H&H to Auction Joey Dunlop & Barry Sheene ex-Works Racing Motorcycles

. April 8, 2008

With some seven World Championships between them Ulsterman Joey Dunlop and Londoner Barry Sheene are remembered as two of the greatest riders ever to have sat astride a motorcycle. Divided by temperament but united by talent, each was a legendary figure within the sport and retains a legion of fans to this day. Dating from the start of Dunlop’s Works career and the end of Sheene’s, H&H will be putting three very special bikes under the hammer at The Royal Hall, Harrogate on Wednesday April 16th 2008.

‘King of the Roads’

The odds of anyone ever surpassing Joey Dunlop’s record of twenty-six TT victories are microscopic. A measure of his dominance around the Isle of Man circuit, the great man not only achieved the fabled ‘triple’ in 1985 by winning that year’s Junior, Senior and F1 races but also repeated this remarkable feat in 1988 and 2000. A highly versatile racer characterised by a super-smooth riding style that allowed him to excel on bikes of any engine size, Dunlop also topped the podium at twenty-four Ulster Grand Prix and thirteen North West 200 meetings not mention capturing the F1 World Championship title an incredible five times.

One of the bikes which helped Dunlop achieve F1 supremacy, the 1982 Honda RS1000 being offered for sale has been authenticated by his contemporary Works mechanic, George Rowlingson. Specially built for Dunlop by the newly formed Honda Racing Corporation and supplied via Honda Britain, the bike is a veritable work of art. Based around a lightweight steel frame and powered by a titanium-filled short-stroke 998cc four-cylinder engine, it is finished in period correct livery right down to the appropriate sponsorship decals. Shy, retiring and modest to a fault, Dunlop was also somewhat superstitious always riding with a red t-shirt under his leathers and a signature yellow helmet. A Honda stalwart, the part-time publican enjoyed a special relationship with the Works from 1982 right up until his untimely death in 2000. A great bike ridden by a great man, the RS1000 carries a saleroom estimate of £90,000 – £100,000.

‘Lucky Number 7’

Unlike Dunlop, Barry Sheene had no particular love for the 37-mile long Isle of Man TT course once commenting that: “This is not racing, it’s a suicide mission”. Plain talking and hard living – at one stage his race helmet famously carried a drill hole so that he could smoke on the grid – Sheene’s public profile was more in keeping with that of a rock star than a motorcycle racer. Indeed, his promised presence at a race meeting was reputedly capable of generating an extra 10,000 ticket sales! Yet for all the swagger and ruthless self-promotion, he was both blindingly quick and immensely brave. It was this latter quality that arguably endeared him most to the public.

Enduring two gut wrenchingly horrific accidents during ten years of competition in motorcycling’s ‘Blue Riband’ class, the 500cc World Championship, Sheene bounced back from the first to win the 1976 and 1977 World Championships with Suzuki. The second, however, which happened during practice for the 1982 British Grand Prix (just as he seemed poised for a third title) should undoubtedly have ended his career. Despite being rendered immobile for almost five months and parting ways with Yamaha, Sheene managed to talk his way back into the Works Suzuki squad. Unable to finish the 1983 World Championship higher than fourteenth, Sheene’s swansong season the following year saw him placed sixth overall.

Dating from the last two years of his 500cc World Championship career, the 1983 Suzuki XR40 and 1984 Suzuki XR45 offered for sale are both finished in their correct blue over white livery and adorned with Sheene’s ‘Lucky Number 7’. Beautifully engineered, each is a reminder of that golden two-stroke GP500 era in which Barry Sheene played such an important role. The older of the two bikes carries a saleroom estimate of £60,000 – £70,000, while the younger one – which is reputedly the last Works Suzuki that Sheene rode – is guided at £70,000 – £80,000.

Although, unable to boast a rider of the stature of Dunlop or Sheene, the fourth ex-Works Racing motorcycle included in the April 16th sale, a 1979 Honda RS1000 Endurance, did manage to win the hugely important 1979 Suzuka 8-hour race and lead most of the 1979 Bol d’Or. Part of a private collection for many years and adorned with a host of bespoke RCB parts, it has been estimated at £80,000 – £90,000. While, those with shallower pockets but an appreciation of race-bred engineering could well be tempted by the Bennett Engineering-built Benelli four-cylinder replica, Triumph Trident or two Suzuki RG500 bikes that are on offer.

For more information please contact H&H direct on 01925 730 630 or info@handh.co.uk

Category: Auction News

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