Racing Legends (2012) Episode Scripts

N/A - Barry Sheene

1 I'm Jim Moir, but I'm better known as my alter ego, Vic Reeves.
Ladies! Ladies! Eranu! Ooooh! Ooooh! I'm going to explore the life and career of Britain's last 500cc world motorcycle racing champion.
'The crowd rises, the crowd roars! And Barry Sheene leads!' My all-time favourite racing legend.
'See? He gives it everything he's got.
' So, I'm going to meet his family and friends.
There you are.
Hello, mate.
How are you? I'll ride motorbikes more powerful and more valuable than I deserve.
I really don't want to wreck it.
To get under the skin of the man who tore off the racetrack and onto the front pages.
How's me hair? All right? The man who survived horrific injuries and came back stronger.
'There's no stopping Sheene as he triumphantly crosses the line.
' The man who did it all with a cheeky smile the world fell in love with.
My hero, Barry Sheene.
Motorcycling, it's in my blood.
Me dad used to race Nortons in the '50s.
And then, when I was born, he was under orders to stop doing that.
But we never stopped going to see road racing.
And me favourite was Oliver's Mount, because it was such a dangerous track.
One memory stands out from my days watching man and machine on that twisting hillside track in Scarborough.
It was here that I first caught sight of the late, great Barry Sheene.
For a teenage boy in the 1970s it was fantastic.
Barry was like a 200mph pop star.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Barry Sheene.
APPLAUSE He wore the aftershave I wanted to wear.
He was on the cover of me sister's magazines.
Yes, Barry Sheene! He was on the chat shows that me mum and dad watched.
What does, in fact, ultimately separate, you know, the world champion from the rest? It's just something that you've either got or you haven't.
But I'm glad I've got it! LAUGHTER I think one of the reasons why Barry did so incredibly well on track was pure determination.
He was ruthlessly dogged in the way that he thought about a race.
And that gave him speed, that gave him time on the track.
'Sheene leads! Marvellous bit of overtaking!' To add to that, he had the perfect model girlfriend.
And more importantly for me and thousands of fellow petrolheads, he won the motorcycling World Championships twice.
'Victory after victory.
' No other Brit has done it since.
Now I've been given the chance to ride his actual World Championship-winning bike.
The Texaco Heron Suzuki RG500.
Nought to 60 in three seconds.
Up to 100 in under six.
And a top speed of 187.
Amazing! But it's just that I quite like slow.
And if I'm going to be riding Bazza's bike, I'll have to deal with riding fast.
'Sheene is going like a rocket.
' From 100mph to 180mph, you don't really notice the difference.
I have to be positive and say, "Yes, I'm up for doing it.
" But, I mean, anyone would be worried.
But, you know, at the same time, fabulously excited.
I mean, do they really know what they're doing letting me loose on this thing? And am I capable of riding it? In the late 1960s, long before riding the famous 500s, Barry cut his teeth on the much lower powered Spanish Bultaco.
Singing a song in the morning Barry's career started in a very unusual way.
His father, Frank Sheene, we all called Franco, he did a lot of tuning for Bultaco, the Spanish two-stroke machines.
And Frank used to use young Barry as a sort of test rider.
He started racing and he did start at Brands Hatch.
I think he crashed the first race.
But got back on.
Showed, even with a few bruises and bangs, that he could carry on.
When you raced, though, did you understand you were special, that you were quicker than the other guys? I was very keen to do well.
But it was something that I enjoyed so much.
But I never, ever I didn't realise I was any good until all of a sudden I thought, "BEEP! I've won about 10 races.
" The Bultaco was the bike that set Barry on the road to fame and fortune.
And I'm going to get to see it up close.
'You can do a low pass down the runway.
' Copy that, John Charlie.
Will land on this one.
I can see for miles and miles 'Steve Parrish was Barry's World Championship team-mate 'and part of his inner circle of close friends 'who lived the high life, known as the squadron.
' The squadron, what's that? Oh, yeah, the squadron.
Barry was kind of squadron leader.
I was a wing commander.
What, so he started it off? He started it off, yeah.
I was the only one that had a plane.
They all had helicopters.
They had more money than I did.
'Steve brought me to RAF Wittering, 'former home of the Harrier, 'to jump back in time and ride a piece of racing history.
' That was very cool.
JIM CHUCKLES MUSIC: Welcome To The Machine by Pink Floyd There it is, the Bultaco SP.
There it is.
An absolute corker.
That is the original Barry Sheene bike.
250cc water-cooled which, in all fairness, is actually way ahead of its time back then.
But you'll notice it has no kick-start on it.
It has no self-start on it.
This, to me, is how a motorbike should look.
Try it for size.
It's a pretty little bike.
It is a very pretty little bike, yeah.
'To begin my tuition, Steve had to show me how to start the bike.
