Sheene insanity

Ex-champ’s helmet sold for £15,625

AT Bonhams Stafford auction over the weekend a Barry Sheene fan forked out an astounding £15,625 for a helmet that the former GP champion raced and crashed in.

But is it what it seems?

Some news sites have been saying that the helmet in question was the one that Sheene was wearing during his bone-crunching crash while testing at Daytona in 1975. It was that accident that made Sheene an international celebrity and a British icon, as a documentary film crew happened to be on hand to record it at what was otherwise a closed test. The images and footage spread worldwide and Sheene’s recovery was closely followed by the press, allowing a non-biking audience a glimpse of his grit and humour.

However, it’s unclear whether the helmet sold at the weekend was in fact the one from that accident.

The catalogue description on Bonhams’ site certainly steers clear of presenting it as fact, saying: ‘The first to carry his famous number '7', this helmet was presented by Barry in 1975 to Merv Wright, Suzuki race-team manager, as being the one he wore in his infamous Daytona crash of that year. Research suggests that this helmet was also worn while riding for Suzuki at various races during the 1974 season, including the Daytona 200 and possibly previous and subsequent seasons, and that Sheene also wore it during the 1974 Swedish Grand Prix where he had a spectacular spill in the rain, taking out Giacomo Agostini and thus gathering the visible 'scars' to the back of this helmet.’

When the same helmet was sold in 2008, also by Bonhams, it was described slightly differently, seeming to cast doubt on the Daytona heritage: ‘The first helmet to carry his famous number '7', Barry presented it to Merv Wright in 1975 as being the one he wore in his infamous Daytona crash. Recent research, however, suggests that he actually wore it during the 1974 Daytona 200 and subsequent season. He also wore it during the 1974 Swedish Grand Prix where he had a spectacular spill - in the rain - also taking out Giacomo Agostini, thus gathering the ‘scars’ on this helmet.’

Back then, the lid achieved little more than a third of its latest sale price, going for £5520.

Could it have been worn during the Daytona crash in 1975? Pictures and video footage show the helmet worn at that time had larger ‘7’ decals on the sides, in a different font, and slight differences in the rest of the design. They also show that there was no accident damage on the helmet prior to the 1975 Daytona crash, whereas this one is said to be scarred from the 1974 Swedish GP months earlier.

Pictures from Daytona a year earlier, in 1974, do show Sheene wearing a helmet just like this one, with identical decals. It seems unlikely that it would have been repainted for 1975, crashed in and then reverted to its 1974 spec following the Daytona crash.

The Bonhams sale also saw the gloves Sheene wore during his later crash at Silverstone in 1982 going for a crazy £1,187.

Previous results for Sheene race helmets included a 1980 lid that sold for £3,125 in 2013, a 1981 AGV that went for £6,875 the same year and a 1970s Bell that sold in 2008 for £3,220. The latest auction suggests all those buyers got bargains.

If you’ve got Sheene memorabilia, maybe now’s the time to get it out of the loft and put it up for sale – if you’re of a mind to.

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