Roberts briefly took the lead on the fourth lap, passing both Sheene and Hartog. Satisfied that he could get by them, he backed off and stayed close. "I wanted at least one of them to go by," said Roberts later. "You wear your mind out leading in a close race." His only problem was the oil left on his gloves from the pre-race trouble. It caused the throttle to slip in his hand.
As Roberts and Sheene pulled away from Hartog, it became a two-man race. On the back straight at 150 mph they could be seen motioning at each other with their free hands. Once they brushed fairings in a turn.
Roberts led at the start of the last lap and glanced over his shoulder at Sheene, who was ready to strike. The Briton wanted desperately to win before his home fans, who just as desperately wanted him to win. On the final turn, a 130-mph bend that sweeps toward the grandstand on the front straight, Sheene made a valiant move on the outside, coming within an inch of the edge of the track and also within a wheel—.03 seconds—of catching Roberts. "It might as well have been three laps," said Sheene, who has twice held the world championship.
"Last year I just wanted to show them all in Europe, make them say, 'Hey, these Americans are just as good as anybody else,' " Roberts has said. "I knew I could beat them"—Roberts held his hand over his heart—"but if I was the only one I had to prove it to, I could have just said I'm the best and stayed home. That's not my style. My style is to try as hard as I can, just to hear them say I did it.
"Well, I did that, but then I had the crash and they were saying, 'He'll never come back this year.' " Now he is just one point away from making them believers for the second year in a row.