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Time for Kurtis Roberts to Grow Up

Honda’s Kurtis Roberts is fast. No, he has not been on the podium for a while (largely, due to recent surgery on his forearms), but the guy is very talented and very fast. No question about it.

The problem with Kurtis Roberts is his apparent application of Vince Lombardi’s famous phrase to roadracing. Lombardi said “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.” While a catchy phrase, it certainly isn’t true in most competitions. There are other things like sportsmanship, concern for the safety of fellow competitors, etc.

I always thought it was a hallmark of a great rider that his fellow riders felt comfortable “dicing” with him at speed in close quarters. Is this true of Roberts? Well, don’t ask John Hopkins or Eric Bostrom this question.

When Roberts won the AMA 600 Supersport championship last year in the final round at Willow Springs, California, he did so by a daring move in Willow’s famous, fast Turn 8 — passing both Kawasaki’s Eric Bostrom and Suzuki’s Jamie Hacking. Afterwards, Roberts basically stated he was going to make the pass or crash. Unfortunately, had he crashed, he might have taken out Bostrom and/or Hacking in the process. Apparently, Roberts didn’t care about the consequences — only about winning.

As far as what happened between Roberts and Emgo Suzuki’s John Hopkins last weekend in the 600 Supersport race at Mid-Ohio, only Roberts and Hopkins know for sure. At one point, it was quite clear from the Speedvision video tape, however, that Roberts dove inside of Hopkins on a corner where there was little or no room to do so — a move that went beyond aggressive and reached the categories of dangerous and foolishness. Perhaps, this was “pay back” by Roberts of some earlier encounter with Hopkins on the track.

Dale Earnhardt had a cage around him when he played “intimidator” on the racetrack. Kurtis Roberts and his fellow competitors do not. This type of riding and racing has no place in motorcycle roadracing. No, he didn’t take out Eric Bostrom and he didn’t cause injury to John Hopkins (whose abundant skill kept him on two wheels after being bumped), but both incidents could have turned out much differently.