|After Belgium the teams went to Karlskoga in Sweden, this track suited Suzuki very well a circuit with lots of twists and turns so bike handling was more important than top speed. Cecotto toke pole on is Yamaha but in the race he and Roberts weren't a threat for the Suzuki's. Hartog had to accept team orders again. Hartog went of again with one of his famous lighting starts and led the field, halfway the race he slowed down and showed Sheene by sticking out his legs where he could pass, Sheene toke the lead and Hartog and followed Sheene very close during the race, Sheene did win with a 0,05sec gap bur almost lost the race; Sheene was so happy with his first win after the Venezuelan GP that he raised his hand fifty meters before the finish line shutting down the throttle and loosing speed. Hartog was so close behind that he had to brake like anything not to pass Sheene. For the Swedish public Hartog was the winner but Sheene's gap to Roberts was reduced to three point and becoming world champion was still possible.
The Finnish GP meant dissaster for the Suzuki / Sheene relation. At a lot of race weekends Sheene had been complaining about various machine problems and on many occassions Heron's chief engineer Martyn Ogbourne and Suzuki's Mitsuru Okamoto worked allnight to find out what was wrong and very often found out that everything was perfect. At the Finnish GP Sheene had been complaining about a vibration in the engine and asked the mechanics to replace a cranckshaft main bearing. This would be one night of work and after checking the engine without finding anything wrong the engineers decided to change nothing. The race started again with a Hartog 'Rocket' start, from 5th place at the starting grid he toke the lead into the first turn, Roberts overtoke Hartog once but after Hartog outbraked Roberts he lead the filed to the finish. Sheene's engine proved that Sheene had been right after practice; his main bearing seized in lap four. Sheene was a bit lucky since Roberts had to leave the race in round eight with ignition problems.
After the race Sheene was furious and Hartog had to calm him down. Sheene was furious at his Japanese chief engineer who replied " You shouldn't had practiced so much" . Sheene had been doing a race distance during practice trying to beat Cecotto's fastest time, but he didn't succeed, he only managed to wear out his engine before the race started. Sheene's row with his engineer did almost end in a fight but Hartog came in and said to Sheene; "Roberts did also retire" and guided Sheene away from his engineer who was so mad at Sheene that he kicked Sheene's bike right on his beloved nr 7. Later it seemed that this incident was the first crack in the Sheene / Suzuki relation that would break one year later.
The race at Silverstone was in the hands of the weather-gods, the air was very dampy but the race started on a dry track, despite the fact that around Silverstone rain was already falling all drivers (except for one) started on slicks. Hartog had his famous 'rocket' start again and toke the lead, in the 2nd lap Roberts took the lead with Hartog 2nd, Rougerie 3rd and Sheene 6th. After a couple of laps the first drops of rain started to fall and Roberts almost lost his bike at Woodcote corner giving Hartog the lead again. At the end of lap 12 the conditions became to difficult for the rider, Katayama was waving to the officials to stop the race but at that time Cecotto, Sheene and Hartog had been in the pits to change their slick to rain tyres and in lap 13 Roberts and Katayama went also for a tyre change. With changing tyres Roberts had a big advantage over the Suzuki's, he had a 'Quick detachable' front wheel. It took Roberts only 2,5 minutes to change while the Suzuki crew took 7,5 minutes to change. Because of al the pit entrances no one really knew who was the leader but Roberts got the chequerd flag. When Roberts, Manship and Sheene went for the podium they bumped into Marco Lucchinelli of who loads of people said that he was the race winner.
The German G.P. was the last race of the season and it would be the championship decider. Roberts came to Germany as the championship leader and Sheene was 2nd, for Sheene to became world champion he had to win and Roberts had to finish lower than 4th, so for Roberts it was a case of following Sheene. To give Sheene a bigger change Suzuki gave Virginio Ferrari also a works machine, so now it were Sheene, Hartog, Rougerie nad Ferrari on a works bike. The tacktics were that the three other works bikes would squeeze in between Sheene and Roberts. Ferrari was the guy who took the lead at the start followed by Cecotto, Roberts, Sheene, Lucchineli and Katayama. Hartog had a bad start and was 7th but half way the first lap he was already 4th, this succes gave Hartog a bit too much confidence and at a right turn he used his right hand too quick and he crashed resulting in a burned out bike and loosing his 3rd place in the world championship to Cecotto. The rest of the race Ferrari was leading Cecotto and Roberts was just following them knowing that with this result he would be the new world champion. Sheene finished 4th just one second behind Roberts and after the race he was the first to congratulated Roberts with his first world title before disapearing from the circuit.
The 1978 season ended in the following order: 1. Roberts; 2 Sheene; 3 Cecotto; 4 Hartog; 5 Katayama; 6 Hennen; 7 Baker; 8 Lansivuori; 9 Lucchinelli; 10 Rougerie.
|Hartog Finland 1978|
|Hartog's Bike, Texaco Burns Very Well|
|Ferrari wins 1978 German G.P.|