The Austin GP is a unique opportunity to meet the history of motorcycle racing in the paddock. (Almost) all the 500 American champions were in attendance in Texas, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Randy Mamola and Kenny Roberts. The King is still in great shape and bikes are still part of his life.
“I live in Arizona now, not California any longer, but sure I still ride, one month ago I was in Japan for some high-speed touring” he reveals with a smile.
Kenny recently underwent surgery, having some by-pass inserted, which he refers to as 'extra Power-Jets', like those he used to have on his Yamaha 500.
"My heart is great now - adding, with his usual irony - at least I think so, because I've started using Viagra again".
Kenny still follows MotoGP closely and can only be pleased with what he's seeing.
“I think this championship's incredible, it's never been better, in terms of rider talent and bike quality. It's the best show in the world” he comments.
We have to ask him about Rossi, the only rider still in action to have ridden a 2-stroke 500.
“I'm really surprised by Valentino, he should be in rocking chair, I was when I retired, with a pipe in my mouth too, it was horrible! I think Rainey could have had a career as long as Rossi's, but the bikes was more violent back then and tested the riders more physically. There are various factors to consider to understand how Valentino can still be fast now he's longer. He comes from 2 strokes and then moved over to these bikes that allow for incredible lean angles”.
As for the title favourite, Kenny has no doubts.
“Who can beat Marquez? Only Marc can beat himself - he replies - They need to put pressure on so he makes a mistake”.
It would be great to have a time machine to see Roberts in action in MotoGP.
“You can no longer ride with my style, the tyres have changes so much. Which bike would I choose? You can make any bike what you want, it's just about the work. For example, the Japanese riders weren't able to ride my Yamaha, because it was too stiff and moved too much. Eddie (Lawson) managed it. Today's MotoGP bikes are harder to ride, they ask more physically but are also faster”.
Kenny also approves of current aerodynamic development.
“i really like it, in our day there wasn't the budget for certain things and in my case they barely began to scratch the surface in this area. We started to work on my three-cylinder, thanks to Lotus, and we improved the speed by 16 Km/h at Barcelona, but like I say we didn't have the resources”.
Another change regards the length of the championship, with an increasing number of races.
“When I raced dirt track I did more than 19 races per year. Sure, it's hard, but I don't know how they can stop, because everyone wants a MotoGP race. The riders have an easier life now anyway, and they earn more money. In my day, I had to tape my suit myself, change my visor... I didn't do it often, I only had two!”.
But now there are no Americans...
“They're trying to bring some new talent up into MotoGP but it's a long path. No one raced in the world championship before me”.