Barry Sheene

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Barry Sheene
Barry Sheene winner.jpg
Barry Sheene winner
Nationality British
Born 11 September 1950
Died 10 March 2003 (aged 52)
Motorcycle racing career statistics
Grand Prix motorcycle racing
Active years 1970 - 1984
First race 1970 125cc Spanish Grand Prix
Last race 1984 500cc San Marino Grand Prix
First win 1971 125cc Belgian Grand Prix
Last win 1981 500cc Swedish Grand Prix
Team(s) Suzuki, Yamaha
Championships
Starts Wins Podiums Poles F. laps Points
102 23 52 18 20

Barry Steven Frank Sheene MBE (11 September 1950 – 10 March 2003) was a British World Champion Grand Prix motorcycle road racer.[1][2] After a racing career stretching from 1968 to 1984 he retired from competition and relocated to Australia, working as a motor sport commentator and property developer.[1][3]

Early life[edit]

Sheene was born off the Grays Inn Road,[4] London, the second child of parents Frank (resident engineer at the Royal College of Surgeons, himself a former competitive rider who retired in 1956 and an experienced motorcycle mechanic)[5][6][7] and Iris. He grew up in Queen Square, Holborn, London.[8] Before entering road racing Sheene found work as a messenger and delivery driver.[1]

Racing career[edit]

Sheene first started to race in 1968, winning his first races at Brands Hatch riding father Frank's 125 cc and 250 cc Bultacos.[5]

He became the British 125cc champion aged just 20, and finished second in the World Championships for that class in 1971 riding an ex-works 1966 10-speed Suzuki twin, previously ridden by Stuart Graham. His first Grand Prix win was on the 125 at Spa in Belgium, soon followed by a win on a 50 cc Van Veen Kreidler at Brno in Czechoslovakia, where he finished over two and a half minutes ahead.[2][9]

Sheene won the newly formed Formula 750 European championship for Suzuki in 1973.[10] As a works Suzuki rider Sheene had two contracts, with the World Championship events taking precedence over his Suzuki GB contract for home and International events, if any race dates clashed.[11]

A spectacular crash at the Daytona 200 in the 1975 season threatened to end his career, breaking his left thigh, right arm, collarbone and two ribs, yet he recovered and was racing again seven weeks afterwards.[8][12]

In the 1976 season, he won five 500cc Grands Prix, bringing him the World Championship.[2] He took the Championship again in the 1977 season with six victories.[2] For the 1977 season Sheene was partnered by Steve Parrish, who rode Sheene's 1976 Suzuki 500 cc machine.[13]

Barry Sheene's Heron Suzuki
Sheene on the 1980 Akai Yamaha

Sheene's battle with Kenny Roberts at the 1979 British Grand Prix at Silverstone has been cited as one of the greatest motorcycle Grand Prix races of the 1970s.[14][15] After the 1979 season, he left the Heron-Suzuki factory team, believing that he was receiving inferior equipment to his team-mates. He shifted to a privateer on a Yamaha machine, but soon started receiving works equipment. In 1981, Kenny Roberts was the reigning World 500cc Champion for the third time, and Barry Sheene, now on a competitive Yamaha, was determined to regain the championship. Ironically, Sheene and Roberts battled all season and let Suzuki riders Marco Lucchinelli of Italy and American Randy Mamola beat them for the top two spots. Roberts finished third and Sheene fourth for the 1981 championship.

A crash at Silverstone where Sheene, riding his Yamaha, hit the obscured fallen machine of Frenchman Patrick Igoa[5] during practice for the 1982 British Grand Prix[16] largely ended his potential as a title threat, and he retired in 1984. He remains the only rider to win Grand Prix races in the 50cc and 500cc categories.[17]

Sheene was known for being outspoken in his criticism for what he considered to be dangerous race tracks, most notably, the Isle of Man TT course, which he considered too dangerous for world championship competition.[1][18] He was a colourful, exuberant character who used his good looks, grin and London accent to good effect in self-promotion, and combined with an interest in business was one of the first riders to make a lot of money from endorsements.[8] He is credited with boosting the appeal of motorcycle racing into the realm of the mass marketing media.[19] He also tried his hand as a TV show host, including the ITV series Just Amazing!, where he interviewed people who had, through accident or design, achieved feats of daring and survival (including the former RAF air gunner, Nicholas Alkemade, who survived a fall of 18,000 feet without a parachute from a blazing Avro Lancaster bomber over Germany in March 1944). Sheene and his wife Stephanie also starred in the low-budget film Space Riders.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Finding fame and wealth through racing, Sheene had houses in Putney, south-west London, Norfolk and in 1977 he purchased a 700-year-old manor house in Charlwood, Surrey once owned by the actress Gladys Cooper.[4] He was contracted by Faberge to promote their Brut aftershave lotion.[1]

