‘Even closing in on the title, Barry kept partying because it didn’t make any difference’
actually getting killed so that’s when I realised how serious it was. But then I got into the timekeeping thing and once I did that it took my mind off being nervous and gave me something to concentrate on. I remember some of the wives and girlfriends being absolutely terrified but, even though I’m a bit of a worrywart by nature, for some reason it didn’t bother me too much.
SP: As the world title got closer, there were more people wanting his autograph, more people wearing number 7 T-shirts. He was someone that people were just attracted to – he was a great hero. But I also understood the frustration of the other riders. I’d beat Barry at Scarborough or wherever and people would still just push me out of the way to get to him! So I worked out the best thing to do was be in the same garage as Barry and just get in his slipstream! CH: The PR firm of Andrew Mariott and Barry Gill had a lot to do with shaping Barry’s public image and how he presented himself to the media and the public. We had gotten to know both of them over the season and watched how influential they were with Barry in those areas. They did things like help Barry prepare “canned” responses to the various questions the press asked him. They tended to always ask him the same questions and Pat and I noticed that Barry’s responses were always the same. Mariott and Gill also helped arrange things like TV and radio appearances and were, in my opinion, two of the best racing PR people I’ve ever known.
SP: Even as the championship closed in, Barry kept partying because it didn’t make any difference. There were no riders back then who said, “Well, I’m going to go to the gym and take it serious.” Pat Hennen was a little bit like that because he was American, and he hated it that Barry could party hard, avoid the gym, and still beat him. But by 1978 Barry realised he had to start training because Pat had started beating him!
PH: I don’t know what Barry really thought of me, or whether he was ever really concerned about me as a rider.
SS: Even if things were going bad at the track, Barry was never miserable at home. I know some of the other racers took things out on their wives but he wasn’t like that. I think he knew nothing was going to take it away from him that year.
SP: Barry rode great that year but I don’t think he had a radically different style to anyone else. He had gangly, skinny legs that stuck out a lot but I don’t think he came along and changed the way of riding a Grand Prix bike because people were already hanging off them. And he was mechanically sympathetic because he understood engines. He was a good all-round rider; he wasn’t mad on the brakes or radical in any one area - he was just a really good, smooth rider.
AS: Sheene finally wrapped up the title at the seventh round in Sweden – although he’d sat out the TT which was still the British round in 1976. So we had two British world champions that year – James Hunt and Barry Sheene, and that seemed very special. It was a magical time. Motorcycling was still viewed as a pretty dangerous pursuit but Sheene somehow made it acceptable.