Nick Harris

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In Conversation with Nick Harris

Thursday 30th May 18:00 – 20:00 at Milton Keynes – Midsummer Place

Meet Nick Harris here in Milton Keynes (at the larger of the two Waterstones stores) at 6 pm as we spend the evening in conversation discussing the book that the Motorcycling world has been waiting for, “Never Say Never’

As ‘The Voice’ of motorcycle racing for forty years, commentator Nick Harris became the biggest star NOT on two wheels in the paddock, and his book ‘Never Say Never’ is his mostly eye-witness, white-knuckle account of MotoGP’s scorching seventy-year history….
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Tickets are available online and in store, only £3 (and give you £3 off the cost of the book!)

Further details: 01908 395384

By | April 15th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on In Conversation with Nick Harris

Family values

Legendary journalist and television commentator Dennis Noyes told me to expect something different when Nicky Hayden and his dad Earl arrived from Owensboro, Kentucky into MotoGP™ in 2003   – Dennis is rarely wrong. The very nature of the sport makes the MotoGP™ paddock a tough uncompromising work place. Lives, reputations and careers are at stake in a frenzied atmosphere of competition and egos. It’s not a place you would associate with family values and manners but, in addition to that 2006 World Championship, that’s exactly what Nicky brought to our world.

Nicky embarked on the worldwide adventure with his Dad that led to that ultimate MotoGP™ world title with enormous talent that had already brought him so much success at home. They arrived on new continents and in new countries to compete against the very best, battle-hardened campaigners and came out on top. Wherever they went they made friends with their humour and humility in their totally new surroundings.

Who will ever forget that first Grand Prix win fittingly at home in Laguna Seca in 2005 when Nicky picked up Earl for that pillion ride on the celebration lap? Who will ever forget that sunny afternoon on the Mediterranean coast of Spain when Nicky clinched the 2006 world title fighting off the challenge of Valentino Rossi in Valencia? It was one of those I was there afternoons and rarely in the 70-year history has there been a more popular win among the occupants of the paddock.

I only saw Nicky lose his temper on two occasions. The much filmed and discussed collision with his team-mate Dani Pedrosa in Estoril that so nearly cost him that 2006 World title brought a rare burst of emotion and expletives. The second occasion was more frustration than temper. Valentino Rossi had a habit of talking to the person sat next to him in the press conferences while another rider was answering questions from the audience. Nicky stopped his answers on one occasion to tick off Valentino that it was bad manners and the nine times World Champion took notice.

There have been so many great World Champions who have made that trip across the Atlantic to upset the European domination on two wheels. The likes of Roberts, Spencer, Lawson and Rainey may have won more titles but few have left such a lasting impression as Nicky Hayden.

In Austin on Thursday, Nicky’s number will be retired from MotoGP. I’m sure I speak for many when I say it may have gone but we will never forget number 69 represented that humility and honesty still had a place in this crazy world.

By | April 12th, 2019|Uncategorised|1 Comment

Where did that come from?

I think it caught us all by surprise. While theories that the closest ever top 15 finish at the previous round in Qatar was a bit of a con because riders where protecting their tyres have been expounded in certain sections of the media, Marc Marquez simply blew away the opposition in Argentina on Sunday.

It was one of his biggest ever dry weather victories and the 9.8s gap between him and the fight for second did not even show just what a difference there was between the World Champion and the rest. Sure he took the gamble on the soft rear tyre on the Repsol Honda but his domination over the 25 laps meant he was quite simply in a class of his own.

Winning at the highest level is an art and skill that only a few are lucky to possess. Racing at any level is all about winning. That is the aim of every rider competing from the humble beginnings of club racing to MotoGP™ and World Champions have the ability to do it whatever the circumstances.

