David Thorpe Photography

Professional Pix

Pictures for Money

Here's Barry sheene on his RG500 Suzuki. I think this was during the 1977 year when he won the world title for the second time and it was bought by Athena for use on a poster.

I'd ridden motorcycles myself so after doing a couple of 'at homes' with Barry I got to know him a bit. He was a really likeable man who knew the value of his sunny nature to sponsors and endorsement income. Before Sheene, motorcycle racing was a greasers sport and had little of the glamour of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing. Barry added pizzazz with his good looks and his Rolls-Royce and his liking for beautiful women. He didn't ride motorcycles on public roads - he thought it too dangerous. One day, on my Honda on the way down to his house in Surrey I hit a patch of oil on the road at Hampton Court and slid half-way across the road. I was still feeling shaky when I arrived at Barry's house. When I arrived I told him about the slide - his response was to sit me down and make me a cup of coffee. And then show me the footage of his near fatal crash at Daytona a couple of years before. Thanks Barry!

Incidentally, he had the most exquisite house, in Surrey and furnished with real style, that English style which is of beautiful quality, slightly dog-eared. I always said that if I were ever to make any money, that house and its tastefulness is what I would want.

Barry was a mate of James Hunt, the F1 driver and Sheene was disparaging about Hunt's living in Spain for tax avoidance reasons. In his opinion, what was the point of earning vast amounts of money if it led you to live somewhere you didn't like?

One day at his house, we'd been shooting pictures for half an hour when he asked me if I'd do him a favour. He'd been wearing a Seiko watch in the pictures but suddenly remembered he was contracted to wear a Rolex. Would I mind re-shooting the pictures with the watches swapped. Normally, you'd have to shy away - too inconvenient - but with his easy manner and likeability, how could anyone say no?

It was very sad when he died of cancer in 2003.