by admin

article by Nicola Pucci

The South African Jonathan “Jon” Ekerold deserves a truly significant credit: becoming world champion despite not riding an official motorbike.. Simply put, the best of all despite being a private individual.

The year is 1980 and Ekerold, a South African from Johannesburg born in 1946, for a few years now, precisely since 1975, he has been performing on the main motor racing circuit preparing one with your own hands Yamaha TZeven making his debut with a second place in the 350 class at the Austrian Grand Prix behind the Japanese Hideo Kanaya, himself an official Yamaha rider.

Ekerold undoubtedly knows how to do it, and if in 1976 he was third in the 250 class at the Nurburgring, the following year he found a way not only to toast the first career successalways winning in the quarter-litre category Paul Ricard ahead of compatriot Alan North and Australian Vic Soussan, but also of become the protagonist of a great season in the 350 class, finishing third in the general classification with the corollary of two places of honorin France, beaten by Takazumi Katayama, and in Yugoslavia, still ahead of the Japanese who became world champion at the end of the year.

In the following two years the South African rider once again doubled his commitments in the 250 class and 350 class, but it was with the larger engine that he obtained the most comforting results, closing the two seasons in fourth and eighth place respectively in the world championship standings, taking a second victory at Hockenheim on 6 May 1979 at the end of a thrilling duel with the champion Anton Mang house. Is exactly with the Teutonic, the following year, Ekerold gives life to a challenge that marks the season of the 350 class.

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Jon is riding one Bimota YB3motorbike with Bimota chassis and Yamaha engine, and if the seasonal debut at Misano Adriatico is certainly not encouraging, with sixth place in a race won by Johnny Cecotto, also on a Bimota, and in which Mang, who rides a Kawasaki KR 350 but runs under the Krauser banner, is forced to retire, in the next two tests, at Paul Ricard and Assen, he made his quick start count, beating Cecotto himself in the sprint and overtaking the Frenchman Patrick Fernandez.

The world calendar provides only 6 events for the 350 class, and Ekerold, projected at the top of the standings, finds himself playing the part of the hare, with Cecotto initially as the most accredited rival in the race for the world title. Mang, for his part, after his retirement at Misano, did not go beyond a fourth and a third place, and with only 18 points after three races, he seems to be left out in the challenge for the championship.

Never. The German has class and temperament to spare, and if at the end of July he has already earned the 250 class title by getting on the podium in each of the 7 races held, taking 3 victories, 3 places of honor and 1 third place, he can channel his energies onto the larger displacement, and by winning at Silverstone and in Czechoslovakia he gained 30 points which, in conjunction with Ekerold’s second place in Great Britain, then only tenth in Brno, allowed him to move back down in the standings, catching the South African at the top of the rankings, 48 points for both. AND the fight for the world championship is decided in the last challengeright on the Nurburgring track where Mang, playing at home, is the undoubted favourite.

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In fact everything seems to veer in favor of the German, which in testing he was 8 seconds faster than Ekerold, only third behind the other Kawasaki rider Gregg Hansford. But at the start Mang, incredibly, makes a mistake before entering the corner, rolling into tenth position with his rival, however, already in the lead. Il “Ring”, as we know, is a treacherous, long, tormented, tiring path, and at the first crossing of the finish line, after 22 kilometres, Mang moved up to second place, not far from Ekerold, then overtaking him in the following lap in which the German lowered the lap record by a good 10 seconds. The two contenders for the world title really don’t hold back, on the penultimate lap the South African set a sensational time of 8’25″9 (it would have given him second place on the starting grid in the 500 class!), he returns to the lead and finally, under the checkered flag, he beats Mang by 1′”25 and becomes world champion.

It’s nice to prepare the motorbike with your own hands and realize that by doing so you can be the best of allvero?

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