Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - In Your Shed -


While Barry Sheene was busy bag­ging his first 500Gp­world Cham­pi­onship in 1976 – five wins and a sec­ond place giv­ing him the crown with the sea­son only three-quar­ters done – a 10-year-old boy in north-east Scot­land ea­gerly fol­lowed the news from ev­ery round.this lad had the posters on his bed­room wall and the pic­tures and cut­tings in a scrap­book.all of his school ex­er­cise books had the Suzuki ’S’ hand-drawn on the cover.

If you’d told this same fan-boy that 42 years later he’d have the op­por­tu­nity to ride Sheene’s 1976 world cham­pi­onship­win­ning Suzuki XR14 RG500 he would never have be­lieved you. He still couldn’t be­lieve it when an email from James Sharpe of the Suzuki GB press of­fice landed in the in­box. It read: “Would you like to ride one of Barry Sheene’s cham­pi­onship-win­ning XR14S at Cad­well?” Slowly it sank in. Me and Barry Sheene’s bikes.the 1976 and 1977 ti­tle win­ners were on of­fer but the ’76

was the one I re­ally wanted to sam­ple. af­ter all, this was the bike that be­gan a life­long ob­ses­sion; if ‘ob­ses­sion’ is a big enough word.the Clas­sic Suzuk­i­track­day at Cad­well on 13 Septem­ber promised a host of fine old race ma­chin­ery but the Suzuki and the vin­tage Spares guys had re­ally sur­passed them­selves with this of­fer. How could I say ‘no’? Al­though say­ing ‘yes’ set in train a mix­ture of trep­i­da­tion, dis­be­lief and jan­gling nerves.

My dis­be­lief was lift­ing but a lit­tle when I was sit­ting on Sheene’s 1976 square four racer in the hold­ing area at Cad­well Park and the nerves by this point were un­bear­able. I felt like I’d been asked to carry the Crown Jew­els up a dark al­ley at night. I blipped the throt­tle so I wouldn’t stall this pre­cious ma­chine for a sec­ond time, hav­ing ground to a halt 50 yards from the Suzuki mar­quee just mo­ments be­fore, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a bump start from Sheene me­chanic Mar­tyn Og­borne and Suzuki GB’S Tim Davies.

As the rid­ers ahead peeled onto the cir­cuit, Mar­tyn’s in­struc­tions were still ring­ing in my ears. “There’s not much power be­low 10,000rpm, keep an eye on the tem­per­a­ture, you don’t want it go­ing above 70°C, the gearshift is right-side, one up and the rest down. En­joy it,” he’d smiled. Mar­tyn re­stored the bike with Nigel Everett last year. I re­ally didn’t want to be the one to crum­ple their hand­i­work.

Fi­nally we were waved for­ward, this was it. a mo­ment I never thought to ex­pe­ri­ence was here. I trun­dled gin­gerly onto Hall Bends, round the Hair­pin and Barn and onto the start/fin­ish straight. a hand­ful of throt­tle and as the rev counter nee­dle swung past 10k the XR14 shot for­ward with an ur­gency that made me feel like God’s bowl­ing ball. Cop­pice ar­rived in a split sec­ond and I was back into nurse­maid mode through the left and round the right of Char­lie’s. More throt­tle along Park Straight and an­other dose of adrenalin-fused ex­hil­a­ra­tion. Round Park and Chris Curve and the dive down the Goose­neck to Mans­field. Is this re­ally hap­pen­ing?

Tak­ing the nadgery sec­tion through the chi­cane and up around to the Moun­tain like I was rid­ing a moped rather than a rac­ing thor­ough­bred the re­al­i­sa­tion dawned that I’d done a lap of an ac­tual race track on Barry Sheene’s ac­tual bike. Doubt­less the slow­est lap of any race track this bike had ever done but that was never the point. An­other three laps then the ses­sion was red-flagged. Re­turn­ing to the pad­dock with the bike still on its wheels and in one-piece felt like I’d won aworld Cham­pi­onship of my own.

I’m go­ing to dig out that old scrap­book – it must be in my mum’s house some­where – there’s an­other pic­ture and an­other story to stick in it now.

Clock­wise from top right: Nice style on The Moun­tain. Two old boys nat­ter­ing. See­ley on the TL. Two old boys nat­ter­ing be­hind THE RG500 – Bazza’s ‘76-er

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