' So, to jump-start or bump-start, we would call it, you have to run alongside it, whichever side you're comfortable with I'm not comfortable at all.
Right.
OK.
Well, you've got to put it in first gear, run, as we did on the start line.
And you were good at it? I wasn't bad.
My legs were OK.
Better than they are now.
But poor old Barry, with his skinny little legs, he wasn't real good at starting.
'And they're off! 'But Barry Sheene, who's notorious for his poor starts, 'has done it again.
'Barry does wheelies.
But, once again, he makes a bad start.
' So he'd be on the front row of the grid and get away about tenth.
How tall was he? About the same as me.
A tiny, tiny bit shorter than I was.
So, he'd be like So the perfect size.
Light and breezy.
Yeah, we both weighed ten stone.
But I used to be ten stone in those days.
But now, with my incredible mass, this machine's going to slow down to about 15 mile an hour.
Want to have a go? Come on, then.
All right, then.
You have to put it in gear and then you run along the side of it and I've seen it done.
It's called bump-starting.
You sit on there and that stops the back wheel from locking up and away you go.
What stops the bike from going over? You do.
That Bultaco, as a thing Aesthetically, it is one of the most beautiful things I've seen.
It's a very, very pretty bike.
It's got charm and beauty.
But the thing I'm worried about is this bump-start, becauseheard that that bike is worth quite a bit of money, so I really don't want to wreck it.
All right, so Right.
That's the position you'll end up in with the engine running.
'Time to try and master 'what my hero Barry Sheene struggled with for 20 years, 'bump-starts.
' Then off, clutch in.
Yeah.
You don't need much throttle and, as soon as it fires, pull that clutch in.
Now, do you want me to run beside you? Yeah, you're going to have to do some work now.
All right.
OK.
Here we go.
Come on, then.
Come on.
Fast as you can.
Run, run, run! When you're ready, jump.
ENGINE SPLUTTERS Oh! Shall I help you? ENGINE SPLUTTERS Oh! Right, I am going to push you.
Here we go ENGINE FIRES UP Yo! It's like a wild stallion, like a young, wild stallion.
It's not like a modern bike, you have to really, like, wrestle with it and control it and ride it.
And it wants to It feels like it wants to get away all the time.
And I don't know how Barry Sheene did it in a race with that amount of vibration.
The vibration is so much, it goes right through the handlebars, through your hands, up your arms and into your mind.
And so much so that you can't actually feel whether your hands are on the handlebars.
A lot of adrenaline.
There is adrenaline actually seeping out the bottom of my trousers now.
In 1968, Barry was 17 years old and getting podium finishes at professional race meets on his dad's Bultacos.
But he wanted more.
A lot more.
Well, I'd like to win every race that I ride in, be a world champion, be known, generally, as the best motorcycle racer there's ever been.
Be the most popular motorcycle racer there's ever been.
And do the most for this sport that anyone's ever done.
Now he set about his plan for world domination.
What Barry realised very quickly in his racing career was that you need to have top-scale machinery.
You can't It doesn't matter how good you are, if your bike isn't good enough.
And the Bultacos were not really international-standard Grand Prix bikes.
So, Barry persuaded dad Franco to part with £2,000, a huge investment, to buy him an ex-works 125cc Suzuki.
It worked.
And early successes meant he progressed quickly to bigger, more powerful and more prestigious bikes.
And in 1974 the Suzuki GB works team, as ambitious as he was, signed him as their number-one rider.
'Sheene flies ahead.
' He'd made it to the 500cc World Championships.
'Second place makes it a bright day for Barry Sheene 'on his Grand Prix debut for Suzuki.
He finished sixth in his debut season, good work for a rookie rider on an unproven bike.
1975 was predicted to be Barry's breakthrough year.
And he was going to announce it at the pre-season race the whole world watched.
The iconic American endurance event, the Daytona 200.
Now the big thing is Daytona.
If you can win Daytona, your bike is better than anyone else's, your riders are better than anyone else.
Sheene was going shoulder to shoulder with titans of the sport, the best the World Championship had ever produced.
15-time world champion Giacomo Agostini.
And America's number one, Kenny Roberts.
There was nothing that was going to stop Barry from winning.
The bike was right, he was right.
He was so much on top of the world, he was already world champion in his head.
All Barry had to do was get on the track and prove it.
BIKE CLATTERS DOWN THE TRACK MAN: Come on, let's go! Everything was still and quiet and I could feel my back was really, really sore.
I couldn't feel my legs or anything.
And I could feel it was kind of all warm on my back.
And I looked down and I could see blood on the floor and I thought, Oh, God, there's just no way that I'm going to get away with this.
Travelling at 175 miles per hour on his practice lap, Barry's rear tyre had split.
The force threw him over 200 yards along the asphalt.
It was the highest-speed crash in the history of motorcycle racing.
