HERE COMES BARRY | In this issue
Barry Sheene’s world championship adventure began 50 years ago this month. For the first time, here’s the full story of that historic event
Barry Sheene very nearly didn’t become a motorcycle racer. When he was a teenager he was happiest with a spanner in his hand. By the time he was 14 he was already on the grand prix trail, bunking off school to join the Continental Circus, fettling a Matchless G50 and AJS 7R belonging to American privateer Tony Woodman.
“The pull of racing was never strong in those days,” he wrote in his 1977 autobiography The Story So Far…
“Contentment for me was simply to make ready or put right interesting motorcycles.”
Sheene spent much of his youth tinkering with bikes in his dad’s workshop, which came with Frank’s job as maintenance man at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Frank had raced Nortons at Brooklands in the 1930s and Norton, BSA, Douglas and AJS machines on the Isle of Man in the 1950s, before going two-stroke, first with Italian Itoms, then Bultacos.
Sheene had his first go on a racetrack when he was 15, illegally, of course. The historic event happened at Brands Hatch, where he was allowed to run in bikes for his dad and British champion Dave Croxford.
“We used to go down to Brands in my yellow E-Type Jag, with me G50 on a trailer,” remembers Croxford, who won four British titles in the 1960s. “It was four quid a session, so I’d pay the money and Barry would put my lid on and run me bikes in for me. The G50 was a bit alien to him after his dad’s Bultaco, but he was only running it in.”
Get into the current issue on sale now for Mat Oxley’s story of Barry Sheene’s early years…