MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
A tale of two 170mph crashes – 46 years apart
Marc Márquez walked away from his 170mph tumble at Silverstone, while Barry Sheene spent weeks in hospital after his 170mph accident at Daytona in 1975. The big difference? Huge advances in riding kit
In March 1975 British youngster Barry Sheene was in Florida, USA, trying to conquer the Daytona 200, at that time the biggest motorcycle race of them all.
Sheene was a factory Suzuki rider, equipped with XR11 two-stroke triples, powered by heavily tuned 115-horsepower GT750 road-bike engines. These big two-strokes represented a seismic and overnight shift in performance, from 155mph British four-stroke 750s to 175mph Japanese two-stroke 750s.
If the riders were somewhat scared of these new weapons – liable to seize their engines or break into tank-slappers at any moment – the tyre engineers were terrified. Because they held the lives of the riders in their hands.
Quite simply the tyres weren’t good enough for the motorcycles, so they kept blowing apart at high speed and flinging riders to the ground.
And this is what happened to Sheene – at around 170mph – as he tore around the Daytona banking during pre-200 testing.
“I remember thinking, oh God,” said the 24-year-old in a documentary made by ITV about his Daytona campaign. “I was rolling and I could feel all my skin coming off. I didn’t feel the leg because all I could feel was the skin tearing off my shoulders and that. When I stopped, I thought, Christ, I’m still alive – it didn’t kill me, didn’t even knock me out. I went to get up and looked down, and my leg was right-angled, poking under the other one.
“If I’d been a racehorse I would’ve been shot.”
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.