I feel as if I've been barbecued on my arse, on my back, on my shoulders.
Did they ever get to that one on your back? No way.
I didn't tell them about it.
It hurt enough when they was doing the other ones.
Yeah, but you want to get him to look at that real quick because it's in the kidney area, according to that black thing you were wearing.
And it put a hole completely through it.
So, don't put it off for too long.
The day after, I go to see him at the hospital, and I see him look happy, because he said to me, "Oh, ciao.
" I go, "How are you?" But still with his cigarette! So I say, "OK, if he's smoking, it's because he's OK.
" How he dealt with that pain is really hard to imagine.
He was very badly hurt.
His leg was really badly broken.
The courage is conspicuous.
'The chequered flag flies.
'Gene Romero has just won the Dayton 200, 'the world's greatest motorcycle race.
'He'll be pulling into the victory lane' I've got a broken femur, I think you call it.
I busted my, erwrists, just here.
Collarbone and a couple of vertebras.
I've taken a lot of skin off, all in the wrong places! Other than that, I feel brand-new.
Incredibly, just seven weeks after cheating death at Daytona and with an 18-inch pin in his left leg, Barry got back on his bike to race again.
Almost overnight, he became a red, white and blue leather-clad superhero to every British schoolkid.
And growing up in the '70s, that's what he was to me.
MUSIC: Buckets Of Rain by Boy Dylan Now I'm older, though not necessarily wiser, I realise there's got to be more to bionic Barry Sheene than the myth.
I want to find out more about the man behind the visor.
So, I've come to meet the woman who knew him from the beginning Hello, Maggie.
Hi! '.
.
Barry's sister, Maggie.
' Come in.
Come on, let's find out what he was all about.
# I like the smile on your fingertips # I like the way that you move your hips I like the cool way Is that Barry there? Yes.
And that's my mum and my grandma and Barry.
Is that you? Oh, and me! Hello! Wasn't I young?! Did you get on well? Not too bad.
When he was younger, he was horrible.
Because he was We used to fight like cat and dog.
He started smoking at a very young age and he got caught smoking and told Mum and Dad that I'd given him the cigarettes and I hadn't! Ha-ha! How old was he? Or maybe even younger than that! Did he always like to get in front of the camera, then? Yeah.
Yeah.
He was always very self-confident.
There's Franco, reading Motorcycle News.
So your dad was a big influence? A very big influence, yeah.
So if your dad wasn't involved in motorcycles, then Barry, he would have been a star at something else.
Well, yeah.
I can't even think what he would have been because life was always with motorcycles.
But did he want He wanted to be the best, he wanted to be a star? Oh, absolutely.
Absolutely.
And he was very good, actually, Barry, very clever at getting people to do things for him.
Yeah.
But he didn't do it in a nasty way.
He always remembered people's names and he was very good at that side of things.
So he could charm them? Oh, absolutely, yeah.
Yeah, Mr Charm himself.
Yeah.
Very good.
He didn't just demand it, he had ways of No.
He had ways of, erm Persuasion.
Yes.
You know, he was pretty good.
I think he did that most of his life.
Yes, I think you need to be a bit self-centred and .
.
to achieve what he achieved.
Because he did become a world champion and you don't do that just by being a bit complacent.
You know, you've got to You've got to know what you want and want everyone to help you get it.
That's exactly right.
He seemed like he was good fun.
I think I might have got on with him.
You know, a bit of a show-off.
But you would have to admit that he wants stuff and he's going to get what he wants.
So I'm going to have to find out a bit more about that.
1976 would prove to be the year that Barry really got what he wanted.
He wanted to put Daytona behind him, build up his fitness and win the World Championship that he'd been denied.
And he wanted to stay in the headlines.
It's a shame, actually, that you have to go and half kill yourself before you get any publicity out of it.
But I hope I don't have to crash again to stay in the news.
Barry didn't need to worry about that.
The cops are out, they're running about Like millions of others, high-profile model Stephanie Mclean had followed Barry's recuperation on TV and spotted a photo opportunity.
My agent said to me, "We need some new photos of you.
" You know, "Have you got any ideas?" So, I said, "Well, actually, I do.
"I've seen these leathers on this motorcyclist called Barry Sheene "and I think a great shot would be in these leathers, "you know, with the helmet, something strong, you know?" I called him and he says, "I know you, you're the Old Spice girl.
" I said, "Well, I'm ringing up because I want to see if I can do "a photo in some of your leathers.
" And erm he ermsaid, "Yeah, of course.
" OK.
Jolly good.
He said, "Well, can I come over and have a look at them on you?" Somy husband was out, of course, otherwise it wouldn't have happened.
And on that first day, he said, "You do know I'm going to try and get into your pants, don't you?" He said it in such a way that you thought he was kind of joking but he, actually, was deadly serious.
All of a sudden this guy came up to us and he said, "Oh, I'm from the News of the World.
