Barry Sheene, one of the biggest bike sports stars of the 70s, a household name who won two 500cc world motorcycle titles and exploded his way onto the evening news. Flamboyant, charming, rude and absolutely brilliant, he was the eccentric socialite everyone would like.
1. He drilled a hole in his helmet so that he could smoke
That hole in his chin bar was proof of a pack-a-day habit that undoubtedly bestowed to his cancer. Sheene had been smoking since the age of nine, even while he was suffering from chronic asthma, and was rarely without a Gauloise. The first thing he asked for after his 175mph horror crash at Daytona to the nurse after he came to was "a fag".
2. He was dubbed "bionic" after his second near death crash
He hit a stricken 250cc rider, Patrick Igoa, in practice for the British Grand Prix in 1982 at 165mph. They ended up in neighboring hospital beds. This time there were metal plates and 27 screws. Yet the invincible Sheene returned and still made the podium in his final year in 1984.
3. He once broke into a house
In his later years he formed a high-jinks prank gang named “The Squadron” with a bunch of friends including Steve Parrish, former motorcycle and truck racer who is now a motorsport commentator and speaker. Once they underwent a clandestine rescue mission to reclaim £250-worth of goods owed to Sheene’s housekeeper by a former boyfriend. They broke into the house and then made their getaway in a Rolls-Royce.
4. He ruined his best friend's chance of winning a grand prix
Sheene had already concluded the 1977 title defense by the time of the British Grand Prix. After retiring, he watched his great friend, Steve Parish, head towards victory. From the corner of his eye, Parrish saw his best friend with a message board at the start of his last lap. “Gas it wanker”, Sheene had written. Parrish did and crashed.