After epic race
Kenny Roberts Jr. finished on the podium for a second time this season, taking third place after a thrilling Portuguese GP, in front of a capacity crowd of more than 41,000 at the Estoril circuit outside of Lisbon.
Roberts had equaled his best result
of the year so far - but was disappointed after having started the final lap narrowly in the lead.
He misread a pit board, and thought that was the final lap and that he had won. Instead, eventual winner Toni Elias (Honda) passed him into the first corner, and by the end of the lap defending champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was also ahead.
It was still a fine achievement by the 2000 World Champion, riding a Honda-powered KR211 machine for his triple-champion father Kenny Roberts's team. He had started from 13th position on the grid after problems in final qualifying, and rapidly forced his way through to join the fight up front.
Kenny finished the first lap in 11th place, and moved through to fifth after just five laps. This put him in touch with the leaders, and by half distance he was firmly part of the group of four fighting for the win. He took the lead for the first time on the penultimate lap, thinking it was the last, only to be taken by surprise when there was no chequered flag waiting.
As well as equaling his best position, this race proved another significant improvement. When he was third at Catalunya he was 9.1 seconds off the lead. At this race, he was just 0.176 seconds off the winner.
The field was thinned on the fifth of 28 laps of the 4.182 circuit, when points leader Nicky Hayden was send flying by his Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, when the pair were disputing third place.
The Portuguese GP was the 16th of 17 World Championship rounds. The last race is at Valencia in Spain in two weeks.
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. - Third Position
”We improved the bike quite a bit in testing the day after the last round in Japan, and it was good in practice - but my qualifying got messed up.
I had to get a good start, and that worked out well. When I got up to Valentino in the lead, I'd seen Pedrosa take Hayden out, and I wanted to be real careful, because I didn't want to do the same thing to him. At the end, I mistook two laps to go for one, and when I crossed the line next time I thought I'd get the chequered flag. But there was one more lap. It took me off guard, or maybe I could have blocked them better in turn one. Earlier in the year it was hard to get within ten seconds of Rossi, my old championship rival. Now I'm happy that I was within a tenth of two. With the momentum we've built up this year, next year could be really good. I just hope I get the chance to make the same mistake in Valencia in two weeks time.”
KENNY ROBERTS - TEAM OWNER
”We had the race pace today, obviously - we got that after Japan. We're getting closer and closer every time. We thought we took a step backwards in qualifying, but he never did seem too bothered by it. He said when I get race tyres on I'm okay, and if I get a good start I'll be fine. We were probably more worried than he was.”
Press Release Team Roberts