" And I said, "Oh, hi.
I'm from Putney.
" And he said, "Well, look at this.
" And it was the I think it was the Sun or the Daily Mirror and it was a full-page thing on there.
And I couldn't believe it.
That's my private life and my private life's Well, it was my private life, put it that way.
Stephanie became an integral part of Barry's team, from "it girl" to pit girl.
She traded the camera lens for a stopwatch.
You were almost like a possession, you know, of his.
You know, he decided, you know, that he was going to have you and that was it.
He didn't want me to work.
You had to be together all the time.
I mean, I went to every race that he ever did from the time we got together.
Barry was really focused on becoming world champion.
Luckily enough, the first year I was with him it all happened.
And then he thought that I was, you know, his lucky mascot in a way, because he started winning and so he didn't want me not to be there.
'Now the mental pressure is really on.
' To win his first world title, Barry had to dethrone two motorcycling royals, old adversary Giacomo Agostini and Britain's eight-time world champ, Phil Read.
Barry's team, Suzuki, laid on an intimidating show of force for the other teams.
They had about half a dozen mechanics and Japanese mechanics and big transporters.
The whole presentation of Suzuki's was more professional and more impressive.
'Sheene and Read are only inches apart, constantly swapping places 'right to the climax of this classic duel.
'Within sight of the flag, there's nothing in it.
' 'And at the line, it's Sheene who just wins 'by a hair's-breadth tenth of a second.
' Suzuki had built this new square-four RG500 which was now, in '76, had now reached a state of maturity where it was reliable.
'Now Agostini and Sheene 'begin to pull away from the rest of the big field 'to the excitement of the large crowd.
' Everything came together for him then.
His talent was right.
He had the right riding style for the bike and the bike was very much right.
And there was no-one else as fast as him on the Suzuki.
'Sheene gives it everything he's got 'to clock up the fastest lap of the day and puts the pressure on Hartog.
' 'It's fingers crossed 'as Barry really screams the Suzuki to the limit.
' 'Now there's no stopping Sheene as he triumphantly crosses the line.
' Sometimes the best rider in the world doesn't necessarily win the world title.
But Barry, without a doubt, was the best rider in the world in '76.
And a very deserved world title.
'And this win, Barry's fourth, gives him a virtually unassailable lead 'in the 500cc World Championship.
' And it was a lead that would not be overtaken.
With three races to go he was world champion.
TANNOY: Well done, Barry.
Congratulations.
You are flying down to Rio Well, it means a hell of a lot.
It's the biggest prize, if you like, in motorcycle racing, something I've been trying for and it's Well, for the past three or four years and it's got to be the ultimate goal as far as motorcycling racing's concerned.
Well, Barry, as ever, surrounded by people, girls, glamour Do you really enjoy the lifestyle? Oh, yes.
It's nice.
It's not as glamorous as everyone makes out, though, unfortunately.
Now world champion, if Barry thought he was under scrutiny before, the spotlight just got brighter.
Well, Barry was a pop star.
There are not many pop-star sportsmen.
And there certainly weren't up till then.
How's me hair? All right? 'His love of the fast life wasn't just reserved for the track.
'Sheene enjoyed a playboy lifestyle.
' 'And he enjoys the adulation of a growing number of enthusiasts 'and is regarded in much the same way as pop stars.
' I'm trying to think of a picture that's not of Barry that doesn't have a girl or several girls around him and I don't think there's many.
He was always surrounded by women.
Women wanted to be around him.
They were the perfect dream couple.
The perfect sporting couple.
Definitely the first Posh and Becks.
I mean, they really had it all and when you think about Barry and Stephanie in the '70s, they just epitomised the whole decade.
Back in the '70s and early '80s, there was hardly a sportsman on the planet that was more saleable than Barry Sheene.
This stuff's really 100%, you know? Nothing beats the great smell of Brut.
Oh, you just splash it on all over, eh, Henry? Sure.
You know, photoshoots, he knew what to wear, he knew how to smile, he knew how to stand.
because this guy was a pro.
What a way to earn a living! I mean, it's great to be on this side, you know? Barry Sheene made bike racing appointment-to-view television.
It had a massive switch-on and it was because of him.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Barry Sheene.
APPLAUSE He realised that the more domination he had on TV would make motorcycling more interesting, bringing more people in, so they benefited from that.
But he certainly knew that that was going to bring him the spoils.
Barry was world champion.
He had the public behind him.
He had the media behind him.
A powerful position going into the new season.
He did get friendly with Suzuki GB and, honestly, they fully supported him to give them the exposure and publicity and attract the following that Barry brought to them from the fans.
I think that's what some of his team-mates resented.
That's how Barry wanted it, because he had the best bikes and was winning the championships.
