I first met Kenny in 1971 when we came to America, and I raced for Don Vesco. In ’72, Yamaha asked me if I could take care of this Kenny Roberts kid and teach him now to road race so he would have a better chance at becoming AMA Grand National Champion. He was a fast learner and in 1972 the factory Yamaha team consisted of Kenny and myself racing 250s and 350 Yamahas and he ended up winning the Grand National Championship in ’73 and ’74. We had a lot of success here in AMA racing and our next step together was going to Europe to try and win the 500cc World Championship.
Obviously, we had a lot of success together. We were able to go to Europe and win the 500cc World Championship in our first year and Kenny ended up winning the next two as well. Those years in Europe were some of the best and I will always be proud of what we were able to accomplish. It’s amazing that a kid who was dirt tracking in America and didn’t know much else could do what he did, but he was obviously talented, and he worked hard to give himself the best possible chance of being successful. We worked hard, but we also had a lot of fun and we had our families with us for most of it. We traveled around Europe together and we all came out of it with a lot of fond memories from those years.
I can’t believe Kenny is 70. I’ve always been the old guy in our relationship so it’s nice to see that we’re both growing old now.