ARY RS SH VE EE I N N Barry E ’S A F R I A R E S T Y - 0 I 40-YEAR 4 T ANNIVERSAR E L L E T Y 4 I 1976 0 Special - Y T S E R A FI R S A E’ NN EN SHE IVE • RSARY
Was he a PR man’s dream to work with?
Yes, absolutely. He didn’t need any assistance with that at all. Even when we first started with him he knew everybody – all the Fleet Street boys, the Editor of MCN, and the likes of Peter Jay who was The Sun’s top photographer. Barry was on first-name terms with him which was pretty unusual for a motorcycle racer. I was ghosting a lot of articles for Barry back then and we had a big deal with The Sun. For a while Barry did road tests of cars for the paper, and the way it worked was Barry would drive around the block, say a few words, and then leave it to me!
Was Barry the first bike racer to have a PR man?
That’s a good question but I’d be tempted to say perhaps no. Maybe some of the American riders who were coming over at that time had PR people, I can’t quite remember. But we were definitely at the forefront of that sort of thing.
Chip Hennen (Pat Hennen’s brother) once said you scripted many of Barry’s witticisms. Is there any truth in that?
Did he really? No, that’s completely untrue!
Could he be quite demanding to work with?
Oh absolutely, yes. Particularly when there was a deal in hand. He always wanted to have his say on how the deal got done. He was professional about it but he was also very cockney about it – even though he was technically from Central London and not the East End. He was the brightest person I’ve ever met from that sort of background.
What do you remember of the classic 1976 season when Barry won his first 500cc world championship?
I went to virtually all the races with him in 1976. He had a good bike in the Suzuki RG500 XR14 and a good set-up that year but it was so different to how it is now. Barry’s team was a family team – he sort of ran it almost as a satellite team of Suzuki. Half the time, the bikes were down at his place in Wisbech, not at Suzuki’s HQ in Croydon. And, this is how different things were, he paid his own personal mechanics, although everything was still under the official Suzuki umbrella. It was a great season.
Did you have a big party in Sweden after he won the world title?
No, I was shut in a room writing my copy for The Sun! They went really big on him winning the world championship so I never actually got to go to the party.
Is it true that he got through 30 bottles of champagne at the party that night?
It wouldn’t surprise me because he loved fine French wines – that was what he drank.
What was the best deal you ever did for Barry?
One of the best was selling the X-rays of his broken legs from the Silverstone crash in 1982 to the Daily Mail newspaper. Barry and I dreamed that one up together and we got quite a lot of money for it. That just shows perfectly what he was like! Even when he was badly hurt he was right on it, thinking of all the ways to make a buck.
When did you last see Barry?
I spoke to him a couple of weeks before he died. Basically, I worked with him right through his racing career but we stopped working with him after he moved to Australia in 1987.
What are you up to these days?
I was executive producer on the movie Stevemcqueen:themanandlemans, I’ve made hundreds of TV programmes for Sky, and I work as a pitlane reporter for Fox Sport in America and at Le Mans so I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades really.
How do you remember Barry Sheene?
I worked with a lot of people over the years, from Mario Andretti to James Hunt, Mike Hailwood and various footballers, but Barry was my favourite – my absolute favourite. James Hunt was frustrating to work with because he wasn’t very reliable but Barry was very reliable and very professional and, from a commercial point of view, he was brilliant. People argue about how good a rider he actually was but as an all-round sportsman, there’s no-one to beat him. Andrew Marriott is a veteran motorsport commentator, journalist and broadcaster with over 40 years experience in car and bike racing. He is the founder of Pitlane Productions, an all-encompassing motorsport consultancy.
‘He always wanted to have his say on how the deal got done. He was very cockney about it’