Well, after I stopped, of course! Yeah A lot of people have been asking me whether I'd go out into the World Championship this year with the same kind of grit and determination that I did last year.
Well, I'd say that I'd go out with even more determination, because I know now they sit me on kind of a podium and everyone wants to beat me.
With total focus on regaining the title and total power, Barry decided to replace the manager, team-mates and mechanic that had worked with him to win the world title just six months earlier.
In came master technician Martyn Ogborne.
And new team-mates Pat Hennen and Steve Parrish.
He was great at manipulating people and he'd got all these people around him and then the Japanese would come over and, honestly, if Barry had said, "Go and lay on a bed of nails," they'd have done it because they loved Barry Sheene.
Everyone loved Barry Sheene.
He was a smart bloke.
He had his perfect team, his perfect mechanic.
Now he wanted the perfect machine.
And what Barry wanted, Barry got.
'In this crate is a piece of motorcycling history.
'And unpacking it 'is the man Barry entrusted to perfect 'this 1977 World Championship-winning machine' Whoa! Let's get a glimpse.
'.
.
Martyn Ogborne' Shall I get hold of that side? Yeah.
Oh, this has got wedged on.
'.
.
who's going to restore itfor me to ride.
' That's it.
Thank you.
There she lies.
Yeah.
Wow! Look at that.
So this was last ridden in 1977 by Barry? Yes.
Wow! There she is.
It's the same as when you last sorted it out.
Exactly.
Yeah.
The second-generation RG500 Suzuki.
More horsepower and a greater aerodynamic than anything Barry had ridden before.
Does Does she still work? Well, when we take it out the box and put it in the workshop we'll find out, that's the only way to do it.
That needs a bit of work.
Yeah.
We'll bleed that.
That's the first thing I noticed as well.
Let's get it pulled apart and have a look, then.
Yeah.
Then we'll find out.
'And with my technical team talk over, 'I retire to take up my position in the corner.
' Well, it's a very striking bike with a big history, so, erm .
.
I'm slightly daunted about riding this bike but 'This was a bike born out of obsession.
'Suzuki and Martyn's obsession for engineering perfection 'and Barry's obsession with winning.
' So all his input is this, what you see before you now.
What he'd been able to do was perfect the chassis to the way he rode and the way he wanted it.
The engine he tended to leave to us.
When I say "left us", we did the work.
He gave the ideas but we did the work.
So was he a good mechanic? He said he was.
We used to disagree with that.
Right.
Yeah.
Because we used to say, "If a rider picks up a spanner, leave.
" Because the answer is they are good at riding the bikes, we're good at putting them together.
Yeah.
How demanding was he? Incredibly demanding and incredibly selfish.
He had to have exactly what he requested.
So our job was to deliver it, even if it was impossible, even if it meant working all night.
And he just demanded, "I want this, I want this, I want that.
" Did you like him? Sometimes hated him, but we liked him, yeah.
I suppose that's the way it has to work.
It has to.
He was absolutely ruthless.
Sometimes, I've said to him, "You're as dangerous off the track as what you are on it.
" He would just go, "That's what I'm supposed to be.
" So he always got what he wanted? Yes.
Why wouldn't he? He was world champion.
'This is where Sheene's skill really starts to show.
' 'And what we knew had to happen did happen.
'Barry overtook the Venezuelan, to the delight of all his fans.
' 'Barry builds up a lead of three seconds and comes home the winner, 'to the great delight of Stephanie and his father.
' '1977 he won more 500cc Grands Prix than anyone else.
' And sure enough, Barry was crowned world champion for a second time.
1976, Barry Sheene, world champion.
1977, Barry Sheene, world champion.
1978, Barry met his match.
There was a new contender in town.
Kenny Roberts.
The dirt-bike king of the USA.
The stateside superhero, who had his sights set on Barry's World Championship crown.
He'd been brought up in a very tough school and American dirt track racing was tough.
And Kenny knew how to look after himself on and off the track.
Kenny's reputation had reached the championship.
They knew he was fast.
But Barry had more than speed on his side.
SPEAKS SPANISH TRANSLATION: There are riders that can gain an advantage before even starting a race.
Barry was a rider who could get into your head.
At the starting grid, he would get the winner sensation and get into people's minds.
I remember Barry explaining to me at the first race in Venezuela, telling me, "All the racetracks are dirty, you can't run slicks, "you have to run this and" I was like going, BEEP.
Barry could dominate people by just putting his bike on the grid.
You'd look behind, "Oh, God, if Sheene's here, I'm going to lose.
" Suddenly, Kenny'd put his bike at the side of Barry's and Kenny was looking down at Barry, "You'll have to go as fast as I'm going, kid, cos I'm after you.
" But Barry's mind games had no effect on Kenny.
'To a man like Kenny Roberts, winning is everything.
' Sheene was up against someone who was as committed to winning as he was.
And one of the things Kenny did was to enter two classes, he entered 250 and 500.
