After 38 years behind the mic, MotoGP’s Nick Harris left the commentary box for the very last time
It’s a very good afternoon to you here from the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, it’s the 18th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship. I’m Nick Harris, sitting alongside me as always is Matt Birt and down in pitlane is Dylan Gray.”
Many of us will read those two sentences and hear one particular voice in our heads. And there’s a good reason for that – Nick Harris’s passionate commentary has been beamed into our lounge rooms for the past 38 years of grand prix racing. If Valentino Rossi deserves praise for his 21 seasons, then Harry, as he is known among the paddock, deserves a standing ovation.
The first time he commentated was in 1974 when he called a North Gloucestershire club meeting over the phone from the sergeant’s mess at an RAF base in his native Oxfordshire, and his last was just 12 days ago in Valencia, calling the race that saw Marc Márquez lift the 2017 world championship trophy.
He’s a bloke who polarises opinion. Some criticise him for overusing phrases, but for many others his familiar expressions mark the long-awaited arrival of a GP race weekend. Others baulk at his Rothmans PR beginnings, ignoring the fact that his decades of involvement with racing have given him a deep knowledge and understanding of the sport, and the men and women who race in it. And no one can doubt his passion and enthusiasm. MotoGP means the world to Nick Harris and his legacy will carry on long after he’s gone. As Dorna’s top dog Carmelo Ezpeleta put it, “Nick Harris is one of the most important parts of this championship.”
You’ve said on a few occasions that you wouldn’t stop until the passion dies in your voice. But it hasn’t, so why now?
No, it hasn’t. The passion is still there and the love of the sport is still there. It wasn’t altogether my decision, let’s say, but I don’t want to harp on about that.
Can you remember when you first fell in love with motorcycle racing?
Oh, golly. Sport in general is my great love. Motorcycle racing in the 1960s in England, they used to show the scrambling on both channels and I got really interested in that. A friend I went to school with, who was a bit older than me, was a top motocross rider, so I’d watch him.
But then probably the greatest motorcycle racer who ever lived, Mike Hailwood, came from Oxford. And so for that fact I got interested. Then a friend from school’s father took us to Mallory Park and when we arrived in the carpark, you couldn’t see, but all I could hear was Hailwood’s Honda six changing down the gears to go into the hairpin. I’ll never forget it, and I thought yeah, this is for me. I’d ridden motorcycles, I’d always been interested in motorcycles, but the racing side of it, yeah, that was the day.
Do you still ride?
No, I’ve got tunnel vision. So it’s probably best for me and the other people that I don’t ride [laughs]. But I really, really miss it. I used to love riding on the road.
What’s your current role with Dorna?
The role is many things. Hosting the press conferences, obviously the commentary, writing press releases and looking after the British media, many different things. But the commentary and the press conferences are the main things.
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