Barry Sheene

Former world motorcycling champion Barry Sheene (Pic. left, AFP) died after a long battle with cancer. Sheene was diagnosed with cancer in July last year. The 52-year-old, who was awarded the MBE in 1978, had cancer of the throat and stomach. He died in a hospital on Australia's Gold Coast.

Sheene won the World 500cc motorcycle championships twice in 1976 and 1977 but was equally famous for overcoming his numerous crashes on the track. And like his contemporary James Hunt, the Formula One

Grand Prix driver, he also attracted headlines for his playboy lifestyle.

At one stage in his career he had metal plates in both knees, 28 screws in his legs and a bolt in his left wrist. Carl Fogarty, four-time World Superbike champion, said Sheene had been "an inspiration to millions".

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

TV commentator and ex-motorcycle racer Murray Walker added: "Barry Sheene was not only one of the most brilliant motor racing cyclists who has ever lived, he was also a lovely man."

Sheene began racing motorbikes at the age of five and remains the last British racer to win a 500cc GP in 1981. He won 19 in all and is also still the last British rider to have won the world title.

Sheene moved to the warmer climes of Australia in the early 1990s to ease the pain caused by arthritis from numerous broken bones suffered in crashes. Sheene was diagnosed with cancer in July last year just days after competing in a legends race during the British Grand Prix at Donington. Sheene is survived by his wife Stephanie and two children, Freddie and Sidonie.