Riding the 250 only to learn the circuits.
Which showed a special level of dedication.
A mechanical breakdown in that first race in Venezuela handed victory to Sheene.
But then Roberts' exceptional preparation started to pay off.
'After a first exciting flurry, there is a new significant leader, 'Kenny Roberts of America on a Yamaha.
' Initially, Barry looked at every single thing.
He started screaming at the Suzuki mechanics to make his bike faster.
He started screaming at everyone, probably even Stephanie.
"You must have got the times wrong.
He can't be going that fast.
" Unfortunately, he was going that fast.
If it wasn't the bike or Steph's timekeeping, for Barry, there had to be a reason why he wasn't winning.
It couldn't be that Kenny was simply better than him.
That's when he'd come up with the flu, he had a bug, and that's when the little Italian said, "Yeah, the bug is yellow and black and rides a Yamaha.
" If Barry Sheene wasn't racing then and wasn't who he was, I wouldn't have been as sharp as I was, there would have been no need.
I got up every day to beat Barry Sheene.
He was the world champion.
As the season continued, Barry fought back to within three points of Roberts.
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone would prove decisive.
'Race day, and more than 100,000 fans are here to see 'the duel between the home favourite, Barry Sheen, 'and challenger Kenny Roberts.
' I need to beat Roberts here, that's for sure.
How do you feel about that? Oh, OK.
You know, I feel confident.
I've got to beat him.
It doesn't really matter if it's three points or 20, I'm still going to try to win the race.
As Sheene pulled up to the starting grid, he knew, if he failed to win, his dream of a hat-trick of championship titles was over.
The race had barely begun when a torrential rainstorm threw everything into confusion.
'There are skid hazards and the pace slackens.
'The whole field senses the danger.
' 'Some riders keep their slicks and carry on.
'Others, like Barry Sheene, have already pulled into the pits 'for a change to wet weather tyres.
'Time and laps are lost when the riders rejoin the race.
' In the pit-stop chaos, race officials lost track of the riders' race positions.
'The pit-stoppers lap the laggers and are counterlapped by others.
'Nobody seems to know who is what or where.
'But, at the finish, Kenny Roberts of America is judged the winner.
' It was Roberts who eventually took the chequered flag and with it went Barry's title hopes.
'The man who came to Europe knowing almost nothing of the circuits 'or of Grand Prix racing has won the World Championship.
' Very soon, I'd be sitting astride Barry's 1977 World Championship RG at Oliver's Mount race circuit.
But I was feeling underprepared.
I needed some more guidance from Steve Parrish, my mentor.
So, he's summoned me to Mallory Park, to experience riding on a professional racetrack at speed.
You! You, there! Remove your helmet! Steve.
Are you ready for this? Because we're going to go out on the track and this is very serious, because you have to be able to lean the bike, to be able to brake properly, to be able to use the clutch properly.
Yeah.
I think I'd better get out before I get too nervous to actually step onto the track.
The Kawasaki ZX-636R is a race-prepared road bike.
As close as I was allowed to get to a modern racing machine before I tackled Barry's RG.
Steve wanted me to experience the twists and turns of a racetrack with modern technology to help me round.
Deep breaths.
Good luck.
ENGINE REVS Now you can change up - 2nd and 3rd gear.
'But this gear change felt alien.
'So did the speed and the cornering.
'Even the riding position was a challenge.
' 'Sheene's skill through the bends is exceptional.
'It looks so easy when you see him doing it, 'but just try doing it yourself.
' I'm just getting cramp in my leg.
Hang on.
Stretching it out.
'A style like his doesn't develop all on its own, 'and it's his style which takes him to victory after victory.
' I'm going to peel off and wave you by, all right? Yep.
Open it up.
'I was starting to enjoy it, but then this modern machine was 'a purring pussycat compared with Barry's brutal Grand Prix Suzuki.
' Barry probably wouldn't have been as patient as I am.
He'd have been saying, "Get out there and twist the throttle "and go as hard as you possibly can," and maybe laughed if you'd fell off.
'But fall off I did not.
In fact, I hit 140 on the straights.
' It's all come back to me, you know.
The speed and the urgency.
HE LAUGHS It's a very urgent sport, isn't it, motor racing? Ooh.
'And they're off! A fantastic start as they stream 'out of the stadium!' 1979, and Sheene was desperate to regain the World Championship title he'd lost to Kenny Roberts.
'And Sheene's passed Roberts!' Throughout the season, the two heavyweights slugged it out on the track.
'Lap 3 at Cascades, Roberts is out on his own.
' Kenny powered ahead on points.
Sheene's last chance to get back in contention rested on the penultimate race of the season.
And again, Silverstone would be the stage for an epic showdown.
Barry was under immense pressure.
Another three-quarters of an inch.
