Philippe's story about Barry
Posted by: Gerard Kampen on May 14, 2008
Hello Gerard, Thank you for your message .
Yes, I was very fortunate to meet Barry who was my hero when I was a spectator at races in the 1970's . It was a real dream actually , to become "friends" at 40 years of age with someone who was my hero when I was 20 !It happened like this : from 1992 to 2002 I lived in a french island in the south pacific called New Caledonia, not too far ( well , 3 hours flight ) from Australia. Through business connections I managed to be invited to the 1994 Australian Grand Prix at Eastern Creek , I had a good time during the actual races ( it had been a long time since I had been to a Grand Prix ! ) but the best was to come on the Sunday evening : I was invited to dinner by some friends in a restaurant in Sydney , and in the middle of the dinner I see someone sitting at the table next to mine , and guess who :Barry Sheene himself ! He had probably come to the Grand Prix to work as a TV commentator . So I went up and talked to him , telling him I was french, had seen him racing in France, Sweden, England etc...and he was very friendly and we had a nice conversation. When I left the restaurant later he got up and came to say good bye, and I just had the idea to give him my business card, although certain that he would throw it away as soon as I had walked out the door.Well anyway, about two years later the phone rings on my desk and my secretary tells me "there is a call for you from Australia, a certain Mister Sheene..." Can you imagine what I felt when I heard this ? " Hello Philippe, this is Barry Sheene, how are you since we met in this restaurant in Sydney ? " And then he told me what his problem was : he was still at that time a heavy smoker of french Gitanes cigarettes, and since a few days he didn't find them anymore in Australia....and maybe I could send him some ? Can you imagine, Barry Sheene asking me for a favour, to help him ? Well, it was a difficult task, tobacco is not just a normal good that you can ship like this, monopoly, taxes, etc....I had to spend hours on the phone and the fax with the official Gitanes importer in New Caledonia , and also with the australian customs , but it finally worked out well and Barry got his Gitanes . And for a few years we had a nice little "traffic" opration going on, I was paying for the cigarettes and the air freight in New Caledonia , and Barry would send me a bank transfer…. He was very grateful and told me "Philippe, if I can do anything for you....." and I told him well, what I would very much like is see your racing bikes collection if I come to Gold Coast one day and he said sure, let me know when you're around . So in 1997 I took a week holidays at Gold Coast with my wife and children, and I called Barry and he said sure, come to visit , so I went and....well, I just spent maybe two hours with him but it was great . He was in his house and I really spent a great time....too quick, too unbelievable, but anyway After that we stayed in contact, he wanted to come to New-Caledonia for a holyday with his children but that never happened .... In 2000 I was invited by another business connection to the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne, and that's when I last saw him and talked to him. The funny thing is that when I visited him in 1997, I told him hey, there is the Centennial TT in Assen in a few months, why don't you take one of your bikes there, they are in perfect condition, and he said that no, he was really not interested in riding a race bike anymore, that this part of his life was behind him, finished, and that no, he wasn't going to Assen...... and the strange thing is that he in fact went to Assen on a borrowed bike, then to the Coupes Moto Légende in france, and then started racing in classic bikes at top level, until his death....Anyway , to come back to your questions : there is aweb page where I have told my story in details , it's in french of course but if you can find someone who can translate it....anyway it has all the photos I have scanned from my visit to Barry's House, you click on them to get a bigger size and then you can save them on your computer....I don't have any better scans . I have some more pictures ( and even a short video ) from my visit but I'm not equipped to transfer them to digital at the moment...the webpage is here :