Biking heroes Christmas special (Part 1/6)
MCN has teamed up with none other than the legendary Foggy and a host of other greats to name their biking heroes as part of our Christmas special. We’ll be bringing you some of the best picks from the bumper double issue in the lead up to the big day.
500cc GP world champion 1976 & 1977
Stuart Garner on Sheene
‘Sheene did a wheelie and I was starstruck’
“I remember being at Mallory with my dad when I was about 10, and very excitedly watching Barry Sheene and Freddie Spencer. Sheene did a wheelie as he won and I was instantly starstruck.
“It was the whole allure of racing back then. You could walk around the paddock, racers in leathers looking blokey and macho, everyone smoking, two-strokes firing out Castrol R. Then the racing; speed and danger. My eyes were on stalks.
“Sheeney stood out. He had that bit of magic, that personality but would also go and win by being a hard bastard. Then when he got off the bike he was a gentleman with a twinkle in his eye. Just a tiny proportion of people over a generation have that skill set with that personality in the press room.
“He wasn’t the only one. I also remember the Transatlantic a few years later, Schwantz and Merkel coming together at Donington’s Old Hairpin. Some of the battles were just iconic.
“A bit later the rotary Nortons were, for me, a class act, too. I remember seeing the flames out the back of the bikes in the Supercup at Donington Park. I was probably in my teens and as an impressionable kid that kind of stuff leaves a mark on you.
“But for me, yes, it’s Sheeney, followed by the Norton boys…
“It’s the reason we go racing: the passion, the glamour, the thrill of speed. One of the things we now say to our lads at the TT is ‘put a show on’. Hence we’ve a noisy bike and bling it up in chrome because I understand racing is entertainment. I’ve seen both sides of it. A lot of people who come to racing are a bit more corporate and think it’s all about winning, but it’s actually all about entertaining.”
Charley Boorman on Sheene
‘Sheene was in my seat, chatting up my wife’
“It’s difficult to single out one person as a biking hero, but if you look at the influence Barry Sheene had; he was a household name and an incredible character, and he inspired me to carry on riding motorbikes. Blokes admired his enthusiasm for the opposite sex.
“I was a kid, so it wasn’t about the fact he seemed to be shagging anyone he could find, but I was into motorbikes and had a poster of Farrah Fawcett on my ceiling, another one of Star Wars, then one of Barry Sheene. He was the racer, the guy everyone knew about and could relate to. The duck on the helmet, the number 7 thing; he was one of the first guys to have an identity .
“I met him a couple of times, but not really to talk to. I met him at my friend Roy’s motorbike shop, Bullet Motorcycles on the New King’s Road in Chelsea. I was in there when Barry walked in to borrow a spanner because something had fallen off his bike. I can’t remember what it was, but probably a Harley, which would explain why things were falling off it. So we lent him the spanner and watched him fix his bike, which was amazing. When he rode off, Roy and I looked at each other and burst out laughing at what had just happened.
“The other time I met him was also on the King’s Road. My wife and I were having lunch with 40 friends, but we arrived late, so we were on the very end of the table. We were near another table, nothing to do with us, and sat around it was Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Barry Sheene, Murray Walker and a whole bunch of other drivers. It was like a who’s who. I went to the toilet and when I came back, Barry Sheene was in my seat chatting up Olivia. As I got closer I could hear, ‘So, do you want to come to Australia with me then?’ I tapped him on the shoulder and said, My wife doesn’t want to go, but I do. He looked at me up and down and said, ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’ And upped and left. That was the second and last time I ever saw him.”
26 time TT winner
John McGuinness on Joey
‘My hero was also my team-mate’
“My hero is Joey Dunlop, even now... it’s got to be. There are others, but he’s still top of the tree, and always will be. Most people don’t get to meet their heroes, let alone be their team-mates, but I did!
“I’d like to think that Joey thought I was a good guy – I’d be gutted if he didn’t.
“I was with him right at the end, only days before we lost him, and for me to be able to watch him, race against him, spend time with him and be his team-mate in 2000 was a very special part of my life.
“That was a time I’m never ever going to forget. I got to go to his house, into his garage, and was able to do anything I wanted to do with him. And he’s still so sadly missed.
“I’m knocking on the door of his TT win record now, too, and that’s going to be the next hurdle!”