Barry Sheene became the British 125cc champion aged just 20, and finished second in the World Championships for that class a year later. Sheene won the newly formed Formula 750 European championship for Suzuki in 1973. A spectacular crash at the Daytona 200 in the 1975 season threatened to end his career, breaking his left thigh, right arm, collarbone and two ribs, yet he recovered and was racing again seven weeks afterwards.
Here is Sheene’s Daytona 1975 Daytona crash, where Barry locks the back tire at around 170mph during a test session. Barry gives his recap of what happened.
More about Barry Sheene:
In 1973, he won the Formula 750 World Championship. In the 1976 season, he won five 500cc Grands Prix, bringing him the World Championship. He repeated as champion in the 1977 season with six victories.
Sheene’s battle with Kenny Roberts at the 1979 British Grand Prix at Silverstone has been cited as one of the greatest motorcycle Grand Prix races of the 1970s. After the 1979 season, he left the Heron–Suzuki factory team, believing that he was receiving inferior equipment to his team-mates. He shifted to a privateer on a Yamaha machine, but soon started receiving works equipment. In 1981, Kenny Roberts was the reigning World 500cc Champion for the third time, and Barry Sheene, now on a competitive Yamaha, was determined to regain the championship. Ironically, Sheene and Roberts battled all season and let Suzuki riders Marco Lucchinelli of Italy and American Randy Mamola beat them for the top two spots. Roberts finished third and Sheene fourth for the 1981 championship. A crash during the 1982 season largely ended Sheene as a title threat, and he retired in 1984. He remains the only rider to win Grand Prix races in the 50cc and 500cc categories.
Sheene was known for being outspoken in his criticism for what he considered to be dangerous race tracks, most notably, the Isle of Man TT course, which he considered too dangerous for world championship competition. He was a colourful, exuberant character who used his good looks, grin and Cockney accent to good effect in self-promotion, and combined with an interest in business was one of the first riders to make a lot of money from endorsements. He is credited with boosting the appeal of motorcycle racing into the realm of the mass marketing media. He also tried his hand as a TV show host, including the ITV series Just Amazing!, where he interviewed people who had, through accident or design, achieved feats of daring and survival (including the former RAF air gunner, Nicholas Alkemade, who survived a fall of 18,000 feet without a parachute from a blazing Avro Lancaster bomber over Germany in March 1944). Sheene and his wife Stephanie also starred in the low-budget film Space Riders.