Guest Blog: Mat Oxley: The madness of ‘King’ Kenny Roberts

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MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We will be featuring sections of Oxley's blogs, posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website, over the coming months.


I’ve just been writing about King Kenny Roberts for an upcoming edition of Motor Sport magazine – the made-from-trees version – regaling readers with some of his top tales.

Roberts is a great storyteller: dry as dust one moment, cursing the next. There’s only one problem: there’s never enough room for all of his stories, so here are a couple of my favourite one-liners from the man.

Before I go any further I should add that that The King rates as one of my top three road racers of all time. I would also put Mike Hailwood in there and probably Valentino Rossi too, though what to do with Mick Doohan and Wayne Rainey? Okay, let’s make it the top five. I’ll let you argue about who’s first and who’s fifth.

Anyway… before Roberts came to Europe in 1978 to win the 500 world title at his first attempt, even though he had never seen most of the tracks before and even though he only had one bike for most of the season, Roberts was by profession a dirt tracker. He won the AMA Grand National championship twice (and would’ve won it many more times if he’d been on a Harley instead of a Yamaha) – at a time when the AMA title was won by combining points from various different disciplines, from dirt track to TT racing (a kind of mixed-up dirt track/motocross thing) to road racing.

After he switched to road racing full-time Roberts went on to win three 500 World Championships (in 1978, 1979 and 1980), 24 Grand Prix victories and three Daytona 200s.

Now hear these words he told me when I visited him at his ranch in California a few years ago. “I never really considered myself a road racer, I just did road racing to get Grand National points”.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Comments

Nice. I enjoyed the article.

'King Kenny' no doubt. Fond memories of his exploits I have as do many South Africans and Rhodesians/Zimbabweans. Rolex watches awarded to him and never taken out of their packaging and forgotten about. How many stories does he have to tell ?
For me personally it was the old Kyalami circuit in 1983. The Honda's of Spencer and particularly Katayama were insanely fast down a straightaway with a kink that makes Mugello's front straight look like a nuns tea party by comparison. The way Kenny systematically picked them off into the old Crowthorne corner off the straight was mesmerising to watch. Spencer had his measure that day,but that is one race indelibly inked in my memory. Saved Sheene's life at Silverstone. Put Lorenzo's head where it was supposed to be at an early age.
Nothing but praise for Kenny. Easily top 5 ever.
3 decades later the '83 race would be classified as a boring procession. Perhaps a slugfest between a handfull of aliens ? Heh heh ! As much as things have changed technologically, nothing has changed actually. Every season produces its standout race to the wire. We hope 2013 produces a more than fair share.

Total votes: 68

350LC

Back in the days of Cook Nielsen and Cycle magazine, I remember an issue where some staff and Kenny found themselves in Hawaii. Somebody had borrowed a 350LC. Kenny didn't want to take it back or it had to be "lost" or something, so he just road it full bore straight out into the sea. There was a lovely photo of Kenny standing in the surf with a huge grin and just a couple of handlebars showing.

Total votes: 77

King Kenny

There are so many stories about Kenny Roberts, and all of them entertaining if not down right hilarious. His personality spread far and wide from just the racetrack on race day. From an era when World Champions seemed to have lives off the track. Enjoyable lives to be more specific. From Motorcycle Grand Prix to Formula 1, it seemed to be a different era.

Glad he is still around and commenting on everything with NO FILTER. He will always be King Kenny in my bood. Wish there were a couple more stories in the article. I know there are tons more stories to tell.

Total votes: 74

KR Stories

You want stories? Convince Kel Carruthers or Bud Aksland to write a book.

Total votes: 76

Sideways on an XR100

That's the only way to fly. Small bikes are more fun.

Total votes: 65

KR stories

First off, thanks for the KR stories.

Secondly, somebody please write a book or make a website of nothing but KR stories, all day, all night, nothing but KR. PLEASE.

Saw him ride the TZ750 at Indy in 2009, that was a special night. Shared it with many good friends, wow, words fail me. I thought it would be a touring lap with a lot of waving. Um, no. Full beans the whole time, after having not ridden that bike or dirt track for Lord only knows how long. It was magic and classic KR. The place went APESH*T and knew what they were seeing.

Total votes: 76

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