After winning the 2015 MotoAmerica Superstock 600
Championship and performing well in the 2016 MotoAmerica Supersport
Championship, American Joe Roberts packed up and jetted off to compete in the 2017
FIM/CEV Moto2 European Championship on AGR Team’s Kalex.
Roberts’ success continued with two podium finishes and
fifth place in the final 2017 FIM/CEV Moto2 European Championship point
standings, and on the way there he got called up to replace AGR Team’s Yonny
Hernandez for the second half of the FIM Moto2 World Championship.
Roberts immediately delivered by going from 31st
on the grid at Brno to finishing 10th in the wet race, scoring six
World Championship points.
All of this resulted in Roberts getting signed to race in
the 2018 Moto2 World Championship for the RW Racing team, where he rode a
NTS-framed machine. Success was somewhat elusive for Roberts in 2018, however,
as he only scored points in two of the 19 rounds and regularly finished in the
second half of the talented field.
In 2019, Roberts is continuing in the Moto2 World
Championship, but just about everything else has changed. For starters, Roberts
is riding for a new team, American Racing, which is owned by his manager, Eitan
Butbul. Then of course all of the Moto2 bikes in 2019 are fitted with Triumph
765cc inline three-cylinder engines in place of the previous Honda CBR600RR-based Inline Fours, and the Triumph engines are fitted with more advanced electronics than the Honda engines had.
The final piece of Roberts’ puzzle for 2019 is his new KTM
chassis, which so far has proven to be a bit of an enigma compared to the
aluminum-framed racebikes he’s ridden in recent seasons.
“The KTM is obviously a tubular steel frame,
and I’m still struggling with the releasing of the brake. I can’t really figure
out that part. I keep losing the front,” 21-year-old Roberts told
Roadracingworld.com. “My teammate [Iker Lecuona] has obviously figured
something out. I went and rode Supermoto with him between Argentina and this
race. I can see a lot of different things in the way we do things on the bike
that you can’t always see on a race weekend because it’s all happening so
quickly. So that was nice to see and kind of cool to know, OK, maybe I should
adjust here or adjust there.”
Tuning the more advanced Magneti Marelli electronics that
come with the new Triumph engine, meanwhile, have not complicated the process of Roberts
coming to terms with his new bike.
“It’s all one big thing,” said Roberts. “There’s definitely
a lot to be gained [with the electronics] because now we can mess with engine
braking. And we don’t actually have traction control. It’s called ‘torque
management.’ Basically, it doesn’t control the spin. It can’t tell how fast the
tire is spinning, but it can give you a map that’s softer in the beginning or
more aggressive. And you can do it for each gear but not corner-to-corner. The
system is quite simple. I don’t think they wanted to overwhelm everybody the
“But like I said, trying to figure out the chassis problem
for me is the biggest thing right now. If you look at me riding in MotoAmerica
over years, I think I have a pretty unique look and style. Sometimes it takes a
little bit to adjust it.
“I’m not too worried right now. This a whole new team, and the
guys working with me are new to this team. There’s a lot of things like getting
the rhythm, the kind of flow within the team to perform well and understand
each other. That takes some races sometimes.
“We had some positives to take from Qatar to Argentina. I
was on my best race in Argentina before I crashed. Not maybe in position-wise
but the gap to the front I was close. And my lap times are always consistent.
We’ll get there.”