After Kenny Roberts Jr's strong showing in the latter half of the 2006 season, hopes were high that Team KR could be podium regulars in 2007, opening up a cheaper way for private teams to compete in MotoGP. But 2007 has not gotten off to the start which the team had hoped. To a large extent, this is unsurprising, as when Honda decided to change engine layout from a V5 to a V4, this affected not just HRC themselves, but also Team KR, who use the Honda powerplant as the basis of their KR212V bike. As consequence, Team KR are suffering similar problems to the other Honda teams, with the Honda RC212V so far being a great deal less competitive than everyone expected. But where Honda is the largest and richest motorcycle manufacturer involved in MotoGP, and can afford to throw money and engineers at a problem in order to solve it, Team KR is a small private operation with limited resources. Though they may be able to solve a number of problems with ingenuity, they lack the funds to be able to put in the long hours of testing which developing a racing motorcycle demands.
Last year, Team KR received some help from Honda, who gave some advice about the chassis, which helped transform the KR211V into a competitive package. This year, however, HRC have too many problems of their own. And so the team has had to look elsewhere for assistance. That assistance will once again come from inside the Roberts family: Kurtis Roberts, who left the NFS Racing team in AMA just a couple of weeks ago, looks likely to be drafted in to help develop the KR212V alongside his brother Kenny Jr in his father's team. Team manager Chuck Acksland confirmed to this website that Team KR is likely to have Kurtis ride for them at Mugello and Barcelona, and possibly for several more rounds. Kurtis Roberts is no stranger to the team, having ridden the Proton KR during 2004, and substituting in 2005 at Valencia. He is a talented rider, winning 3 AMA championships in 1999 and 2000, but has been criticized for his lack of focus. But as a development rider within his father's team, he could have a valuable contribution to make.
The fly in Team KR's ointment is that the will not get an extra allocation of engines from Honda to help them out. Team KR currently have 5 engines, which would allow the team to run two bikes for each rider, and still have a spare engine. Unfortunately, the Honda is rather fragile so far this season, as the hole in Kenny Roberts Jr's crankcase which caused him to retire on the last couple of laps of the Le Mans race can testify. So if anything goes wrong, or bikes are destroyed as a result of a crash, the team could quickly run out of engines.
But developing a racing motorcycle is a difficult process, and Kurtis joining the team could be the development boost which the team needs. Both Kenny Sr and Kenny Jr have complained that running just a single rider has limited their ability to get the bike to the state it needs to be to run with the leaders, so Kurtis may help alleviate that problem.
Kurtis Roberts may not be the only rider to join Team KR. Aksland also admitted that the team has discussed adding a British rider to the team for the British Grand Prix at Donington, which, despite the large American component of the team, is their home race, being run just a few miles from the team's Northamptonshire base. No details on who is being considered for the ride have been forthcoming, though the name of Neil Hodgson is sure to come up in this context.