Former World Speedway Champion Billy Hamill will have the backing of motorcycle legend “King Kenny” Roberts throughout the 2001 season.
In a pioneering move for speedway, Hamill will ride under the Team KR banner and will carry its colors throughout his hectic schedule in British, Polish and Swedish League matches. But the main emphasis of the partnership will be placed on Hamill’s bid to regain the world crown he last won in 1996 and he is also keen to lead USA to World Cup success in the summer.
Roberts, who won the 500cc World Championship from 1978-80 and then retired at the end of 1983 after having firmly written his name into the history books, said that he is excited about the prospect of linking up with speedway – and Hamill in particular – for what promises to be an exciting year.
“I’m interested in motorsport in general, and I was impressed by the professionalism of the way Speedway is now presented on TV,” said Roberts. “I’m also happy to be involved with someone like Billy who wants to move his sport forward.”
As an ex-racer, Roberts has been even more influential. Moving directly into team ownership, and always aiming for the very highest achievements, he has taken other riders to four more World Championships, and a string of race wins that by the 90s had made Team Roberts the dominant force in the GP paddocks.
It’s little wonder, then, that Hamill himself sees this as a dream move at such an important stage of his career – and a crucial year for the sport of speedway.
“I’ve always been aware that speedway needs to broaden its appeal and that one of the things holding it back in the eyes of other bike-sports is the perceived technical stagnation and irrelevance of the bikes used.
“Joining Team KR is one way of fighting back. I’m excited – speedway is on the up and this is a big boost. It’s about time there was a link between mainstream motorcycle sport and speedway.”
John Postlethwaite, Chief Executive of Speedway World Championship rights holders Benfield Sports, said: “This is great news for Billy and great news for the sport. I’ve worked with Kenny Roberts in Moto GP and I know the level of professionalism he will bring to Speedway.”