In 1975 while on crutches, Sheene met fashion model turned glamour model Stephanie McLean, who was Penthouse Pet of the Month for April 1970 and Pet of the Year in 1971, while they were working together on a photoshoot for Chrysler. She left her first husband for Sheene[1] and after she had divorced, the couple married in 1984, having a son and a daughter.[8]

Emigration to Australia[edit]

The Sheene family moved to Australia in the late 1980s, in the hope that the warmer climate would help relieve some of the pain of Sheene's injury-induced arthritis, settling in a property near the Gold Coast.[8] He combined a property development business with a role as a commentator on motor sport, first at SBS TV then with the Nine Network with Darrell Eastlake, then moving with the TV coverage of the motorcycle Grand Prix series to Network Ten.[3][8]

In later years, Sheene became involved in historic motorcycle racing,[1] often returning to England to race at Donington Park. He was also chosen to run with the Queen's Baton in the run-up to the 2002 Commonwealth Games held in Manchester, England.

Death[edit]

Sheene enjoyed his lifestyle, socialising with friends such as James Hunt, Ringo Starr and George Harrison,[16] drinking and smoking heavily[20] even having a hole drilled through the chin-bar on his full-face helmet allowing him to smoke right up to the start of a race.[1]

In July 2002, at the age of 51, Sheene was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus and stomach.[16] Refusing conventional treatments involving chemotherapy, Sheene instead opted for a holistic approach involving a strict diet devised by Austrian healer Rudolf Breuss, intended to starve the cancer of nourishment.[1][16][20]

He died peacefully surrounded by his family at a hospital on Queensland's Gold Coast in 2003, aged 52, having suffered from the condition for eight months.[16]

Sheene is survived by his wife Stephanie and two children, Sidonie and Freddie.[8][16][21]

Honours and awards[edit]

Following reconstruction of the Brands Hatch Circuit in England for safety concerns after requests by the F.I.M., the Dingle Dell section was changed for safety, and shortly after Sheene's death the new section was renamed Sheene's Corner in his honour. The FIM named him a Grand Prix "Legend" in 2001.[22] At the 2004 season, V8 Supercars Australia made a memorial medal, calling it the Barry Sheene Medal. A memorial ride from Bairnsdale, Victoria to Phillip Island is held by Australian motorcyclists annually, before the MotoGP held at the island.[23]

In popular culture[edit]

On a side note, the obscure Eric Idle song "Mr. Sheene" which describes "Mr. Sheene's riding machine" appears to be about Barry Sheene.[7] It was released as a B-side of the 1978 single "Ging Gang Goolie" and is credited as released by Rutles-offshoot duo "Dirk and Stig." He is also featured on one of Artist Grayson Perry's Vases My Heroes (1994).

Motorcycle Grand Prix results[edit]

The following is a list of results achieved by Sheene.[2][24]

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Points 15 12 10 8 6 5 4 3 2 1

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Class Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Points Rank Wins
1970 125cc Suzuki GER
-
FRA
-
YUG
-
IOM
-
NED
-
BEL
-
DDR
-
CZE
-
FIN
-
ULS
-
NAT
-
ESP
2
12 13th 0
1971 50 cc Kreidler AUT
-
GER
-
NED
-
BEL
-
DDR
-
CZE
1
SWE
4
NAT
-
ESP
-
23 6th 1
125cc Suzuki AUT
3
GER
-
IOM
NC
NED
2
BEL
1
DDR
2
CZE
3
SWE
1
FIN
1
NAT
3
ESP
3
79 2nd 3
250cc Derbi AUT
-
GER
-
IOM
-
NED
-
BEL
-
DDR
6
CZE
-
SWE
-
FIN
-
ULS
-
NAT
-
ESP
-
5 33rd 0
1972 250cc Yamaha GER
-
FRA
-
AUT
4
NAT
-
IOM
-
YUG
-
NED
-
BEL
-
DDR
-
CZE
-
SWE
-
FIN
-
ESP
3
18 13th 0
1974 500cc Suzuki FRA
2
GER
-
AUT
3
NAT
-
IOM
-
NED
-
BEL
-
SWE
-
FIN
-
CZE
4
30 6th 0
1975 500cc Suzuki FRA
-
AUT
-
GER
-
NAT
-
IOM
-
NED
1
BEL
DNF
SWE
1
FIN
-
CZE
-
30 6th 2
1976 500cc Suzuki FRA
1
AUT
1
NAT
1
IOM
-
NED
1
BEL
2
SWE
1
FIN
-
CZE
-
GER
-
72 1st 5
1977 500cc Suzuki VEN
1
AUT
-
GER
1
NAT
1
FRA
1
NED
2
BEL
1
SWE
1
FIN
6
CZE
-
GBR
NC
107 1st 6
1978 500cc Suzuki VEN
1
ESP
5
AUT
3
FRA
3
NAT
5
NED
3
BEL
3
SWE
1
FIN
NC
GBR
3
GER
4
100 2nd 2
1979 500cc Suzuki VEN
1
AUT
12
GER
NC
NAT
4
ESP
NC
YUG
NC
NED
2
BEL
DNS
SWE
1
FIN
3
GBR
2
FRA
1
87 3rd 3
1980 500cc Yamaha NAT
7
ESP
5
FRA
NC
NED
NC
BEL
-
FIN
-
GBR
NC
GER
-
10 15th 0
1981 500cc Yamaha AUT
4
GER
6
NAT
3
FRA
4
YUG
5
NED
NC
BEL
4
RSM
2
GBR
NC
FIN
NC
SWE
1
72 4th 1
1982 500cc Yamaha ARG
2
AUT
2
FRA
-
ESP
2
NAT
-
NED
3
BEL
2
YUG
3
GBR
DNS
SWE
INJ
RSM
INJ
GER
INJ
68 5th 0
1983 500cc Suzuki RSA
10
FRA
7
NAT
9
GER
NC
ESP
-
AUT
13
YUG
13
NED
NC
BEL
-
GBR
9
SWE
NC
RSM
NC
9 14th 0
1984 500cc Suzuki RSA
3
NAT
NC
ESP
7
AUT
10
GER
10
FRA
5
YUG
7
NED
NC
BEL
9
GBR
5
SWE
NC
RSM
NC
34 6th 0

