Speaking at a media day held at a go-cart track in Malaysia, the CEO of Proton announced the company’s continued involvement with three-time 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts’ Grand Prix motorcycle team. DRB-Hicom, a Malaysian conglomerate, owns the car brand Proton and the motorcycle/scooter brand Modenas (as well as the Lotus car company). Roberts’ V-3 racebike had been labelled a Modenas from the start of his affiliation with DBR-Hicom five years ago. Roberts’ team will now be officially known as Proton Team KR. The media day and announcement was held at Fastrack Speedzone in Sungei Pencala, Malaysia. A press release issued February 1 quoted Proton CEO Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff as saying “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. 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.” According to the release, “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.” Roberts, whose full name is Kenny Leroy Roberts, is the father of 2000 500cc World Champion Kenny Lee Roberts. The release also stated “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 V-3 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 V-3 engine, and believes it will give the established factory V-4s 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.” The release ended by quoting Mahaleel as saying “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.” It is thought that Mahaleel meant that evolutions of racing engines could be used in production streetbikes in the future.
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