Bert Sharples was very well versed in how to put on a show.
In fact, he was the annual organiser of Hartlepool Show for many a year in his job as Director of Leisure and Amenities for Hartlepool Borough Council.
But it still took him by surprise when he was asked to step in and help out a motor cycle stunt display in 1977.
Behind-the-scenes man Bert found himself on the back of a display bike with rider Barry Roberts at the wheel.
And much to Bert’s surprise, he found himself being transported round the show field when he was normally used to watching all the action from a safe distance.
What made it even more dramatic was that bike rider Barry had himself only just stepped up as a last-minute replacement to do the performance.
How did it work? Well, Barry had to ride the bike backwards round the field.
It was dramatic and hair-raising and Bert said at the time, after finishing his stunt: “It wasn’t that bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed it.”
But despite being a last-minute stand-in, Barry was the perfect person for Bert to have at the wheel.
He was a triple world champion and won his titles doing a display at the Isle of Man TT Races. One was for doing the longest ever ride backwards of more than 37 miles.
Another was for the fastest bike ride backwards at 98.8 miles per hour and the third was for completing the Isle of Man TT Races course, doing it all backwards.
In fact, Barry rode the course backwards so quickly, he only missed out by three minutes on qualifying for the main race which other drivers did forwards.
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