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Tributes roll in for Barry Sheene

Published: 04 March 2003

Friends and colleagues of Barry Sheene have been quick to offer their condolences to his family and to praise the man and the life he led.

Sheene’s greatest rival, Kenny Roberts was told of Sheene’s death at breakfast at his hotel in Daytona Florida, a shocked Roberts said: " I wouldn't be Kenny Roberts without Barry Sheene.

" I used to only get out of bed in the morning to beat Barry. I used to think he was an asshole, but he was an asshole in the nicest possible way. But you needed that kind of rivalry to fire yourself up, and sure we both played, but look what it did for Grand Prix racing. I hated Barry Sheene, and he felt the same way about me. I hated being beaten by Barry, and I know he felt the same way. "

Recalling the epic British GP at Silverstone in 1979, Roberts said: "People still talk about that race as though it was yesterday and that's what our rivalry did. How many people can remember a race that took place over 20 years ago? That's the impact he had and that's how we drove each other. That race is just one of a thousand fond memories I have. What Barry did for motorcycling was unbelievable, not just for Britain where his contribution probably will never be matched. "

Steve Parrish was one of Sheene’s closest friends and has been in constant touch with him since he was diagnosed last August.

Parrish said: " If well-wishes had got him better, he’d be sat on a yacht now with a gin and tonic. Everyone I spoke to asked how he was, asked me to send him their best.

" I was at the Scottish Show at the weekend, and hundreds of people asked me to pass on their best wishes. "

Parrish went on to recall to pairs wild past: " I’ve got so many stories, but you couldn’t print most of them. "

" One of the funniest that I can share happened at the old Nurburgring in 1979. We were there for the GP and me and Barry didn’t want to ride because it was too dangerous. But we had to because it was a world championship round.

" Everyone else went out to learn their way around the circuit on bikes or in cars, but we went out in a Rolls-Royce that Barry had borrowed from the factory in Crewe. He told them it was for a road test.

" People on bikes and in BMWs couldn’t believe what they were seeing as we came past in this Shadow, literally on two wheels.

The funniest thing was that we had to fill up every six miles. We were getting four miles a gallon!

" We only stopped because the brake pad light came on. They were shagged, as were the tyres. But we still drove it to the next GP in Belgium. On the way we had a blow-out at about 120mph and we both crapped ourselves.

" His death brings it home to everyone that we’re not immortal. It’s going to make a difference to the way I live my life. "

Five-times world champ Mick Doohan became a close friend of Sheene's shortly after he emigrated to start a new life in Australia in the late 1980’s.

Doohan said: " My thoughts are with Barry's family. We knew he was ill, but it's still very sad. Barry was a close friend. We had a lot of fun together and he also helped me a lot over the years with how I went about my racing.

"I first met Barry in early '88 at Sandown in Melbourne after he'd moved to Australia. At the time I was just starting out racing superbikes in Australia and Barry had a big influence in getting me into 500s later in the year.

"Barry started talking to the Japanese factories, especially Suzuki who he’d raced for about me being a young guy to keep an eye on for the future. He didn't have to do that, and it was much appreciated. We sparked up a friendship after that, and over the years we spent a great deal of time together, both in Australia and in Europe.

" His popularity in Britain is amazing. He’s a household name there despite retiring almost 20 years ago. That’s because his talent, personality, and quick-wit won the hearts of the people. "

Carl Fogarty is definitely Britain's most successful racer since Sheene’s heyday, and he admitted standing in awe of him as a 12-year-old at the 1977 Silverstone GP.

"It's just a very sad day, not just for motorcycl racing but for biking in general because he was famous around the world. He was the biggest household name that the sport has created in Britain.

" I remember last July when I heard that he had been diagnosed with cancer what a shock it was, you just thought he was the type of person who was going to live forever.

"I’ve still got photographs of me stood next to him as a 12-year-old at the British GP at Silverstone in 1977 and I remember thinking at the time, 'I want to be like Sheene,'

" He was the inspiration for millions of bikers around the world and to an extent he inspired me because of that day at Silverstone. "

It seems that almost everyone has got at least one memory that sticks out when they think of Barry Sheene. The MCN message boards have been crammed with tributes to the late racer, and the rush to praise him shows no signs of slowing.

A few of the messages from other motorcyclenews.com users are below:

Ray Wilkins: In 1976 I used to work in Underwood’s Chemists, on Putney High Street. I was told before I started that Barry Sheene was a customer - which I thought was a wind up.

