AUG 21st 2015

Video: Flat‑Out and Fearless ‑ Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts

1979 was a key year in the history of motorcycle racing. General dissatisfaction between the riders and the FIM with regard to the way they felt they were treated led to some of the top participants refusing to take part in the Belgian Grand Prix, Honda made a return to the fray after an 11 year sabbatical and the British Grand Prix served up one of the finest races ever on two wheels …

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Remember that Roberts and Sheene ‘hated each other’ according to the American. Certainly there was a strong underlying current of respect between the two aces, although they never let this spill over into any form of pleasant acquaintance. On-track, it was war.

Mere minutes before the off at the British Grand Prix and things looked grim for Roberts whose motor coated his machine with oil. The Yamaha crew remedied the problem, but Roberts started the race with oil on his gloves. Not ideal. At the start it was Wil Hartog who got away first with Sheene and Roberts in close company. For a time it looked like the three of them would be passing and re-passing each other for the entire distance, but as the race wore on the Dutchman steadily fell away from the leading pair who were trading more than just race position. See at 3:38 a not-so-subtle form of… ahem… ‘communication’ from the Englishman!

As ever we’ll stop short of spoiling the ending for anybody not familiar with the outcome but, rest assured, this clip does the 2015 Festival of Speed theme great justice. What’s more, in just a few weeks time Goodwood will host its annual tribute to Barry Sheene with the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy at the Revival meeting. Oh to have been able to ask the great man his memories of this epic race …

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