't think anyone would want to ride the thing like it is now. You can't draft anybody, you can't accelerate with anybody, you can't shut anybody off to pass them properly. Hopefully it'll get better for Japan.”
Kenny Roberts Sr
“The clutch failed. I don't know why - it wasn't from the extra horsepower we put in it! I guess he burned the clutch up too much coming off the line, and it never recovered. I don't know if the thing was borderline on wear or not.
It wasn't going to be a very good day, no matter what, but we would have got points. We need some help for acceleration, otherwise it's kind of a waste of time.”