Don't you people have enough to do? We have enough to do on a race day without stupid things.
Why the bloody hell didn't they sort it out when it first came through? They never said a word, they stamped it yesterday and the day before, and now on race day you want to start causing problems.
BLEEP! All the ingredients were there for the greatest race in the sport's history.
'And look at Barry Sheene doing an absolutely monumental wheelie!' The British Grand Prix at Silverstone was one of the most exciting races I have ever seen in my life.
'And the crowd rises, the crowd roars.
And Barry Sheene leads! 'The battle is well and truly on, 'if it wasn't on before!' I don't think you could write the script for that race.
Lap after lap, the two rode within inches of each other, reaching speeds of 180mph.
'Look at the speed of that Yamaha, 'because Roberts goes straight past Virginio Ferrari 'and takes third position and is now closing right up on Barry Sheene.
' I was happy following him, but I would motion up, "Hey, get going, they're catching us! Get going.
' 'Roberts' hand off the throttle there' Kenny and I were having such a close race, not more than probably two feet apart the whole race at 180mph.
And Kenny was waving his finger at me, joking, and I was waving at him.
And that's when the two fingers came up.
'And look at that! Barry Sheene waves to Kenny Roberts!' He didn't wave, he didn't wave - that's not waving, Murray! That's the funniest-looking wave I've ever seen! After almost 82 miles of epic riding, they were still neck and neck as they approached the final corner.
'Kenny Roberts goes into Abbey.
'It's that close, you can hardly divide them on the stopwatch.
'It's going to be one of the closest Grand Prix finishes 'for a very, very long time.
' I went through that corner flat on the tank in 5th gear.
Didn't expect Barry to come round me on the outside.
'The chequered flag is out Kenny Roberts 'And Barry Sheene is gaining, gaining, gaining! 'And there is less than a machine's length in it, 'with a fantastic race 'And Kenny Roberts won the 1979 Marlboro British Grand Prix 'at record speed.
'There he says, "Phew," as he shakes his head.
' You know, it wasn't just the fact that I had to race against somebody that was really talented.
Winning a race, I don't care who gets second.
It was an epic thing because it was Barry Sheene.
As the '80s dawned, Barry was more hungry than ever to reclaim his position as number-one rider in the world.
When I was young it seemed that life was so wonderful He left Suzuki, and joined Roberts at archrivals Yamaha.
But he forfeited his position as number-one rider, and with it the control he once had.
For two years he was unhappy with the bikes he was given.
Then, in July 1982, Barry finally secured one that could match the leading riders - Yamaha's V4.
I got a bike that suits me.
At the beginning of last year I started to ride for Yamaha factory, and I was riding a bike that was made for Kenny Roberts.
Now I'm riding a bike that's made for Barry Sheene.
And there's the difference.
And the Grand Prix at Silverstone was where he would stage his comeback.
It was a practice day, was it? An unofficial practice day.
Unofficial practice day.
Where were you? I was onpit wall.
Which was over there.
Over where the old pits were.
Just doing a bit of timekeeping.
My son Roman was with me, and he said, "There's smoke," and I said, "Well, it's just a bonfire or something," andthe next thing Barry hadn't come round.
Somebody told me that Kenny Roberts had come in and he was crying his eyes out, and it wasn't very often that Kenny cried for Barry.
So that was the first you knew about it? Yeah, that was the first, and everybody came running up.
You know, I never went out to accident sites so you never really saw, you know, people falling off their bikes and stuff, so it was the first time I'd seen .
.
a scene of a crash.
Yeah.
And it just happens to be Barry.
Sheene had collided with a fallen bike that lay on the track.
He was thrown 200 yards, skidding across the Tarmac, as his bike burst into flame.
So there was debris all the way - it looked like a bomb had gone off.
Barry was sort of lying three-quarters Sort of round here somewhere.
.
.
of the way on the track.
I just took one look at him and I thought he was dead.
And everybody, I think, thought he was dead.
You know, because the way he was lying, it was just That was it.
NEWSREADER: At Northampton General Hospital, he was eight hours in surgery.
It needed 26 steel bolts to put his legs back together again.
The man who put them in - consultant surgeon Nigel Cobb.
The leg injuries are very severe.
Probably among the most serious fractures that one can have.
Barry used to talk a lot about what he knew of the accident.
And he says he can just remember coming around the bend.
He shot forward and he thought to himself, "Oh, my God, I hope my goolies are intact!" That was all that worried him - he wasn't worried about his knees or his head.
The important bits were what worried Barry.
And fortunately we can tell you, they were perfectly all right.
Well, you haven't lost your touch, Barry.
I hope to get more than a touch tonight - it's been a month! NEWSREADER: Barry Sheene was back on the racetrack today, just eight months after a crash at Silverstone shattered both his legs and threatened to end his career.
For him to get back on a motorcycle again and do what he did was pretty impressive for me.
