marks the sad death of motorcycle racing legend Barry Sheene by
saluting his great achievements, both on the racetrack and for the
general good of motorcycling. Barry lost his battle against cancer
on Monday at the early age of 52. Barry’s unique character
and charm, linked to his racing achievements were instrumental in
raising Suzuki’s profile in the early 1970s and his many friends
at the company mourn his passing and offer their sincere condolences
to Stephanie, Sidonie and Freddie, and to the rest of his family
Suzuki was associated with Barry
for many years during a racing career that started at club level
in 1968 at Brands Hatch and ended professionally when he retired
at the end of the 1984 grand prix season. The highlight of Sheene's
sparkling racing career was two back-to-back world 500cc titles
in 1976 and 1977 riding for Suzuki.
Bazza, to all friends and fans,
gave Suzuki its first ever 500cc grand prix victory in 1975 when
he opened his personal score of 19 GP wins by beating Italy's 15
times world champion Giacomo Agostini by a fraction of a second
in the Dutch TT at Assen. The sensational June victory, to be followed
by a second in Sweden three weeks later, came only four months after
he was left with a mass of broken bones and internal injuries after
crashing at over 175mph during a private test session prior to the
Daytona 200. Barry always contended that a rear tyre failure was
the cause of the crash as he came off the banking at the Florida
speedway and headed towards the start and finish line on his 750cc
Barry, who made his GP debut in
1970 with an ex-factory Suzuki that had been campaigned by Stuart
Graham, joined Suzuki GB in 1973 to race a 750cc triple and 500cc
twin that he had to build himself with parts supplied. Although
he only won the French round, Bazza collected enough points to win
the FIM Formula 750 championship. He also topped the MCN Superbike
series and was voted Man of the Year for the first time by the readers
of the same publication.
During the latter part of 1973
Suzuki started development work on the new, four cylinder RG 500
and Barry spearheaded a major attack on the world championship with
this in 1974. With a development machine that had its teething troubles,
he mustered a second and third place and ended sixth in the championship.
Although he was riding a bike, complete with 18inch pin in his left
thigh, at Cadwell Park seven weeks after his near disaster crash
at Daytona, Barry was ruled unfit to race at his planned GP return
in 1975 in the second title round in Austria.
Bazza wins double at Donnington
2002 - His last race & our last picture of him in action ©
Although he ended the year again
in plaster after crashing a trials bike in the Cadwell paddock,
Bazza was back fighting fit in 1976 when he lead the 500cc world
championship from start to finish on the result dominating RG he
helped to perfect. He retained the crown the following year before
parting company with Suzuki in 1979 and becoming the last British
rider to win a 500GP at Anderstorp in Sweden in 1981.
Bazza again suffered serious injuries
when he crashed into a bike laying in the track during a controversial
pre-British GP test day at Silverstone while riding for Yamaha in
1982. However, now firmly established a "Metal Mickey"
he bounced back yet again, and returned to Suzuki for his last two
grand prix year years. Fifth place at Silverstone was his best result
in 1984 when he bowed out with sixth place in the championship.
With his wife Stephanie, whom
he met at the London nightspot "Tramp" in 1975, and their
daughter, Sidonie, and son, Freddie, Bazza retired to Australia.
He lived on the Gold Coast and worked as a TV motor sports commentator
and programme presenter.
He kept racing bikes for fun right
to the end. Last July during the British GP at Donington Park he
was a double winner in the International Classic support races on
a 500 Norton, and two weeks previous, on the same machine, finished
second to 1987 world champion, Wayne Gardner, during the Goodwood
Festival of Speed.
Suzuki salutes the memory
of Barry Sheene – A true motorcycling legend.