Joe Roberts Is America’s Moto2 World Championship Hopeful | Cycle World
Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Joe Roberts Is America’s Moto2 World Championship Hopeful

The Los Angeles native is living in Europe and racing in the ultra-competitive middleweight class

Moto2 is the hardest championship in the world. You have to learn to ride a bike that is sliding a lot, and that can be difficult. Just when you think you’ve done a good lap time, you’re 28th. The main thing is to show potential and growth—and stay calm.

This class is all about building your experience. Some of these guys have been here for four or five years. Everybody says the first year is the most difficult. You’re not always going to get the result you’re expecting.

Supersport bikes are kind of heavy, and they don’t brake that well. When I went to the CEV series last year, I was trying to ride the Moto2 bike, more or less, like that. I found that my braking style was too gentle. With a Moto2 bike, you can be more aggressive.

We’ve found some good things with our bike, then sometimes we really struggle, especially when we get on the harder tires. This weekend, everyone gets to use Dunlop’s softest option. Every time I’ve used that tire, I’ve had a great feeling—amazing rear grip.

Joe Roberts

“This weekend, in Free Practice 2, I was 16th—only eight-tenths of a second off the leader,” Joe Roberts said. “That’s the closest I’ve ever been to the front in a dry session. By the end of the season, I want to be consistently in the points.”

Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

There is a qualifying-lap style of riding, and there is a race-rhythm style of riding. Generally, the way a race will go is in the first part everybody is taking the most they can out of the tire. After that, it’s just tire conservation.

I try not to hammer the throttle too much and spin up the rear. Or if I’m braking into a corner, I don’t charge the entry. Generally, the tires last pretty well with that kind of technique. This weekend, though, the front has been getting chewed up like crazy.

There are advantages and disadvantages to our chassis. The advantage is, we’re like the factory team. The owner of NTS is here from Japan almost every weekend. He believes in me and trusts my opinion of the bike.

We’ve already made some chassis developments. We even had a brand-new chassis. Not many riders get that kind of treatment. No Kalex riders are getting that; maybe Speed Up. The disadvantage is that there are only two of us—me and Steven Odendaal.

Things weren’t clicking with me and my crew chief. We were making little progress during the race weekend, and I felt it was time for a change. Steven wanted to try what I had, so at a test, we switched crew chiefs. I really like working with Fabrizio Manciucca.

Fabrizio has lots of knowledge and experience. He’s worked with really good riders—Johann Zarco in Moto2 and Alex de Angelis in 250s. I feel I can learn from him, which is really important. The first year is all about learning.

I’m faster on this bike at every track we’ve gone to than I was last year. But this is not an easy class, and the results don’t always show that improvement. Now, I think we’ve found a good feeling again.

Some races have been really great. At Le Mans, we had a fantastic weekend. I qualified 17th, and in the race, I was battling for 13th or 14th. Unfortunately, I ran wide and went off the track. I still managed to finish 19th. We finished in the points, 14th, at Mugello.


 


I live around Barcelona. I could ride motorcycles almost every day if I wanted to. I have a trials track in my backyard. I don’t do a ton of gym stuff—I have to keep my weight down—but cycling and mountain biking are pretty good around there.

I’ve immersed myself in the European lifestyle. I never travel back to the US. It’s the way to do it because the schedule is so tight; we’re racing every other weekend. And I just did the Suzuka 8 Hours. That was an amazing experience, but it shot my holiday in half.

RW Racing

“When I jumped on the NTS chassis, I was very happy with it,” Roberts said. “It’s not the same as a Kalex. Sitting on a Kalex, you feel more inside the bike. On this bike, you feel more on top of it.”

Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Finishing the race at Suzuka at night with all the lights and the fireworks going off was so cool. Yukio Kagayama’s team is fantastic. They are such good people. Working with Kevin Schwantz was also amazing.

I loved the Suzuki GSX-R1000. It was so much fun to ride. I got back here and in the first free practice I was like, “What is this slow bike?” The GSX-R had so much power and such a big fuel tank that you couldn’t hang off the bike in the right way.

If you want to reach the world championships, it’s important to get to Europe. You want to surround yourself with good competition. In Spain, it’s like every rider, from the moment they turn eight or 10, is riding at such a high level. Everyone is so fast.

I think MotoAmerica is doing a good job. They’re really trying to get the sport back in America, and the way they are doing it I think is great, but if you want to become a Moto3 world championship rider, you need to go to Europe.

Next year, we’re switching to a whole new motorcycle, which nobody has ridden. I think it will level things out a little, but these are the best guys in the world; it won’t take them long to adapt. Apart from the [three-cylinder Triumph] engine, I think the chassis will be similar.

We have some offers for next year to stay in Moto2. I definitely want to stay here. It’s a great team, and the package is improving. They’re really putting a lot into the Triumph motorcycle. Next year is kind of resetting for everyone. I think it’s going to be good.

MotoGP is my goal. That’s why I’m here. I want to progress each year and get faster and faster. If I don’t win this championship, I want to be a front-runner and get an opportunity to go to MotoGP.