Words: Aninda Sardar
They say Rossi is the oldest man on the grid but you’re truly the one who’s seen it all. How would you sum all those years up?
I’ve actually been covering grand prix motorcycling for 38 years with a little six-year break to work in Formula One. When you have a job which is one of the biggest passions of your life I’m sure you can imagine what an amazing time I’ve had. Travelling the world, watching and working in Grand Prix motorcycle racing and then for the last 18 years as the World feed commentator is just about perfect and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it with just a few exceptions.
Let’s go back a little in time. Can you tell us how it all happened? How did Nick Harris become the voice of MotoGP, and indeed motorsport? How did it start?
When I was growing up in a very sports orientated family, my father wanted me to open the batting and play scrum half for England, but in my teens my interest focused on motorcycles and football. My first interest in bikes came watching scrambling (motocross) on television and I remember my first road race watching and listening to the great Mike Hailwood on the six-cylinder Honda at Mallory Park and I was hooked. I started working for the local radio station and newspaper in Oxford and then joined Motor Cycle News, and the rest is history.
You’ve been closer to the sport than most people can ever dream of. I’m sure there were things you absolutely loved about it and then there must have been things you didn’t. Can you shed some light on things that you did like and things that you didn’t?
The actual racing on the track is what MotoGP is all about and what the riders produce on the track is an absolute joy to watch and commentate on. A straight 45-minute shootout, no stupid rules to try and make it more exciting because it does not need them. The spectacle is enough. Of course and especially in my early days there have been some terrible moments when riders have been killed or seriously injured. The sport will always be dangerous but what has been done by Dorna in particular to improve safety in every way has been superb. There is really nothing I don’t like about it and you even get used to the travelling although being away from home and missing birthdays, weddings etc is definitely a down side.
Leaving something that’s been an integral part of your life for almost two decades couldn’t have been easy, was it?
It’s going to be incredibly difficult and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to feel when the lights change in Qatar. I’m still busy doing lots of other things because I can never sit still. I will miss all the MotoGP people so much having spent half my life in the paddock but I will never be bored.
What is Nick Harris’ favourite sport?
I’m so lucky I love all sport and it plays a massive part in my life. Obviously MotoGP is right at the top but I have commentated on football for over 40 years at home in Oxford for the BBC and I’m continuing to do that. I played football and cricket for over 40 years. When I’ve been travelling, I’ve always tried to watch other sports and I went to the biggest soccer derby game in the world between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires and also the Ashes cricket test between Australia/England in Melbourne. All sport has and still does play a massive part in
What are your thoughts on how MotoGP has evolved as a sport? You were there when they were racing 500cc two-strokes, you saw the shift to four-strokes… What are your thoughts on this evolution?
Those two-stroke 500cc days were incredible with some amazing, brave riders competing on rocket ship motorcycles. You must always look forward and that is what MotoGP has done to produce closer racing, more factory involvement and more international venues than ever before. The sport at the moment is better than it’s ever been and the future looks bright even when Vale retires.
There are those who will say that with more and more regulations and also the increasing role of electronics is killing the sport because they claim it reduces rider skill. Agree or disagree? Why?
Totally disagree – just look at the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island last year with over 70 overtakes between the top six riders. We don’t want any more electronics but how can it be killing a sport that has never been more exciting in its 69-year history.
Everyone who watches MotoGP focuses on the top three to five teams through the season. In your opinion, which team would you peg as the dark horse? The underdog that might throw up a surprise or two in the 2018 season?
It’s incredibly difficult for a team to compete against the major factory teams but last year we saw Tech 3 Yamaha with Zarco and Folger really taking the fight to them. I’m sure that will continue, while KTM in their first year made massive progress, which I’m sure will continue next year. It will be interesting to see how Movistar Yamaha fare after such a difficult end to the season. Also Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli will be an interesting rider to watch.
What next for Nick Harris?
I’m writing a book about my life travelling the world in MotoGP and Formula One and also as a director at an ailing football club in England. I will still commentate on football in Oxford and I’m still working for a number of companies in MotoGP. More time at home but the rest is an open book at the moment. Never say never.