Nobody wins a World Championship without special gifts. There has never been a champion with as many special gifts as Barry Sheene.
It takes a while even to list the most obvious. He was pretty handy at riding a motorcycles, for a start – born to it. But that was only the start.
Sheene was larger than life in so many other ways. Ruthless competitor, merciless rival, faithful friend, wit and raconteur, the shrewdest of smart operators, super-powered charmer, self-made superstar, fighter against injustice, hero at facing appalling injury, acid-tongued commentator, fountain of wicked humor, helicopter pilot, family man. And most of all, able to generate a stardom that reached far beyond the world of racing into the heart of his nation, and ultimately the world.
If there is equivalent, it is another natural charmer Valentino Rossi. But there is an important difference. Sheene never forgot that he owed his journey from jumped-up London kid to the Rolls-Royce lifestyle not just to his talent, but to his fans. Right to the end, Barry put hours and days and his heart and soul into developing a personal relationship with them.
The reward is an adulation that has survived long after his tragically early death at only 52, 10 years ago on March 10.