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Apr 13, 2019

Moto2 World Championship: American Joe Roberts Talks About Learning His New Triumph-Powered KTM Racebike

Joe Roberts (16) on his American Racing KTM Moto2 racebike.

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 first year.

“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.”

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