Roberts eyes Brits for Donington GP

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Jeremy McWilliams, Neil Hodgson and James Haydon could be offered a golden chance to contest next month’s British GP for American legend Kenny Roberts’ squad.

Team Roberts manager Chuck Aksland confirmed to MCN a British rider would be considered for the big Donington Park clash on June 24, 2007 with McWilliams, Hodgson and Haydon all under possible consideration to ride a second KR212V.

The ride would be part of the Banbury based squad’s plan to field a second bike for the remainder of the 2007 world championship.

Aksland told MCN today that the team is currently awaiting confirmation from Honda that it can run two bikes for the foreseeable future and probably for the rest of the season.

Team Roberts is currently struggling to find a development direction with its new 800cc machine, with 2000 world champion Kenny Roberts languishing in 20th and last place in the standings.

The 33-year-old has scored just four-points in five races, with a best of 13th in the season’s opening race in Qatar.

In a bid to try and solve some of the issues, Team Roberts formally requested to Honda at last weekend’s French GP in Le Mans to run a second bike.

And this has led to Aksland saying the ideal solution would be to have a British rider on board for Donington. Roberts Junior’s younger brother Kurtis Roberts is likely to ride in the next two races in Mugello and Barcelona, with Aussie 250 privateer Anthony West also having discussions with Roberts in Le Mans.

As for Donington, the obvious choices are McWilliams and Haydon as they are both available and have both previously raced for Roberts in the past.

Aksland said: “If we can run a second bike then it would be good for us to have a British rider on board at Donington. There are a couple available that could do a job for us. We have got nothing to lose.”

McWilliams thought he’d be riding at Donington anyway having signed a contract with the Northamptonshire-based Ilmor squad for 2007. But he was left reeling when Mario Illien withdrew the team after the opening round in Qatar.

The veteran Irish rider raced for Team Roberts in 2002 and ’03, firstly riding the KR3 two-stroke 500 and then the Proton KR5 990cc four-stroke.

Haydon is available too having recently been axed by the Virgin Yamaha BSB squad, and he rode the Proton KR5 as a substitute rider in 2004, scoring a best of 12th in Qatar.

British and World Superbike champion Hodgson is also without a ride in 2007, though he is likely to be the big outsider should a KR212V become available, as he’s currently contracted to test Bridgestone tyres for Ducati. Team Roberts run Michelin rubber.

Aksland confirmed to MCN that the team is awaiting a response from Honda about the second bike request, with maintenance schedules and re-builds finalised months in advance for satellite teams.

But Aksland said it was essential that team engineers got more feedback.

“We’d like to run a second bike. Nothing was confirmed with Honda when we left Le Mans but we are in contact daily. We talked to Honda in Le Mans about our situation and ways of moving forward and we are just awaiting approval.

“But we have got to put somebody else on our bike. Right now we are not sure what the problems are. We don’t know whether it’s the tyres, the chassis or whether it’s Junior.

“We need some feedback and information. If we put another rider out there who can give us some comments and they say the same as Junior then we can eliminate him.

“Being a one-rider team using our own chassis we can’t compare with anybody else. The problem is we’ve got so many issues that it’s hard to pinpoint. Junior agrees that we need to put somebody else on the bike because we need to be running in and around the other satellite Honda’s and right now we are a step behind them.

And Aksland added: “He is a bit lost at the moment and so we are with how to move forward. Everybody knows that Michelin has had some problems this year and Honda’s engine needs improving, but we can’t use that an excuse.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt