Team Proton Looks to Donington

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
The British GP - at Donington Park on July 8 - is the home race for Proton Team KR. But they haveanother reason to look forward to the race, which marks the halfway point on this year's WorldChampionship calendar.

The sweeping circuit outside Derby - a relatively short drive from Proton Team KR headquarters atBanbury - is a particular favorite of rider Jurgen van denGoorbergh. Last year he was fifth on the V-twin Honda, his best finish of the season...

The team feels that the recent trio of top-ten finishes over the past four races proves that the 2001 combination of rider Van denGoorbergh and the year-old Mk3 version of the three-cylinder machine have reached a fullycompetitive level.

Now they come to the second of the "Big Four" tracks, where the team hopes KR3's "unique combination of goodbraking and nimble handling" should pay the biggest dividends.The first of the circuit quartet was the classic Assen TT circuit, for Van den Goorbergh's home GPlast weekend. The British round is followed by the German GP at the Sachsenring, the slowest andtwistiest circuit on the calendar. Then, after the summer break, comes the Czech Republic GP atBrno, another very technical circuit where both the rider and the machine should come into theirown.

The Big Four started well enough, with Jurgen equalling his best finish this year - but in terms ofthe team's expectations the Dutch TT was ultimately slightly disappointing. Niggling engine problemsin the final practice session played a part, because Jurgen slipped off the second-row qualifyingposition he had become used to. Then the race was shortened abruptly by rain.

The British race, just a week after the rider's own home GP, is another chance to get in among thefactory bikes at a circuit that seems tailor made for the KR3. Only the two tight hairpins at theend of the 2.5-mile lap interrupt a layout of constant curves, one leading into the next, whereaccurate steering and smooth riding are more important than sheer horsepower.

The latest aerodynamics have meant that the Proton no longer lags on top speed. For the British GP,further engine developments will improve the rider's situation in the last area of weakness comparedwith the four-cylinder machines - acceleration out of the bends.

This is particularly important at Donington, where the lap ends with two hairpins. Although Van denGoorbergh can make up time and positions under brakes and in mid-corner speed, a drag race to thefinish line on the final lap would favor a four-cylinder motorcycle. The latest KR3 enginedevelopments should help close the gap.

This is the strongest season yet for the lightweight alternative 500 racer, with the 31-year-oldDutch rider scoring points in every race so far, and ahead of several high-level factoryfour-cylinder riders in the championship points race.

The British GP is a chance to improve on that position and, rain or shine, Donington offers Van denGoorbergh the opportunity for his best race result so far on the Proton KR3.

JURGEN VAN DEN GOORBERGH: "NOW I WANT IT EVEN MORE"

I wanted a better result at Assen, and I believe it should be possible at Donington. I like thecircuit a lot - I got my best result there last year; and our bike should work really well. Over thepast few races we've solved several problems and improved the overall performance of the bike. Theteam has promised me even more for Donington Park. I'm really looking forward to this race.

CHUCK AKSLAND: HOME FROM HOME IN ENGLAND

We've been working on giving Jurgen something different for the motor for this race, to improve thedrive out of the corners. We need to get the package so that he can open the throttle earlier. Atthe moment, he's faster in the corners, but loses out on the exit. Donington Park should be good.We'll have a lot of support from our factory staff and suppliers. We're going from Jurgen's homerace to our home race. That also makes it special.

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Brent Avis
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