Meet Joe Roberts (NTS RW Racing GP), the new American on the block. From the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup to home shores and then back to Europe, he has quite a CV. Ahead of his first Grand Prix of the Americas in Moto2, Joe sat down to talk about self-belief, his career so far, and American racing.
First on the agenda is how to keep motivated, and where you find that surety that you’ll succeed. “I've had kind of promising things that happened to me that made me believe that I can do something really good,” begins the California native. “If you don't have self-belief I don't know what you're doing here. You have to come here thinking that you're a really good rider or else you’re just going to be at the back because everybody here is an amazing rider so you have to be on a par with them and think the same they do if you want to be there.”
The intermediate category of Grand Prix racing is renowned for its super competitive field and the FIM CEV Repsol Moto2 European Championship, where Roberts was a podium finisher, is also a tough grid to best. But he’s raced in Europe before, and Roberts explains his journey from Europe to America and back.
“I think the main thing really is that you just get over here and you start racing with each other, it's 24 guys, everyone is battling each other, super close, really similar to the world level,” he says. “I’m definitely taking a different route than the normal European way, but in some ways it’s kind of similar because I did do the Red Bull Rookies Cup for three years but I didn't stay here after the Rookies Cup, I went back to America. I won the National Superstock Championship there and I kind of found that if I really wanted to get here, because MotoGP has always been my goal, I think for everybody it’s their goal so you have to find the best path to get here so I decided last year to come here, come to Europe and race in the FIM CEV and race Moto2 so that's what I thought was the best way to do it and seems like it is because now I'm here in Moto2 and racing with the world guys.”
He is and, at the moment, he’s the sole American in the GP paddock – something that’s both an honor and something Roberts wants to change. “It's great to be the only one but I think there needs to be more. Hopefully I can inspire some young kids to start getting on a road race bike and riding.”
Inspiration is, for Roberts, another key topic. His first Grand Prix was the mythical Laguna Seca, and the year was 2005 – a very special event for the young rider to have attended, being Nicky Hayden’s first win. And the ‘Kentucky Kid’ made an impression, as did those who went before. For Roberts, the Championship would be richer to see some more talent from across the Atlantic lining up once more.
“I think it's super important to have America involved in MotoGP. Think back to the days of Lawson, Schwantz and Rainey…those were important times in racing, everybody remembers those times.” Three men Roberts knows, and three men who will always be an important part of Grand Prix racing history, as will the aforementioned Nicky Hayden.
“Nicky was like one of my huge heroes, back in the day, I think it was 2005 Laguna Seca was my first GP ever went to when he won, so for me he was like my top hero. When I saw Nicky win, I wanted to win like him and be where he was so it was nice to see somebody do it because it makes you think that it’s possible. I just don't think MotoGP is MotoGP without Americans.”
Roberts lines up for his first home Grand Prix at 12:20 local time (GMT - 5) on Sunday 22nd April.