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Barry Sheene dies aged 52

By Dan Moakes
May 22 2003

The Londoner, latterly living in Australia, was famous for triumphing against adversity, returning to the track twice after major accidents. Unfortunately, his affliction with cancer of the throat and stomach proved too tough to beat, and motorcycle racing has lost one of its most popular figures. Barry’s number seven

Sheene was born in Gray’s Inn Road, London, on 11 September 1950. His legacy to GP racing includes two 500cc titles, and the sport was also made brighter by the presence of the man himself. He was seen as a favourite loveable rogue, and remained a household name long after retiring from the saddle.

Commercially astute, and highly marketable, Barry started racing in 1968, aged just 17. His considerable talents brought him success quickly, with several British titles, and he also moved into World Championship racing for 1971. Helping develop the new Suzuki two-stroke introduced in 1974, Barry brought the relationship to fruition with the 500 titles of 1976-77, despite having to recover from a 170mph impact at Daytona, during 1975, when a tyre burst on the banking.

From 1978, Barry had to contend with the combination of Kenny Roberts and Yamaha, and it was the impressive American who came out on top, although they were well matched. In 1980, Sheene left Suzuki for Yamaha, but he was not in receipt of a full works bike. When this finally came, it was for his home race in 1982, but the moment was short lived. He suffered a terrible crash during practice, and was forced to undergo a painstaking recovery process, such was the extent of damage to his legs.

Typically, he made it through this period in advance of expectations, and returned to the track in 1983. By now he was racing a production-based Suzuki, and this didn’t really afford him the opportunities he was used to. At the end of the 1984 season, he retired, and settled in Australia with his wife and two children. Still in demand, he continued to provide expert race analysis for television, and also made track appearances in classic racing events until quite recently.

He will be greatly missed.

Barry Sheene’s World Championship career highlights

Second in the 125cc World Championship, Suzuki - three wins, nine podiums
Seventh in the 50cc World Championship, Kreidler - one win

Sixth in the 500cc World Championship, Suzuki - two podiums

Sixth equal in the 500cc World Championship, Suzuki - two wins

500cc World Champion, Suzuki - five wins, six podiums

500cc World Champion, Suzuki - six wins, seven podiums

Second in the 500cc World Championship, Suzuki - two wins, seven podiums

Third in the 500cc World Championship, Suzuki - three wins, six podiums

Fourth in the 500cc World Championship, Yamaha - one win, three podiums

Fourth equal in the 500cc World Championship, Yamaha - six podiums

Sixth in the 500cc World Championship, Suzuki - one podium

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