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Dec 17, 2001

McWilliams Signs With Proton Team KR

From a press release:<BR><BR>TOP BRITON MCWILLIAMS COMPLETES PROTON LINE-UP <BR> <BR>Britain's top Grand Prix rider Jeremy McWilliams has signed to race next season for Britain's only Grand Prix manufacturer - Proton Team KR - in the premier MotoGP class of the motorcycle World Championship. <BR><BR>McWilliams, winner of last year's Dutch 250 TT, will race the Malaysian-backed team's own three-cylinder lightweight 500cc two-stroke, the KR3, alongside new team-mate Nobuatsu Aoki. <BR><BR>The new association was confirmed today, with McWilliams and Proton Team KR putting the finishing touches to a one-year contract for the forthcoming 2002 season. <BR><BR>The new association completes the rider line-up for the independent team, owned by racing legend King Kenny Roberts and supported by Malaysia's leading motoring manufacturers, for an exciting transition season. Next year, the existing 500cc two-strokes will defend their territory against the new-generation 990cc four-stroke MotoGP machines. <BR><BR>"I'm really happy to have a rider like Jeremy on board," said Roberts, a former triple 500cc World Champion. "He has a lot of experience on a lot of different types of machine, which will contribute a great deal of valuable input to our programme. <BR><BR>"As importantly, with Jeremy you know that every time he gets on it he will give 100 percent. He has experience, and he also has speed. <BR><BR>"We'll be racing our two-stroke against not only the other two-stroke 500s from last season, but also against the new four-strokes," continued Roberts. "The two-strokes, and our bike especially, have the advantage of light weight, as well as being well developed for maximum race performance. The new bikes will be very powerful, but relatively untried in racing conditions. <BR><BR>"We expect to work towards developing our own four-stroke entry for 2003 - but for 2002 we have improved our Mk3 machine still further, and with riders like Jeremy and Nobuatsu on board we hope to close the two-stroke chapter with our best season so far," the team owner concluded. <BR><BR>Jeremy McWilliams is one of the most experienced of GP riders, and is fresh from a 250 season after a World Championship career that has moved between 500cc and 250cc classes since his first full season in 1993. Now 37, the rider from Belfast reflected a revitalised enthusiasm after joining the Proton KR3 project. <BR><BR>"At first, it seemed that the new four-strokes would be so powerful they would run away - but at tests new 500 rider Katoh was faster on a two-stroke than the new Honda four-strokes, and it seems there's also a question of tyre endurance. That has given me a lot of hope for the 500 two-stroke, and the feeling that four-strokes may not be the way forward just yet. <BR><BR>"The KR3 proved last season it is capable of qualifying well. My aim is to achieve the same lap times and results in the race." <BR><BR>McWilliams has experience of challenging the 500-class titans on a lightweight adversary - the Aprilia V-twin that he rode to two rostrum finishes in 2000. <BR><BR>"I think I proved then that in the big class, you don't need to be on an identical machine. There are tracks that suit the bike better and that I enjoy - like Mugello and Phillip Island - where I'll be hoping to get good results for the team.<BR><BR>"Already they are making changes to the machine that I will be testing in January. I've had discussions with the engineers, and we're thinking along the same lines. The primary goal is to make this machine achieve its full competitive potential." <BR><BR>McWilliams was enthusiastic also about the long-term prospects, having seen for the first time the strength of the Proton Team KR design and manufacturing facility at Banbury, in the heart of England's "Formula One Belt" of specialist racing engineering. <BR><BR>"When I visited the Proton Team KR facility, I got the feeling I should have gone there a long time before. Apart from the factories, they are the only people who can build a complete racing motorcycle from scratch - and to the same high standard as any factory bike I've ever seen. <BR><BR>"You have to believe they want to make the project work - and I feel the same way. <BR><BR>"I have a one-year contract, which suits both sides at the moment. I hope that if I can make this machine competitive, the next step would be involvement in developing the future four-stroke machine. I hope by the end of the season the team will not be looking for anybody to take my place," he said. <BR><BR>The Proton KR test programme begins in January at the Spanish Jerez circuit, with the first race scheduled for April 7 at Suzuka in Japan. <BR><BR>CAREER SUMMARY <BR> <BR><BR>Born: April 4, 1964 - Belfast, Northern Ireland <BR>Married to Jill - two sons, Jack and Zak <BR><BR>1988 Champion of Ireland - 350cc production (Yamaha) <BR><BR>1990 Champion of Ireland - 350cc Open (Yamaha) <BR><BR>1991 Champion of Ireland - 250cc Open (Yamaha) <BR>British Supercup 250cc - First, Brands Hatch <BR><BR>1992 Championship of Ireland, British Supercup 250cc (Yamaha) <BR>European Championship 250cc (Yamaha) <BR>British Supercup 750cc (Ducati) <BR><BR>1993 First GP, Australia, 500cc <BR>World Championship 500cc - 21st (Yamaha) <BR><BR>1994 World Championship 500cc - 12th (Yamaha) <BR><BR>1995 World Championship 500cc - 19th (Yamaha) <BR><BR>1996 World Championship 500cc - 16th (Yamaha) <BR><BR>1997 World Championship 250cc - 10th (Honda) <BR><BR>1998 World Championship 250cc - Ninth (Honda) <BR><BR>1999 World Championship 250cc - 10th (Aprilia) <BR><BR>2000 World Championship 500cc - 14th (Aprilia) <BR><BR>2001 World Championship 250cc - Sixth (Aprilia)