MD received the following press from Suzuki regarding the development of their new four-stroke MotoGP bike. Obviously, Suzuki is getting a very late start — it is awfully late for Kenny Roberts to be swinging his leg over the new bike for the first time. This is just one more reason why next season will be tremendously interesting.
ROBERTS PREPARES TO MEET ALL-NEW FOUR-STROKE SUZUKI
Brea, Calif., January 10, 2002 — Kenny Roberts, Jr. will meet the brave new world of
Grand Prix racing for the first time on January 19, when he and Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki
teammate Sete Gibernau fly to the factory test circuit in Japan for their first encounter
with Suzuki’s all-new four-stroke XRE0 MotoGP racer.
The American 500cc World Champion in 2000 is keeping a cool head as he prepares for the
encounter with the 990cc V4 that the team will race in the first new MotoGP season of
2002 – the premier class now open to 990cc four-strokes as well as 500cc two-strokes.
“I haven’t been speculating about the new bike. I don’t care if we’re racing four-strokes,
two-strokes, or twins. I don’t care if we’re all on pink bikes – I just want to get back
to beating Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi, as I’ve done before” said the Californian
son-of-a-legend, during a break in his training regimen that is gathering pace as the
season draws near.
Since Christmas, Roberts has been intensifying his carefully structured program – spending
two hours a day in gymnasium training, and another four or more out riding, concentrating
on the oval dirt-track discipline that is a cornerstone of GP racing technique.
Roberts plans to rely on his usual resources in the season to come, confident that the
Suzuki factory’s bold new four-stroke racer represents a similar commitment on its part.
Suzuki is steeped in GP racing, with race and championship wins dating back to the
“I’m not in racing to finish in the Top 10, and the same thing is true of Suzuki,” said
Roberts. “We all want to win. Next week, I get my first ride on the new bike – but to be
honest I haven’t been wondering about what it will be like, or thinking about the
four-stroke too much. I’m focused on myself, and on putting in the time and effort to be
capable of winning GPs. I want to be in the right frame of mind.”
In addition to the switch from the V4 500cc two-stroke engine to the powerful new
fuel-injected V4 990cc four-stroke, the team will also be changing from Michelin to Dunlop
tires, adding another significant variable.
“The new bike and the new Dunlop tires are a decision by the Suzuki factory,” said
Roberts, now in his fourth year with the factory Suzuki team. “I go along with whatever
decisions they make that will make the bike faster.
“I’ve raced with Dunlop tires before, and they feel different, and require a different
riding technique,” said Roberts. “In any case, the new MotoGP machine will have a
different power character , and a different power-to-weight ratio, so again we have to
wait and see.
“I’m looking on us using different tires as another possible advantage. It’s going to be a
tough test – Grand Prix racing’s pretty cut-throat at the moment. I’m confident that both
Dunlop and Suzuki are going into this with the aim of winning.
“The fact that the factory brought the four-stroke program forward to race the machine
this season instead of next year means they’ve obviously had good results in their tests.
I’ll be seeing for myself next week. I’ve never raced a four-stroke, but I’ve always been
sure that the same people will be able to win races on either type of machine,” said
“From that point of view, it’s just business as usual – and we’re styling. My only goal is
to try and win the World Championship again.”
Next week’s tests are shake-down runs for the two regular riders, who will join Suzuki’s
regular factory testers at the Ryuo test circuit. This gives the factory race department
the chance to tail-fit the bikes to the full-time riders, before testing begins in earnest
in Malaysia in the first week of February.