A couple of weeks back I was emailed by a friend of MACE asking me if I knew ITV Sport were making a documentary, When Playboys Ruled the World, about the colourful lives of sporting legends & close friends, James Hunt and Barry Sheene, and I was eager to contact the programme producer to tell him about the fantastic material we hold of the pair in our collections, not only because I’m very proud of the great material held at MACE, and to ask if he would like to include extracts in the documentary, but also because I’m a big fan of Barry Sheene.
Click here to watch Gary Newbon interview Barry at Silverstone in 1976
Barry Sheene was a frequent face on the the family television in my childhood and he reminds me of an era that has past – a time that I remember as extremely glamourous – and a star like Barry Sheene seemed particularly glamourous, probably because I was very young when he was the Motorcycle Grand Prix championship winner in ’76 & ’77 – and icons seem even larger than life when you are a child – but also because, in my opinion, stars were really stars then – slightly untouchable with an air of danger and intrigue, who seemed to have everything they wanted and lived life on the edge.
So, you’ll forgive me my self indulgence, if, in the run up to the broadcast of When Playboys Rule the World, I profile Barry Sheene from a fans’ perspective – and point you in the direction of some of the material we hold in our collection of him, which has not been broadcast since its original transmission on the midlands news programme ATV Today. Some of which we have supplied to the documentary which you can see on Monday 15th November at 10:35pm on ITV1.
I apologise if I have any facts wrong here – I’m a fan, not a journalist!
Barry Sheene was born in London on September 11th 1950 to Frank (Franco) and Iris Sheene. Motorcycle racing was in his blood. His father, a road racer in his time, was passionate about motorcycle engineering between his day job as resident engineer at the Royal College of Surgeons.
Barry’s interest in motorcycling started young and he travelled in his mid teens working on bikes for various teams. But it wasn’t long before he was riding himself and he became the British 125cc champion at 20 years old.
In 1973 he won the Formula 750 World Championship and with Heron Suzuki he won the 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix Championship in both 1976 and 1977.
Click Here to watch a clip of Sheene showing the features of the Suzuki
In 1979, Barry Sheene left Heron Suzuki and set up as a privateer, racing his Yamaha. On the 20th March 1980 he tested the Yamaha for the first time and ATV Today cameras were there to film him (pictures below).
1982 Barry Sheene crashed when practising at Silverstone and criticised the track for not having enough marshals working there on the day. Sheene championed race safety and openly talked about the danger of some of the tracks. He also invented the motorcycle back protector, the prototype of which he gave to Dainese, who along with other companies have manufactured back protectors ever since.
He died of cancer in 2003 and is survived by his wife Stephanie and two children, Freddie and Sidonie. He is missed by his many fans through the world.
You can see details of the 21 news stories we hold of Barry Sheene by CLICKING HERE. Unfortunately, only 3 of them have relating clips to view at present, but we will be adding clips to this blog entry soon, so do get in touch if you’d like to be informed when they’re available to view.
Meanwhile, if like me you’re a fan of Barry Sheene & James Hunt, I hope you’ll be watching the programme on Monday night and remembering a great era! Get a taste of the programme by CLICKING HERE for the promo.