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GP Week : Issue 206
Three GoodYears When Americans go racing, they usually do it in a big way. Not Goodyear; when they went to europe in 1978 to take on the best on two wheels, they were hardly visible. Here is the story of how Kenny Roberts and Goodyear won three World Championships. By PHIl BRANAGAN MOTOGP >>> FEATUrE It was a crazy dream, surely? Kenny Roberts was going to go to europe and take on the best Grand Prix racers in the world, on both 500s and 250s – and he was going to do it on American tyres? There was not much doubt about Roberts. At 27, he had been successful since he qualified to race as a professional at age 18. He had won the AMA Grand National Championship twice. He had raced in Europe, notably in the annual Trans-Atlantic Series held every Easter in England, but taking on the Europeans at the own game, in their own backyard, was surely a different proposition. But Yamaha had run out of things for Roberts to win in the USA, so they pointed him towards Europe. With tuner and mentor Kel Carruthers by his side, Roberts jumped into the unknown. Well, almost. He had actually dipped his toe into GP racing in 1974, taking third in the 250 race at the Dutch TT at Assen. He could ride the smaller bikes as well as he could the more powerful 500s so Roberts and Carruthers, a former 250 World Champion himself, decided that he would race in both classes. That way, he could learn the tracks more quickly. And he would do it on the same rubber that he raced on in the USA – Goodyears. More than 35 years later, Goodyear’s former head of racing, Leo Mehl, chuckles at the memory of the Californian’s precocious ability. “Of all the deals I ever did in motor racing, Kenny Roberts was EASILY my best-ever deal!” he says. continued over page