Confirmed: Kurtis Roberts To World Superbike
ROAD RACING - Kurtis Roberts To World Superbike
By Henny Ray Abrams
From MotoGP to AMA to WSB 7/30/2006
Kurtis Roberts goes back to work this weekend aboard the Team Pedercini Ducati in the Brands Hatch round of the World Superbike Championship.
Roberts, whose career has been stalled for the better part of two years, takes the place of the recently released Max Neukirchner on the Italy-based team’s Ducati 999RS. The German rider has only nine points this year and a number of crashes. He missed the most recent round of the championship, in Brno, because of injury.
The opportunity to ride for Team Pedercini was first discussed after Roberts visited the Misano round of the World Superbike Championship in late June. Originally, he said he was going to ride the bike of team owner Lucio Pedercini. Then the Neukirchner seat became available.
He added that there was a possibility he might have ridden for the team in the WSB round in Brno, the same weekend as the Red Bull U.S. GP, but that the team had hired Czech Pawel Szkopek as a one race replacement.
“I knew about the thing before Laguna,” Roberts said in a phone call from Modesto on Sunday evening. “They were talking about doing Czecho, which was same weekend as Laguna, so I didn’t know if I was going to Laguna or not. Then we kind of got it ironed out. Most likely we’ll be on the thing the rest of the year. It’s just as long as we’re all happy with the situation at Brands Hatch and everything else.”
Five races remain in the World Superbike Championship with Roberts unfamiliar with most of the tracks, starting this coming weekend at Brands Hatch. Not only has he never ridden at the track southwest of London, he’s never ridden a Ducati either, but he’s confident he can adapt.
“I know Ben [Bostrom] used Brands Hatch in reference to Barber [Motorsports Park] a few times,” he said. “So if Ben relates the place to Barber, I don’t think it’s going to take me a long time to get used to used to it. It might take up until the race, but that’s normally how I work anyway.”
With Roberts leaving Tuesday for the race, there’s no time to test.
As far as the level of factory support, Roberts wasn’t certain.
“It’s a 999,” he said, but it isn’t an F06 or even and F05. “I know Ducati is pretty excited I’m going to be on the thing. I think it’s going to hopefully bring some technical assistance. Ducati and I, we’ve always had a good relationship. It’s one of the couple of brands I’ve wanted to ride for. I think the thing should be okay.
“And if it’s not, what can you expect so much for Brands Hatch? Not too much. It’s not so much a Brands Hatch thing, it’s more getting things lined up for the future.”
And by the future, Roberts means “from this point until I die, which hopefully is a long time. The last few rides I’ve taken have not helped me whatsoever and if this thing looks anything like the last two have, I’m not going to be there very long.”
Roberts had a short stint with the Team M4 EMGO Suzuki team earlier this year, filling in for the injured Michael Barnes. In 2005, he had a less than successful return to the Erion Honda team for which he’d won two titles in 2000.
“If they let me pick and choose what I want and they work with me and they understand what I’m saying, it’ll be a good situation.”
The Suzuki stint gave him a hint of what to expect from the Pirelli control tires of World Superbike.
“I’m not really worried about the Pirelli thing,” he said. “It’s not even a concern of mine, because everyone else is on them and I already know how they react and stuff. I don’t know 110 percent of the tire, but I believe I know enough that that’s not going to be a big issue.”
The remaining races following Brands Hatch are the reconfigured Assen; the Lausitzring, in Germany; Imola, Italy; and the season finale at Magny-Cours in France. Roberts said he might take in the Brno round of the MotoGP World Championship during the break between Brands Hatch and Assen.
And if you think you’ve seen Roberts in the news lately, you’re not alone. His resemblance to Floyd Landis, the embattled Tour de France winner, is uncanny. Though Landis is only now becoming a household name, he’s been known to Roberts for some time.
“You know who’s always said that is Ryan Hughes, because he rides [bicycles] with him all the time,” Roberts said.
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