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Barry Sheene obituary at The Telegraph
  2. ^ a b c d e "Rider Statistics - Barry Sheene". MotoGP.com. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  3. ^ a b [1] Guardian Barry Sheene Obituary, Retrieved 2014-01-03
  4. ^ a b Sports Illustrated, June 1978 Making A Bloody Good Go Of It. Retrieved 2014-03-04
  5. ^ a b c Motorcycle News March 2003 Barry Sheene – An amazing life Retrieved 2014-03-04
  6. ^ Motorcyclist Illustrated, May, 1968. p.35/37 Joe Dunphy's Diary (all about Dave Croxford) "Do you like two-strokes? I don't mind Frank Sheene's, they don't seize" Accessed 2014-02-26
  7. ^ a b [2] redbull.com Remembering Barry Sheene. Retrieved 2014-01-03
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Barry Sheene obituary at the Independent[dead link][dead link]
  9. ^ The Classic Motor Cycle July 1996, p.43 25 Years Ago Accessed and added 2014
  10. ^ Formula 750 world champions
  11. ^ Motorcyclist Illustrated October, 1974 p.39 "Barry Sheene incidentally has two contrcts. The first and most important with Suzuki Japan for Grands Prix ... and the second with Suzuki GB for British events. In the case of two clashing, Japan gets priority". Accessed 2014-02-27
  12. ^ Barry Sheene - An Amazing Life at MCN.com, 4 March 2003
  13. ^ Steve Parrish interview on Sheene Retrieved 2014-01-03
  14. ^ Silverstone 1979 – a Roberts-Sheene classic at MotoGP.com
  15. ^ A Thriller At Silverstone, by Sam Moses, Sports Illustrated, 20 August 1979
  16. ^ a b c d e f BBC Sport Retrieved 2014-02-27
  17. ^ Barker, Stuart (2003). Barry Sheene 1950–2003: The Biography. UK: CollinsWillow. p. 148. ISBN 0-00-716181-6. 
  18. ^ Making A Bloody Good Go Of It, by Clive Gammon, Sports Illustrated, 19 June 1978
  19. ^ 50 Years Of Moto Grand Prix (1st edition). Hazelton Publishing Ltd, 1999. ISBN 1-874557-83-7
  20. ^ a b [3] Daily Mail Barry Sheene Obituary, Retrieved 2014-01-03
  21. ^ Barry Sheene obituary in The Times[dead link][dead link]
  22. ^ MotoGP Legends at MotoGP.com
  23. ^ Barry Sheene tribute ride at www.motogp.com.au
  24. ^ Barry Sheene Isle of Man TT results at iomtt.com

Further reading[edit]

  • The Story so Far. 
  • Marriott, Andrew. The Sheene Machine. 
  • Scott, Michael (1983). Barry Sheene: A Will to Win. UK: Comet Books (softcover edition). p. 223. ISBN 0-86379-095-X. 
  • Sheene, Barry; Beacham, Ian (1983). Leader of the Pack. Queen Anne Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-356-09412-X. 
  • Barker, Stuart (2003). Barry Sheene 1950–2003: The Biography. UK: CollinsWillow. p. 335. ISBN 0-00-716181-6. 
  • Scott, Michael (2006). Barry Sheene. 
  • Parrish, Steve; Harris, Nick (2007). Barry. 

External links[edit]