Within days of being there, I was astonished to see Stephanie walk in to the shop. She came to my counter to leave some 35mm films for developing & printing. I was a young 18 year old then and was a bit tongue tied and star struck, but managed to blurt out that I did have some photographs of them both at a recent meeting at Brands Hatch.

Without further ado, she asked me if I would mind going to see them with the photographs - back then this was the equivalent of winning the national lottery today!

I turned up at their flat and showed her the photographs, but Barry wasn't around. I mentioned something about his impression of them and was asked to come back when he was able to see them - which I did and he liked the photos.

He went on to ask me if I would mind taking some informal snap shots of them at a few other UK race meetings if he arranged the track / paddock passes.

Over a period of time I got to know Barry and Stephanie a little and have very fond and pleasant memories of them both before they emigrated.

I am privileged and wealthier as a person to have known them both and have nothing but fond happy memories. When my children are old enough to know who he was, and what he achieved, I have some happy memories of the man to tell them.

Lorenz90: Top bloke, Barry, met him a few times now at Goodwood Revival through a friend who raced there on the classics with him. That was a wish come true and meeting my childhood hero was fantastic. He lived up to all my expectations. Such a difference from football prima donnas and the rest. My daughter is only 7 now, and since she met Barry a couple of years ago when we took a few photos together all she can do is talk about him. She gave him a print of the photo last year, which he was delighted with and gave her a big kiss and a hug.

As Barry was a one off, I feel the FIM & Dorna should never race the No. 7 again in MotoGP as a mark of respect.

Gregmvf4: I feel privileged to have met Barry on several occasions and he is one of those rare people that not only have time for you, but seem to make you feel you have been mates for years. He even took the time at Goodwood one year to ham up a video for me, taking the Michael out of a mate who thought Barry was a god, but who couldn’t make it. Barry and Stavros were as good a double act as you’d get. If you’ve heard them tell the story of how Steve fell off on the next corner whilst in the lead because Barry (having retired) held a pit board out saying ‘Gas it, Wanker’ will know what I mean ….

Mistermint: This is one of the saddest days in motorcycle racing. We have lost one of the greatest racers ever. My son and myself have always enjoyed watching Barry race - I even remember the freezing cold day at Donnington when I took my son to watch his first race and Barry was giving it his all on the Suzuki. How lucky and grateful we are to have been able to see him race last years British GP - he had not lost that golden touch. Our sincerest condolences to his family at this time of grief - at least they will know that there are many thousands of people thinking of them at this time.

Wannaride: Just heard the terrible news. Barry was a genuine Hero. A man with spirit and true personality. There is no one who comes close. He will be very badly missed.

christine humphreys: Three generations of this family watched this great man race, inspirational, exciting and brave and a real top geezer. He'll be missed but remembered by thousands.

Bens press woman: I was enthralled by Barry's riding skills in the 70's when I cheered him on to victory at every meeting I could get to. He spurred me on to become the motorsport correspondent for the Lincolnshire Media and I was thrilled to meet up with him again last year both at the GP and the Valentino Rossi press conference in London where he remembered me from years ago. Barry never forgot a face and was wonderful with his fans. A true gentleman and a great ambassador for the motorcycle racing industry.

Monster24465: The news of Barrys death is incredibly sad and to me it means the end of an era. When I was a little girl I would watch Barry with my Dad and this is the reason for my enduring love of bikes to this day. I received the sad news that my Dad was terminally ill with cancer last year at the same time it was announced that Barry was fighting cancer. Sadly my Dad died last September and now Barry has gone too. Things will never be the same.

Hywelt: I was at Brands in the early 80s getting used to my new racing bike and after a mornings practice I thought I was riding like the dogs bollox. Gunning it through Clearways, Barry swept passed, adjusting his helmet and giving me a little wave before dipping into the pits. It was a lesson in humility I'll never forgot.

Blakes7: As an Aussie it may seem strange to be posting on the death of one of Britain's favourite sons, but, such was Barry Sheene's fame that all motorcyclists will mourn his passing. Of course there is another connection as well. Barry spent the last years of his life here in Australia and most Australian motorsports fans adopted him as one of their's. The Pom who came to stay and was welcomed as only we can. Barry loved our weather, our laid-back way of life, and our lack of pretension, something that he had always hated. We mourn an adopted son. So long Barry, we have been enriched by your sojourn amongst us.

To add your tribute click on the link on the right to go to our news discussion board, which has been dedicated to Barry’s Memory.

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