Posted: 24 Dec 2013
Jon Ekerold has an almost unique claim to fame in the sporting annals. The South African is one of those rare examples of a genuine privateer to have won a major Grand Prix series. And adding to that, Ekerold is again one of a few to have raced at the Isle of Man TT while still a reigning World Champion.
Ekerold confounded the sport and the Kawasaki factory team with their top rider Anton Mang, by winning the 1980 350cc World Championship aboard his self-built and prepared Bimota Yamaha and without any support from the manufacturer. He engineered a TZ350 engine into a Bimoto frame and took on the world with sponsorship from the aptly named ‘Solitude’ motorcycles and accessories concern.
It was a tremendous feat, something unthinkable now, but Ekerold was a fighter, a man renowned for his hard, determined riding and it was that grit and style that saw him overcome the formidable challenge of Mang in the six races that decided the crown.
The opener, at Misano, was something of a struggle for Ekerold as he ran sixth in a race won by Johnny Cecotto aboard a Yamaha but next time out at Paul Ricard it was a different story as Ekerold won at the expense of the Venezuelan. Victory at the Dutch TT at Assen and it was game on for the man from Johannesburg.
But the threat of Mang was developing and he piled on the pressure with wins in the next two rounds at Silverstone and Brno and those performances put him level pegging, on 48 points, with Ekerold who had trailed him home in the British round but just scraped a single point in the Czech Republic.
The decisive race in Germany over six laps of the notorious 14.189mile Nurburgringwas as might be expected a showdown between them and it was Ekerold who came out on top, winning the race by second to take the title by three points and with it a special place in the history of the sport.
Ekerold began the defence of his crown with a victory at Buenos Aires , also tasting the winner's champagne at Monza, but Mang and Kawasaki turned the tables on him as the season progressed, taking the championship and leaving him second overall. He was a sporting all-rounder, enjoying a victory in the Ulster Grand Prix and twice coming second in the Isle of Man TT action.