Proton Team KR Tie-up Strengthened Proton yesterday announced its continued involvement in motorcycle GP racing with the renaming of the KR GP Motorcycle.
Now into its 5th year of working together with Kenny Roberts Senior and his outfit, the race equipment will from this season be officially known as PROTON TEAM KR.
"Proton is continuously increasing its technical involvement in the area of providing design and rapid prototyping support to the race equipment. This is not just a straightforward sponsorship deal - it is a smart partnership where both parties will benefit apart from the immediate brand leverage Proton will gain," said Proton CEO Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff while hosting a media get-together at the Fast Track Speedzone go kart circuit in Sungei Pencala.
"Right from the very beginning, our aim is to learn as much as possible in the area of engine and chassis development, and there is much to learn from Kenny and his team," Mahaleel added.
Kenny Roberts Senior, a three time 500cc Motorcycle GP World Champion, is the first former rider to form his own team, establishing the first modern-era race team, encouraging factories to support privateer teams and most significantly developing world champion caliber riders.
With support from Yamaha, his team won four World Championships outshining the more established marques with his unique talent in guiding his riders, including his eldest son Kenny Roberts Jr., as well as giving input in the development of the engines and chassis tuning. Roberts' total commitment to the sport is testimony to his burning ambition to be the best.
In 1997, he undertook the greatest challenge of his glittering career by creating his own Grand Prix machine for riders Jean-Michel Bayle and Kenny Roberts Jr. The arrival of the internationally designed Modenas KR3 was significant because it challenged the dominance of the Japanese V4s and heralded a new era for the sport.
Roberts Senior, who was also at the go cart event, said that the KR3 was his contribution to the evolution of motorcycle racing, where it had to establish its own engineering infrastructure like Formula 1 had, if it is to continue to grow.
The first few years did not bring any titles, although with each race, the KR3 slowly made its presence felt with respectable qualifying time. This year, Proton Team KR will have a new rider, Jurgen van den Goorbergh , who will debut on the much refined Mk3 version of the lightweight three-cylinder Proton KR3.
The new bike combines compact dimensions, light weight and agile handling with an improved and more powerful version of the proven V3 engine, and made its racing debut in the sixth race of the 2000 season. Several different riders took the new KR3 through the early stages of its development, and it demonstrated its potential by consistently finishing in the points.
Van den Goorbergh, in recent tests, was pleased with the agility and power of the lightweight V3 engine, and believes it will give the established factory V4's a run for their money. He had expressed confidence that the bike, with the support of the team will surprise a few people and get much better results in the season ahead.
It is this professionalism of the team, in developing the engine and motivating its riders and team personnel that Proton hopes to learn from. Proton hopes that the expertise and technology used to develop the KR3 will further enhance the knowledge and technological know-how of its already state of the art Research and Development facilities in Shah Alam.
"We have seen how the factory-based machines were adapted specifically for race conditions. Perhaps we will now see a full cycle where an engine developed specifically for racing will evolve into factory machines catered for the lucrative superbike market, perhaps in the very near future"ÃÂ added Mahaleel.