American Kurtis Roberts grew up racing flat track and then began doing road racing in the European 250 Championships. There was a lot of time between races in Europe and Kurtis needed more track time on the pavement so the decision was made to have him race in selected AMA 250 Grand Prix rounds.
Roberts raced a ’95 model Yamaha TZ250 tuned/owned by FoS (Friend of Soup) Brian Turfrey with sponsorship from PJ1.
His AMA Pro debut came at Laguna Seca Raceway in April of 1996 and it was a good one. Roberts battled wheel to wheel with veteran racing champion Randy Renfrow for the final podium spot. He lost out to the vastly more experience Renfrow by less than a second at the line to finish fourth (Rich Oliver won the race over 250GP World Championship campaigner Kristian Kaas from Finland).
In this photo from the round a few weeks later at Miami-Homestead Speedway, Roberts actually led in the early going before crashing out.
Roberts went on to race in the 250GP World Championships in ’97 before returning to America to begin his American road racing career in earnest with Erion Honda. Many recall 1998 as his American debut, and while that was his first full season, fewer recall that he did do a couple of AMA races in ’96 when he was just 17.