Sunday, 10 March 2013
Ten Years Ago Today, My Hero Died
I was 13 years old when I first saw Barry Sheene race motorcycles. It was at Brands Hatch in 1979. At that time, at just 20 years old, Barry was an extremely talented and likeable guy who made quite an impression on me. I watched him race dozens of times and he soon became my hero.
That year, he won the British 125cc championship, which signalled the start of a very impressive racing career.
I would travel all round the UK to racing circuits such as Brands, Mallory Park, Cadwell, and Oulton Park to watch the racing. I couldn’t afford the tickets for the World Championship rounds in the UK, so I concentrated on the British Championships and the Transatlantic Trophy series, which pitched the best British riders against the best of the American team.
I remember riders such as Mick Grant, Peter Williams, Steve Parrish and others, but it was Barry Sheene who always stood out for me. The rivalry and races between the two nations teams was legendary and I got to see Americans such as Kenny Roberts and Randy Mamola battle it out in some fantastically exciting races.
Sometimes, I would be lucky enough to walk around the pits and talk to the riders. Barry was always cheerful and smiling and I liked him a lot. Despite his growing fame, he would always try to take time to share a moment or two with his fans.
Famously, Barry had a spectacular crash in 1975 in practice at Daytona. At 175 mph, his rear wheel locked and he broke his left thigh, right arm, collarbone and two ribs. His hero status was elevated even more in my mind when he was racing again just seven weeks later.
Barry went on to win the 500cc World Championship in 1976 and 1977. He certainly lived life to the full and gained (earned) a playboy reputation. A true sporting legend, he mainly raced Suzuki’s and Yamaha’s. It was no co-incidence that I soon owned a bike by each of these manufacturers.
This short video gives a glimpse of the man.
Barry died of cancer ten years ago today at the age of just 52. That was way too young for someone who gave so much, was so talented and so loved by many.
Rest in peace Barry, my hero.
Posted by Gary France