Two-time world champion Barry Sheene was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame during a star-studded awards ceremony at the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park Clubhouse on 7 June. Sheene topped a 12-strong shortlist following a public vote, beating such names as Joey Dunlop, Mike Hailwood, Soichiro Honda, Wayne Rainey and Geoff Duke.
The legendary Englishman joins fellow inductees Giacomo Agostini, John McGuinness, Valentino Rossi and the late, great John Surtees. ‘Fast Freddie’ Spencer demonstrated Sheene’s 1976 500cc title-winning Suzuki on the Captain’s Drive, and later presented the award to Sheene’s sister Margaret Smart and his former engineer Martyn Ogborne.
“It’s amazing to be awarded this,” said Smart. “I’m thrilled to bits.”
“World champions are different from normal people,” added Ogborne. “They will pull off the move that makes you think, ‘Ooh’ – because there is no second place in a champion’s mind.”
Spencer raced against Sheene in the early 1980s and added his own memories: “In 1980, I was 18 and had never raced outside the US. I came over for a match race and won, beating Barry – but he was the first person to come up afterwards and say, ‘Good job’. Then, in 1982, I was signing autographs with him and we’d been there about an hour. I began to stir and he said, ‘Where are you going? We stay here until the last person has their signature’. That was the Barry I knew.”
Stuart Graham and Charley Boorman were among the famous names present to see the incomparable Murray Walker – whose father Graham raced Norton, Rudge and Sunbeam motorcycles through the 1920 and 30s – be presented with the Inspiration Award by 1992 Formula 1 world champion Nigel Mansell. Walker remembered that his first visit to the Isle of Man TT was in 1925, and credited his father with providing his own inspiration and enthusiasm.
The Henry Surtees Foundation was the event’s official charity partner, with baker-turned-racer Paul Hollywood enjoying an emotional outing on an ex-John Surtees 1960 MV Agusta. “John was so excited when I started racing, and became a mentor for me after I did the Racing Legends TV show with him. When I tested the ‘bike at Brands Hatch, my natural reaction was to pick up the phone and talk it through with him – and then it hit me again that I couldn’t.
“The gears are on the right-hand side, which is opposite to all the other ‘bikes I’ve ridden, but it handles beautifully and sounds amazing. At Brands, I just didn’t want to come in. John basically redesigned it from the ground up to make it more balanced – he knew it inside-out, and was a proper mechanic. I can remember him warming it up with one hand on the throttle and the other on the engine, feeling when it got to the right temperature. What a man.”
“Our top three of Dunlop, Hailwood and Sheene was very strong,” said Mat Oxley of Motor Sport magazine, “and each was hugely popular in their own way. Sheene was very brave and very hard-working, got the right people around him, and had the ability to make things happen. He was also one of those people who lit up a room – he was a performer.”