"It was like an aircraft had crashed." This is what Grand Prix motorcycle racing journalist Nick Harris thought upon arriving at the devastating scene of the accident that almost claimed the life of Barry Sheene at Silverstone in 1982.
It was the Wednesday before the British Grand Prix, and Sheene was a rider with a point to prove. The 1982 season had been going strongly for him up to that point, with four second-place finishes and two thirds putting him firmly in title contention alongside Yamaha stablemate Kenny Roberts and eventual champion Franco Uncini, who rode the works Suzuki.
Sheene started the season on the same YZR500 as Roberts, but only for the Argentine Grand Prix, with the American triple world champion switching to Yamaha's new OW-61 - the first 500cc grand prix bike in history to be powered by a V4 engine - for the second race onwards. Roberts complained constantly of poor handling with the new bike, and Sheene was convinced he could sort the problem if Yamaha gave him one.