My long black hair rested on my shoulders and was supplemented by an equally thick beard and the compulsory flared jeans. If you’d foreseen the technical revolution of Mobile phones and the internet you would have probably been led away to a quiet room. Nottingham Forest won the European Cup (Champions League) and Art Garfunkel’s song Bright Eyes was the bestselling record in Britain.
It seems like a long time ago and it was. To be precise 38 years and 344 days. Little did we imagine we would have to wait well over half a life time to witness another British rider leading the Premier class in World Championship racing. Once again it was Cal Crutchlow that put the previous 589 grands prix of misery for British fans to bed with his brilliant victory on the LCR Honda in Argentina on Sunday. Cal has this wonderful habit of destroying records set by the legendary late Barry Sheene. Seventeen months ago he won the MotoGP race at Brno in the Czech Republic to become the first British premier class winner since Sheene’s 1981 victory at Anderstorp in Sweden.
Sheene led the old 500cc Championship after winning the opening round on the Suzuki at a scorching hot San Carlos in Venezuela at the opening grand prix of 1979. That lead lasted for just 43 days with Italian Virginio Ferrari taking over at the front after finishing second at the second round at the Salzburgring in Austria. That was that until last Sunday.
There is now only one place for Cal to go. The Isle of Man –based Midlander has just and it’s a very big just, to win the premier class Championship to finally eclipse that desperately barren period of drought for British racing. Of course it was Barry Sheene who was the last premier class World Champion. Forty one, yes 41, years ago he retained the 500cc in 1977 after clinching the title for the first time the previous year.
It’s a mighty big ask for Cal Crutchlow but he arrives at Austin next week with a precious three points lead over Andrea Dovizioso. He is brimming with confidence as he mixes it with the factory bikes and Cal knows that consistency is going to be the key while others both crash and win. There are 17 grands prix to go before that final round at Valencia in November.
Sheene eventually finished third in the 1979 Championship behind Kenny Roberts and Ferrari. Yes it’s a big ask but I think us British fans deserve a bit of a dream which Crutchlow ignited back in Brno 17 months ago.
I would have to grow a beard and look out those flares if that dream is fulfilled.