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Tobacco and sport motorcycling

Barry Sheene, smoking!

The restrictions to which tobacco advertising has been subject for a long time left an open gap for motor sports that lasted until the beginning of the 21st century. The fact that the powerful tobacco industry was limited in its advertising options freed up funds that for a long time were very important for the maintenance of the structures that survived in the international motorcycling scene. When the restrictions definitively reached motorsports, too, the prophets of doom argued that the lack of these sponsors would condition the development, or even the maintenance, of sport motorcycling at the highest level! They were wrong, at the same time the promoting entities created a professional dynamic of communication that gave greater visibility and, consequently, other sources of revenue that brought us to the current “status quo”. Even so, the increasing position that energy drinks have today in the sponsoring of sports motorcycling is curious, occupying in some way the place left vacant by the forced abandonment of tobacco companies!

Iconic image of Harvey Williams riding a 125cc BSA, Isle of Man in 1952, "full throttle" while downing a cigarette


The extreme case of Barry Sheene

It is curious that, at the same time, the public image of the riders has also changed. The great Barry Sheene became the biggest symbol of a time when the rebellious image married well with sporty motorcycling, he appeared countless times in photographs with a cigarette in his mouth and even went so far as, on the sly, to have a hole in the chin of the their first full-face helmets to be able to smoke on the starting grid. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 50 from lung cancer.

Images of Barry Sheene's helmet that he used in 1974 Daytona crash where you can check the hole in the chin so he can smoke on the starting grid!!!

As a curiosity, this helmet was purchased at auction in 2016 for £15,625!!!

In the meantime, some graphics and decorations that had since become iconic have disappeared. It's some of that folklore that we also want to remember here!















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