Bennetts Suzuki racers Tommy Bridewell and Ryuichi Kiyonari will run a special Barry Sheene inspired livery at this weekend's British Superbike Championship round at Brands Hatch, to mark the 40th anniversary of the legendary Londoner's first 500cc world title.
On track, the officially-supported Suzuki GB squad will run their GSX-R1000s in a red, black and white colourscheme reminiscent of the Heron Suzuki RG500s that Sheene raced so flamboyantly to the 1976 and 1977 500cc Grand Prix world titles, while Barry's actual race bikes will be available for fans to see in a special tribute area in the Brands Hatch paddock.
The two RG500s are currently touring the UK after spending several decades at the Sheene family home on Australia's Gold Coast. In addition to their public display at Brands Hatch, the bikes will be the star attraction at next month's British MotoGP round at Silverstone, where a wider collection of Sheene's bikes will be on display in a dedicated classic area that will also feature the revived Yamaha Pro-Am series and a number of other historically significant Grand Prix bikes from through the ages.
Bennetts Suzuki Team Owner, Martin Halsall, said: “Like so many, Barry Sheene was a hero of mine and the reason I got into bike racing. I remember lusting after Suzukis through the glass of the dealership in Bolton when I was younger, and I was really keen to come up with a way of doing something special this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his first world title. Having been such a fan, and having watched the bikes race in those colours in the Seventies, it’s going to be really special to make this happen and see our bikes race in the same iconic livery.”
Tommy Bridewell (pictured) is eager for a return to the podium at Brands Hatch, having made big steps forward with his Bennetts Suzuki after a positive outing at Thruxton and productive two-day test at Cadwell Park. His teammate, Ryuichi Kiyonari, is also confident of a good weekend, coming off the back of a strong showing at the Suzuka 8-hour where he finished sixth with Team Kagayama. The former champion was also on the pace at the Kentish circuit earlier in the season before suffering a broken collarbone, and is looking to make strides towards the podium this weekend.
Tommy Bridewell added: “We had two really good days at Cadwell. We continued our work on engine braking performance and our electronics strategy, and just continued to make progress in the direction we've been working insince Snetterton. I was surprised at how strong our lap times were for a test, so that's given us a lot of confidence going into Brands Hatch this weekend. It's going to be a privilege to roll down pit lane in the iconic livery too, and it's fitting to do it 40 years since Barry Sheene won his first world title. It's going to be great to showcase and celebrate an important part of the history of our sport.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari said: “Suzuka was good, and has given me lots of confidence coming into Brands Hatch. I led the race for 18 laps in Japan, and even though we had some issues, a top six finish has given me a good feeling for this weekend. We made some improvements to the bike at Thruxton, I was fast here earlier in the year, so hopefully we can have two good races. I’m also very excited to race in the colours that Suzuki and Barry Sheene raced in in the world championship. It will be very special.”
This weekend's Brands Hatch British Superbike races take place on Sunday (7 August) and are televised live on British Eurosport 2, with highlights on ITV4 next week.