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Jul 7, 2002

Proton Team KR Previews Next Weekend's British Grand Prix

From a press release issued by Proton Team KR:<BR><BR>HOME TRACK BECKONS PROTON TEAM<BR><BR>The British GP, eighth of 16 round in the new MotoGP World Championship, is in many ways the race of the year for Proton Team KR.<BR><BR>England is home to the team, with the manufacturing base not far down the road in Banbury.<BR><BR>One of the two riders, Jeremy McWilliams, is from Northern Ireland - and is the top British motorcycle racer in the top class of motorcycle racing.<BR><BR>Finally the nature of the Donington Park circuit is especially suited to the attributes of the unique lightweight three-cylinder Proton KR3.<BR><BR>All these factors make it a big race for the team - with all the pressure, the promise and the pleasure that implies.<BR><BR>Donington Park is the second of a quartet of circuits that McWilliams and team-mate Nobuatsu Aoki have been looking forward to throughout a season in which the lightweight bike has produced a string of top ten results even at tracks that were not expected to favour the specialised lightweight 500 two-stroke.<BR><BR>The first of the Big Four was Assen, where the Dutch TT promised much for the team, but delivered only heart-break, with both riders retiring with unprecedented gearbox failure.<BR><BR>It makes them all the more eager to make up for it at the British round, and the team has put together an unprecedented effort for their home GP. There will be no less than six complete motorcycles available for the two riders, offering a choice of the standard chassis, and the all-new "wide-line" chassis - which combines radically different tyre-friendly geometry with dimensions that mean it can also be used for the new V5 four-stroke engine planned for next year.<BR><BR>Donington favours the KR3 for one major reason - two-thirds of the 2.5-mile lap distance is smooth, flowing and fairly fast. Complex corner combinations reward accurate steering and faithful handling ... two areas where the lightweight machine excels. But what the track gives, it also takes away. The final third comprises a slow chicane and two hairpins, linked with drag strip straights. While the KR3 performs well also under hard braking, the light weight a positive asset, its weaker area is acceleration, where the brute power of the heavier and clumsier four-cylinder 500s and the new heavyweight 990cc four-strokes comes into its own.<BR><BR>But this year has been full of surprises for Team Proton KR. Le Mans in France mainly comprises U-turns and drag-strip straights, and far from the bad results they had expected, both riders finished in the top ten, with Aoki claiming sixth, his best finish of the year.<BR><BR>KENNY ROBERTS - "BETTER THAN EVER BEFORE"<BR>Wet weather would favour us, but I hope it's dry, because I believe our motorcycle can go round Donington better than ever before, but we can't prove it in the rain.<BR><BR>The standard chassis is pretty good; but the new chassis offers a different avenue of development. It's better in ways it needs to be better for more horsepower, when we have our 990cc four-stroke motor. We will have one example of the new chassis for each rider, and I have the feeling that it will be very good round Donington - that depends on how much dry time we get and how many setting changes we need to make. But we won't be changing from one chassis to another every five laps. We need the dry time to establish the direction early on, and stick with it.<BR><BR>Donington is a very unique track. We should do well there - we have the riders, and the tyres, and I'm looking forward to the weekend. But I've been disappointed at Donington in the past. We have to prove that we can be good there, not just say it, and it's important to us as a small engineering company to do that.<BR><BR><BR>JEREMY McWILLIAMS - "A BIG RACE"<BR>We have a choice of bikes - it will be up to the riders to choose their weapons. We got the standard chassis working so well at Assen that it might not be clear-cut which is better. Donington is two tracks in one, so it's hard to predict which will work better. In the past, I've always concentrated on getting the bike right for the fast sections, then get through the hairpins any way you can. I'll probably start with the standard chassis, and see how it goes. I hope it's dry. The important thing is to make the decision early, and concentrate on one bike - not to be stuck in a dilemma on Saturday night. Donington is a big race for me, with a lot of pressure from the crowd. I believe I'm able to handle that better now than in the past. It's definitely worth half-a-second a lap.<BR><BR><BR>NOBUATSU AOKI - "I WANT TO SEE THE FLAG THIS TIME"<BR>My season started really well, but I've had three non-finishes in the last three races with mechanical problems. My main thought for the British GP is to get to the finish, and I need some good luck for a change. I tried the new chassis after Barcelona, and it had some really good things about it. At the same time, I've been getting on well with the standard chassis, which I have slightly different from Jeremy. I also tried a 16.5-inch front tyre at Assen, which solved some front-end grip problems I've been having. The track should be good for our bike. I hope to give the team a good result at home.