Meet Kenny Roberts is always a pleasure and especially if he is in a good mood, because if he isn’t you will realize very quickly. We met him during the presentation of the Alpinestars’ special edition Roberts Replica boots. Obviously we asked him his opinion about the things, which are going on in MotoGP. An as expected, his answer were equally interesting and funny…
What do you think about the world championship?
“Unbelievable. It’s never been better: the talent of riders, the equipment… It’s obviously the best show in the world”.
“We also had one fairing designed that was ten miles an hour quicker at Barcelona down the straightaway, but it wouldn’t stop”.
When you look at the technology advancements, the aerodynamics and things, do you like it?
“I love it, absolutely. Now they’re finally up to NASCAR specs. For me, that’s always been a part of it. Why aren’t we doing more of that? It was ahead of my time, but I had enough money to make it all work. We also had one of the fairings designed by Loras. It was ten miles an hour quicker at Barcelona down the straightaway, but it wouldn’t stop. We didn’t have the budget to find out why it wouldn’t stop. You’d look at it and go, why is the back end coming off the ground? No one knew. There was a lot to it, but they just scratched the surface”.
Do you think that in MotoGP there is a rider similar to you?
“No, you could never ride as fast as they ride with my equipment. If my ’80 bike had the grip that this bike have it would go… Whoop! Poing! … And away it would go. Which it actually did with me a couple of times. If you had too much grip, the flex would be so much it would spring back. So with these tires you couldn’t ride the motorcycle. I think that, at least from my standpoint, Marquez probably comes the closest to throwing the bike in and making the turn and then exiting. Which is what I tried to do”.
Are you surprised by the speed of Valentino at his age? “Absolutely. He should be in a rocking chair!”
Before the money was the same with all the different manufacturers, so you could choose any bike. Do you have any idea which team would suit your style?
“You can make the bike whatever you need it to be. It’s just work and setting the bike up, from the little bit I know. The Japanese couldn’t ride my motorcycles because his head was too scary. They just couldn’t ride it. It shoke too much. So, I think that any of the motorcycles with a little bit of work on have the same thing. May be it’s a lot harder to ride, it’s a lot harder on your body but you’re faster. So I think in the end if you are determined you’ll do that”.
Are you surprised by the speed of Valentino at his age?
“Absolutely. He should be in a rocking chair. I always thought I’d love to be tired and sitting in a rocking chair smoking in a pipe. So the first time I retired I put a pipe in my mouth and went, “Oh, god. That’s awful.” I was thinking about this the other day. Wayne Rainey probably would have followed in that footsteps, but I think that the bikes at that time were a little more violent and it took a little more toll on your body. One thing about Valentino is the longevity. It’s because he isn’t hurt all the time. That’s a main factor to getting older and continuing at the pace that he can run. From coming off of a two-stroke to now the modern-day GP bike and the lean angle that they have, it’s amazing that he’s been able to do that”.
What’s your opinion on young Americans trying to get into this paddock now? Is that harder than ever? Are kids going to have to come through maybe motocross or something else? What’s your thinking?
“They’re trying. MotoGP is trying. It’s as long road. They’ve got to go so long without building the young talent that it’s going to be a long time before we’re able to get somebody that not only wants to go there, that has a talent to go there. It’s a tough sale at the moment. Before I went, nobody wanted to go to Europe. It was, “Why would I want to go there? They talk funny and they eat funny.” So it’s that all over again. It’s like, “You guys want to go to Europe?” “No, I don’t want to do that.” It’s a tough sale”.
“MotoGP?… It’s obviously the best show in the world”.
Can anyone beat Marquez this year in your eyes in what you’ve seen?
“Yes, but it’s going to be him beating himself, it looks like to me. Somebody’s going to have to really step up and put the pressure on him that he needs to make a mistake, and right now I don’t see that”.
Nineteen races this year and maybe as many as twenty-two races within a couple years. Are you glad that you’re not lining up for that many events every season?
“Well, when I did the National Championship in road race we did more than that. I bitched about it at that time. It’s a rough road. It’s not easy. I don’t know what can stop them. Everybody wants a MotoGP race. That’s a great place to be in. How they manage that is something that I have no control over, obviously. But it’s tough. These guys have it a little bit better now. They make a little bit more money, so they have a little easier life. I had to tape up my boots, tape up my leathers, and tape up my helmet and tape my face shield. I’d get my two face shields a year, so I didn’t have to change it much. It’s just an easier life now.
My boots didn’t weight anything. I didn’t like padding. But when you put this boot on, like the ones that I used when I did the laps, it’s so comfortable. You can walk in it. You’re not stumbling. It’s like a street shoe but it’s made for racing. Four or five years ago I didn’t want to wear the boot. I used to put Kenny’s on and go, “No, I don’t want this boot. Because I want to put a glove on and think I don’t have a glove on; same with a boot. I wanted to put the boot on and think I don’t have it on.”