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Last Updated:  Monday, 10 March, 2003, 16:03 GMT
Roberts leads Sheene tributes
Kenny Roberts Sr, who raced against Barry Sheene in the 1970s
Roberts has the highest regard for his former rival
Triple 500cc world champion Kenny Roberts has led the tributes to his great rival Barry Sheene, who has died of cancer at the age of 52.

Formula One champion Damon Hill and Superbikes great Carl Foagrty have also paid generous tribute to the man who is widely regarded to have put 'bike racing on the map.

Roberts, regarded by many as the greatest rider of all time, said his legendary battles with Sheene enabled him to push his career to new heights.

Roberts, who claimed his first world title in 1978 by beating Sheene, said: "Barry made me dig down deeper than I'd ever dug to win races. He pulled so much extra out of me - it wouldn't have been the same without him."

Their rivalry struck its highest point in the famous British Grand Prix in 1979 when Roberts denied Sheene a home victory by passing him on the final lap.

"We always knew that particular race was going to be one that people will always remember," Roberts said.

"It is the one people still bring up all the time. We knew it would come down to the last lap because we just couldn't get away from each other."

I will remember Barry as just being Barry - very sharp, very quick and never boring
Kenny Roberts

Roberts said the immense pressure of their rivalry never threatened their friendship.

"There was never much sugar in what we said about each other and sometimes we'd stir things up a little bit more than we should have - but that was all for the benefit of other people.

"We first met before I was even thinking about competing in the world championships and we went out and got crazy together more than once.

"In Italy once we rolled our rental car upside down and went into a canal.

"I will remember Barry as just being Barry - very sharp, very quick and never boring."

Fogarty, four times World Superbike champion, said Sheene was "an inspiration to millions".

And Damon Hill, Formula One world champion in 1996, said he was "incredibly brave".

Fogarty told BBC Radio Five Live: "He was the guy who made motorbike racing famous. There were other world champions from Britain who achieved more on the track but he brought it to the public attention.

"His lifestyle helped make him a hero. It is a sad day for his family and for motorcycle racing."

Fogarty added: "To millions he was a hero and still is an inspiration.

He gave me the best bit of advice I ever had in my career
Damon Hill

"He packed more into his 52 years than most people put into 100 years... that lifestyle, the playboy, the model wife, the big, big crashes. He was famous for many different reasons.

"I remember a big crash at Silverstone and seeing the television news showing X-rays of bolts and screws in his body. He was an amazing guy."

Hill added that Sheene's bravery and individualism were carried into every aspect of his life.

"[Even with his cancer] he took his usual stance against the world and everything that was thrown at him - he refused to take conventional treatment and was going to do it his way, which was pure Barry.

Barry Sheene
Sheene's exploits inspired a future generation of racers
"He would never listen to what anyone else would tell him to do and was determined to be himself. He was an incredibly brave person."

He added: "He was my very first hero and he was very important to me because he gave me the best bit of advice I ever had in my career.

"It came after Michael Schumacher did what he did to me in 1994 and I lost the world championship by one point.

"I went back to garage and I hadn't spoken to anyone, and he hunted me down and said: 'For God's sake, don't say anything.'

"It was crucial at that time to have someone like Barry around, who had done see it all and been there.

"He just meant to bite my tongue and whatever I wanted to say, rise above it.

"That was a defining moment in my career, actually. God knows what would have happened if Barry hadn't been there."

Four-time World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty
"He made motorcycling famous"

Former Formula One champion Damon Hill
"He was incredibly brave"

Motorcycling legend Sheene dies
10 Mar 03 |  Motorbikes
A hero on and off the track
10 Mar 03 |  Motorbikes

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