Cos he didn't need to do it, but he wanted to do it.
And that was Barry Sheene.
'Sheene managed 10th place.
'It was everything he'd been hoping for.
' It's sad to have to say it for so great a rider and so great a personality, but I don't think Barry was ever the same again after that dreadful crash at Silverstone.
I think Barry had had his turn.
He was in talks with people, but he couldn't get a good factory bike.
The bikes were going to other riders, you know, who were proving themselves.
In 1985, Barry Sheene retired from professional motorcycle racing.
He had brief forays into different motor sports, but nothing could replace his days in the Grand Prix.
I'd burned my competitive thing out, as far as sport was concerned, with the bike thing.
I couldn't take anything really seriously after that.
With a climate that he hoped suited his aching, injured bones, Barry emigrated to Australia with his young family and reinvented himself as a commentator.
He made a valedictory visit to the UK in September 2002.
'Sheene is up there, Sheene is at his shoulder, 'and he drifts it right the way out there.
'And Barry Sheene now leads the race.
' Because six months later, after a battle with throat and stomach cancer, the motorcycling world lost a legend.
NEWSREADER: Tributes have been paid to the 1970s sporting icon Barry Sheene, who's died of cancer at the age of 52.
I'm reaching the end of my journey with Barry Sheene.
But before I say goodbye, I've come back to where it all started for me.
Oliver's Mount in Scarborough, where, every year, Sheene fans flock in their thousands.
It's where I first saw him, and where I'll pay tribute, riding his 1977 World Championship-winning RG500.
I used to come here as a teenager with me mates and we used to go around LOUD ENGINE Look, there's the ambulance.
He's a bit early.
They're looking at me, though, with hunger in their eyes, cos they know they've got a good job there! It's not flat, like Mallory or Silverstone or anything, it's a proper hilly track.
I think Barry Sheene did about 170 or something down the back there, which is unbelievable.
I wouldn't want to do that, and I'm not.
If you take the zero off, you're somewhere near it.
This is the bike that averaged 135mph at Spa in 1977.
A Grand Prix record that has never been beaten.
A 180mph growling beast.
An irreplaceable piece of racing history.
But if I wasn't nervous enough, Barry's son Freddie had come to see it in action.
It's been living in Australia for the last 25 years.
So it's going to be nice to actually see it out on track for once.
You've never seen it in battle? No.
I've never seen it run.
Never heard it? No, never heard it, so today's the first day for that.
It'll be good, good to see you out on it.
So here it is.
Yeah.
Does this feel like it's this famous bike? Yeah, it does and it doesn't.
When it's at home you don't really feel that, but when it's here and it pulls a crowd just for what it was, and him being on it Now it's in its element.
So psychologically it feels like it's at home.
Yeah, exactly, yeah.
All I can say is just take it easy and be kind on it, I guess.
I'll try.
Those hairpins can catch you out, so take it steady, eh? I'll go really easy.
But fast! After all my preparation .
.
the moment of truth had arrived.
OVER LOUDSPEAKER: So down there, we have a bike and a rider.
Freddie is looking on at his dad's championship-winning bike.
The day's racing had been called to a halt so I could take to the track, and Barry's fans had stayed to watch.
'Here we go, helmet's on, gloves are on.
' I was as ready as I would ever be.
I just hoped I could do Barry justice.
'All systems go.
' 'For once his start was perfect.
'This is where Sheene's skill really starts to show.
' So here I was, in Barry's colours, on Barry's bike.
And it was biting and clawing to get away.
'Sheene's skill through the bends is exceptional.
' But incredibly I realised I was in control, taking corners that made professionals wince and loving it.
'And what we knew HAD to happen DID happen.
'Barry overtook the Venezuelan, to the delight of all his fans.
' Barry Sheene is a god to anyone that rides a bike.
Full stop.
Because he made it very special.
He made it very sexy.
'And Barry Sheene is gaining, gaining, gaining! 'And there is less than a machine's length in it.
' Much, much less exciting place, now that he's gone.
That combination of astuteness and speed Hard to beat.
Who's going to be the next Barry Sheene? There will never be another Barry Sheene.
Life's a lot quieter without him, that's for sure.
'It could well be that Barry Sheene 'Yes, at the end of the lap! 'And the crowd rises, the crowd roars!' CHEERING I did it.
Before I did all this, my idea of Barry Sheene, my image, was when I'd seen him riding around here and on TV.
I always thought it was like a kind of pop star on wheels.
And it looks easy, cos he makes it look easy because he's that good.
But, you know, having done this, I know that he was ruthless and he had to win and He went to extremes and there was no holds barred, sohats off to Barry.
# I picture a rainbow # You held it in your hands # I had flashes # But you saw the plan # I wandered out in the world for years # While you just stayed in your room # I saw the crescent You saw the whole of the moon.