Monday, September 14

GRAND PRIX STARS TO GRACE BARRY SHEENE FESTIVAL

No less than six stars of the two-stroke era in Grand Prix racing will grace the QBE Barry Sheene Festival of Speed (BSFoS) event set down for March 17-20, 2016.

This marks the 11th Anniversary of the event, inaugurated to celebrate the life of 1976 and '77 World 500 Champion Barry Sheene, who died from cancer in 2003.  Sheene had been living on Queensland's Gold Coast for many years, had been a commentator for the Channel Nine motorcycle Grand Prix coverage and also worked as a commentator at Touring Car race events in Australia.  He was thus a familiar face in lounge rooms around the Wide Brown Land.


Two-time World 500 Champion Freddie Spencer
 leads the star-studded line-up for the 2016 
Barry Sheene Festival of Speed.
Leading the glittering line-up at the Australian event is two-time World 500 Champion Freddie Spencer of the USA.  Spencer first won the 500 title in 1983 and won it again in 1985, the year he also clinched the World 250 Championship racing a special V-twin factory Honda.

Alongside Spencer from the USA is Texan Kevin Schwantz, whose GP career overlaps that of Spencer.  It is fitting Schwantz should be appearing at an event memorialising the achievements of English rider Barry Sheene as it was Sheene who got Schwantz his first ride on a 500cc four cylinder two-stroke.

That was after Sheene had witnessed Schwantz's performances in the Anglo-American Match Race Series in Britain in 1986.  Sheene was one of the television commentators and after the races he asked Schwantz if he would like to ride a 500.  Schwantz was keen so Sheene persuaded Heron Suzuki's Denys Rohan to get one of his old bikes out of the museum and let Schwantz race it at the Race of the Year at Mallory Park.  Schwantz scored a pair of second places in his debut ride on a GP bike so Sheene then organised for Schwantz to race the Dutch, Belgian and Italian rounds of the World 500 Championship later that year.


Texan Kevin Schwantz will be riding his World 500
Championship winning 500 Suzuki...
That led to more wild card rides for Suzuki in 1987 and then in 1988 Schwantz joined the Grand Prix series as a full-time rider.  He started 1988 winning the Daytona 200 on his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R750 then won the opening race of the GP season in Japan.  He was on his way.

Joining Schwantz and Spencer is one of Sheene's closest friends, Steve 'Stavros' Parrish, who also raced the World 500 Championship and went on to be a GP team manager as well as a noted truck racer, television commentator and stand-up comedian.


Steve Parrish will undoubtedly add a touch of humour 

to the occasion...




Also on the roster for the Festival of Speed is four times world champion Kork Ballington of South Africa - a multiple 250 and 350 GP race winner who later raced the unruly KR500 square four Kawasaki as well.

Rounding out the group of Stars is New Zealand's own Graeme Crosby. 

There's some history between the New Zealander and Schwantz.  As a 19-year-old Schwantz was drafted into the Yoshimura Suzuki team to contest the 1985 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8-Hour race in Japan - alongside the by then retired Crosby.  After two days trying to match Crosby's times, Schwantz said, "I've never heard of this old guy, but dang he's fast!"



Graeme Crosby.



The Barry Sheene Festival of Speed, promoted by the Post Classic Racing Association of New South Wales, is celebrating its 11th anniversary in 2016. 

The BSFoS is much more than just a motorcycle race… with the death of Barry in 2003 the meeting was born out of the recognition of not simply Barry’s achievements but moreover his love of motorcycling.

The event showcases riders from bygone eras and the machines on which they honed their skills.  It is a celebration of Sheene’s life and memory in a way he would appreciate: fun, friendship - and rivalry on the track.

The event organisers are planning an informal question and answer session between the six star riders and fans on the Friday evening of the event and there is also talk of a dinner with the riders on Saturday night.

Right now Kiwi Rider's man in Wanganui Robert Cochrane is calling for expressions of interest from New Zealand GP fans who would like to attend.  He plans an all-inclusive package of trans-Tasman airfares, hotel accommodation, ground transport, some special guests plus some other attractions.

Contact him here - or telephone him: 022 154 0334 or 06 343 7585


Kork Ballington