SHEE Y AR NE RS ’S E FI V R I S N T A I T R L A E E 4 ANNIVERSAR Y Y 0 40-YEAR - - 0 Y 4 E E 1976 A Special L R T I A N T I RS VE FI ’S RS EENE ARY SH
Steve Parrish: ITV’S televised documentary that included Barry’s big crash at Daytona had already made him a huge star in the UK by 1976. But he was also hugely popular because of all the girls and the Rolls Royces and all the other things that bikers didn’t normally do.
Alan Seeley: 1976 was an age of heroes. We had Evel Knievel, James Hunt and Barry Sheene so it was a brilliant time to be a schoolboy! Between Knievel and Sheene, how could you NOT be interested in motorbikes?
SS: Was 11 years old in 1976 and obsessed with Barry Sheene. He is now a respected motorcycle journalist. the end of 1975 to treat the injuries he received at Daytona that year, but by the start of the 1976 season, he was fine, although I think his knee was always a bit of a worry after Daytona. But after taking his first few wins in ’76, Barry became very confident that he could win the world title.
SP: Barry was favourite for the title that year simply because the Suzuki RG500 was so good. When it first came out it was hugely fast but a bit unreliable but it was obvious that Suzuki would make it reliable. With the four-strokes having come to an end, it was the bike to have, and Barry was the number one rider in the Suzuki factory team.
Chip Hennen: In 1976 Pat and I watched Barry very, very closely on and off the track and listened to his every utterance to learn what we could from him, and we learned quite a lot. I’m sure that’s part of what made Barry so nervous about Pat.
AS: Of course, you couldn’t watch the races on TV because they weren’t shown so we had to read about them in Motorcycle News. You’d get news stories on the radio and TV though, telling you how Sheene had done.
SS: Paddock life wasn’t as glamorous as people might think. At first I was just sitting around in paddocks that had very few amenities so it took a bit of getting used to. At least we didn’t have to stay in the paddock though – we always stayed in hotels. And we travelled around in Barry’s Rolls Royce, which was nice!
SP: Barry was a brilliant rider and won the first three races of the season but I think his biggest talent was in getting the troops behind him. He was great at getting all the mechanics – even the Japanese ones – behind him. The tyre people loved him, the chain people loved him, the spark plug people loved him – everybody loved Barry Sheene so he had the whole paddock pushing him along. Technically, he was very good too. He could take an RG500 – or any bike for that matter – to bits and put it back together again. AS: As the momentum built throughout the season, the media attention just grew and grew. Sheene wasn’t only in the motorcycle press – you got posters of him in kid’s magazines like Look-in and girl’s magazines like Jackie so he was everywhere. Everybody knew who he was. If you got stopped for speeding on a bike in the 1970s the police would invariably ask “Who do you think you are? Barry Sheene?”
PH: I wasn’t really friends with Barry but, looking back, to be honest, part of how racers become really good racers is by being very focused, to the point of not really developing close friendships with many people around you.
SS: At first I didn’t really think of the dangers when Barry was out on track. But then people were falling off, left, right, and centre, and people were
'Everybody loved Barry Sheene so he always had the whole paddock pushing him along’