Texan Colin Edwards won the 2000 World Superbike Championship. Californian Kenny Roberts Jr. won the 500 GP World Championship. The United States, at one time considered the home of the world’s greatest roadracers, has reasserted itself. Is this the beginning of a new era of US dominance of world championship roadracing?
With Kenny Roberts Jr. now at the pinnacle of the sport, at a relatively young age, and so many other Americans displaying the talent to compete for that same top rung (Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden, younger brother Kurtis Roberts, Ben Bostrom, and Eric Bostrom, to name a few), can an American be denied in the next decade?
There are tremendously talented riders outside the US, but no country currently has anywhere near the depth of talent the US has. Good arguments can be made that either Japan’s Noriyuki Haga or Italy’s Valentino Rossi are the world champions of the near future in this sport, but, it must be said, in the next decade, there is likely to be more world champions from the United States than from anywhere else.
When a relaxed Kenny Roberts Jr. dominated the Motegi round after clinching the championship this year, he erased any doubts he was worthy of the title. Even five-time champion Mick Doohan couldn’t contain himself after that race when he approached Kenny in the pits and said Kenny’s ride was “Perfect, friggin perfect.”
Kenny is a good bet to win again next year, but the fastest Roberts is arguably his younger brother Kurtis. Kurtis, now entering his first year on a Superbike in the United States, has been quicker in practice than either of his Honda teammates, Miguel DuHamel or Nicky Hayden. Kurtis and Hayden are headed straight for GPs as soon as they finish honing their skills in the US. Nicky Hayden could be there, on a Honda, at the start of the four-stroke rule change in 2002. Kurtis will be close on his heels.
If the World Superbike Championship is truly relegated to second-tier status, expect Colin Edwards and the Bostrom brothers to join the GP circus in the near future as well. This would result in the most talented group of American riders ever assembled in the GP top-level class (from 2002 onward, do we call it the 500 class? – the four strokes will be 990cc).