Chennai, Jan 19 (IANS) Barely 15 but wise beyond his years in the context of bike racing, Joe Roberts is undoubtedly the cynosure at the fourth edition of the California Superbike School that commenced here Friday at the MMRT Track.
The Los Angeles-born Roberts, on his first visit to India as a "guest coach", thrilled the spectators by putting in some super-fast laps on different bikes, ranging from the relatively humble TVS Apache 180 to the BMW S1000 RR.
A last to first finish in the wet at the Red Bull Rookies Cup race in Brno, Czech Republic, in 2011 had the bike racing aficionados sit up and take notice of this rare talent. Roberts went on to finish a creditable eighth in the Rookies Cup series last year with promise of better tidings this season.
"It is not just about speed, but I love to ride a bike, any bike," said Roberts as he cooled off in an air-conditioned room after putting in another set of hot laps.
Trained in the tough California Superbike School by its founder Keith Code, Roberts has the all the makings of a champion rider at the highest level that he hopes to reach "before I am 23".
The accolades seem to sit lightly on his tender shoulders as he asserted that he would take one step at a time in his bid to realise his dream of riding in the MotoGP and emulate the likes of fellow-American champions Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and Nicky Hayden.
"I will be doing another season of the Rookies Cup this year and then take it from there, but I hope to be racing in the MotoGP premium class before I am 23," said Roberts as he outlined his racing roadmap.
Roberts started to ride a bike even before he was four years old after his father presented him a 50cc dirt track machine.
"It all started from there and also, my dad used to ride, though not professionally. Obviously, I took to racing as I used to accompany my dad to the tracks," Roberts said.
But serious racing demands much more than just a liking to ride a bike and it meant that he could not enjoy a "normal childhood", something he misses occasionally.
"Of course, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices like skipping parties, movies and stuff, but I don't really mind, though at times I do miss a normal childhood. I am out travelling and racing most of the time," he said without a trace of regret.
His rise has been quite meteoric. A third place finish in his second year in the United States Grand Prix Racers Union series won him a spot in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup in 2011.
Following his performance at Brno, he was invited again for the 2012 season that he finished eighth in the championship that won him a rare third invite for the 2013 series.
"Obviously, I learnt a lot with Keith who was my first coach. I was all crossed up when I first went to his school, but he has been quite amazing. I learnt racing techniques that was not just about speed.
"I do gym, running and cycling to keep myself fit. I am careful with my diet too as I have to maintain certain weight. I would like to be in the region of 53 kgs. However, at times I do indulge in junk food like burgers and stuff," Roberts said.
He looked quite at home on the track though it is his first look.
"The track is much like some I have ridden. It is very technical as you go into one corner into next and you just cannot relax. Of course, I am enjoying every moment since I get to ride a bike which is what I want to do all the time," said Roberts as he prepared for another set of hot laps.
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