Memory Zone: Kenny Roberts, Jr. as World Champion with Suzuki

Kenny Roberts: 2000 World Champion

MCN Archieve – Kenny Roberts Junior made racing history on his Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki in Brazil today. When the 27-year-old from Modesto, California crossed the line a safe sixth to become the first 500-class World Champion of the new Millennium – he also completed a father-and-son double act that has never been done before.

Kenny Roberts Senior swept to glory by winning the most senior racing title himself in 1978, 1979 and 1980, Today, the man they called King Kenny was in the pits to watch his son repeat his feat.

He is the first 500 champion in the world whose son has won the same title. And Kenny Junior is the first son who is repeating his father’s achievements.

“It has always been my own decision to go racing professionally – but I’m only here because of my dad,” said the newest World Champion. “I’ve dreamed about being 500cc champion since I was a kid. It’s been a 27-year season to get to this point. The championship means everything to me.”

His father, exultant and emotional, added: “I’m just happy for him. I’ve no axe to grind. He’s put a lot of work in for this and he put up with a lot of bull on the way. Winning the 500-class title is a hell of an achievement. Not many people can say they’ve done that. He’s become one of a great series of champions from America.”

Kenny won his first title just as he and the factory had planned. “We had a two-year plan,” said team manager Garry Taylor. “The first year was to adapt the bike – Warren Willing and the race department interpreting his feedback and getting modifications to the race track as soon as possible. He finished second overall, so we were on the right track. The second year was to win the title,” Taylor concluded.

Kenny’s own approach was to maximise the possibilities. “I tried to do the same thing all season, every weekend – to qualify on the front row, get a good start, then ride the bike to 100 percent of its ability, trying not to over-ride it.”

Kenny was quick to thank those responsible for putting him on the grid on a bike capable of winning the World Championship. “First of all – Suzuki, and our new sponsors Telefonica MoviStar. And Garry Taylor and Mr Shigenoya, team manager and Suzuki’s former racing director, for having the foresight to sign me up.

“I couldn’t have done it without Warren Willing, crew chief Bob Toomey, Alfred Willeke the computer guy, my crew Marc, Simon, Pete and Polo and the rest of the team, my trainer Dean Miller, and Michelin tyres. We all had the same goal – this championship is for them as well as myself. There are so many other people – our technical support – from Ohlins suspension, Motul Oils, Spike, Alpinestar and Arai. I would like to say thank you to all my family in California, who have always supported me in racing, and the commitment that racing brings. And thank you to my mom, and to my fiancèe Rochelle. There are so many people who made this possible, but most especially, I want to thank my dad, for believing in me, backing me all the way, and always being there. Now I’m looking forward to being able to race free again. For most of this season it’s been like having my arms tied behind my back. For the last rounds, I can go back to trying to win races without counting up the points.”

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