A World Champion and multiple Grand Prix winner once told me that winning races at the slowest possible speed was always his aim. Protect the tyres, protect the engine and protect yourself was always part of his winning strategy. Today more and more protection of the tyres has to be a vital part of race winning strategy. The fact that it can produce record breaking close finishes like Qatar and controversy that boiled over between Rossi and Marquez in Australia four years ago is surely a bonus for the fans. For the riders and the teams, it’s just about understanding and then implementing the conditions and the circumstances to their advantage. For both the media and the fans it just adds to the drama.

When I first got the Grand Prix bug a long time ago a certain Giacomo Agostini was winning races on the MV Agusta by vast distances that were often calculated in laps rather than minutes and certainly not seconds. Ago was the true master and took full advantage of the circumstances but being brutally honest after admiring his brilliance and the glorious sound of the MV Agusta, it did not make compelling viewing.

At the third round of this year’s Championship at Austin in a couple of weeks’ time Marquez arrives with an unbeaten record in Texas. He will take full advantage of the conditions and circumstances to ensure that record continues to enable him to arrive in Europe with an increased advantage at the top of the Championship. If it has to be an Agostini style victory or a fight to the line after a tactical battle grabbing 25 precious points will be his only aim. Selfishly I know which race I would prefer to watch but I’ll never be chasing a world title.

By | April 4th, 2019|Uncategorised|1 Comment

Tango back in time

You could be forgiven for assuming the first Grand Prix ever to be held outside Europe must have been staged in Japan or perhaps even America. Argentina would have been a fair way down your list but on October 15th 1961 the first world championship race to be staged outside Europe was held in Buenos Aires. The fledgling World Championship was only in its 13th year of existence but already starting to spread its wings far and wide.

Wind the clock on 58 years and the modern-day gladiators arrive at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit this weekend after a record-breaking opening round under the floodlights in Qatar. Just 15.093s separated the first 15 riders crossing the line, the closest ever in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing. Things have changed since that first race in Buenos Aries.

The first big difference was that opening race, which was the final round of the 1961 Championship, was 52 laps long just a mere distance of 203 kilometres. Setting the precedent, it was pretty close at the front with Argentinian Jorge Kissling winning by just 2.8 seconds from countryman Juan Carlos Salatino. Not perhaps the 0.023s that separated Dovizioso and Marquez in Qatar but never the less pretty close after over 200 kilometres of racing. After those leading two riders it was a very different story with Frank Perris on the Norton ten laps down.

The Argentine Grand Prix ran for a couple more years with Mike Hailwood the first non-home winner in 1963 but after those three initial Grands Prix it did not return until 1982. With the Falklands Island war between Argentina and Great Britain less than a week away I was lucky to witness a fantastic race before rushing home on the Sunday night just before war was declared. It was the opening round of the World Championship and Honda returned to the fray with their three cylinder two-stroke. Leading their return was a young American by the name of Freddie Spencer.

It was still a long race of 32 laps and at the finish just 0.67 seconds separated the Yamaha’s of former World Champions Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene. Spencer put Honda right back in the fray with a third place with just 1.37 seconds covering the three podium finishes. It was then a frantic rush to the airport. Three days later all flights between Britain and Argentina came to an abrupt end.

I loved the new venue Termas de Rio Hondo. Of course, it was an absolute pain to get to, the steps to the media centre were pretty rickety and the mosquitoes did bite but the sheer passion for MotoGP made up for all this.

Fans from all over South America arrived in the town square at night. A motorcycle with three of four occupants was not unusual, pick-up trucks from all over the vast continent arrived with far more passengers, donkey carts proved more sedate transport and the music was loud and lasted till dawn. Then en masse the party would reallocate to the circuit as the sun came up over the lake.

Grand Prix racing had returned to where the worldwide adventure had started all those years ago.

By | March 28th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Tango back in time

RIGHT FROM THE START – TRIUMPH FOR TRIUMPH

Of course it could not have been anything but a Triumph victory in the Qatar Moto2™ race but it was still such a special day for the iconic British factory. Their first ever grand prix victory in a sport in which they were pioneers right from the very start.

Many people feel that this magnificent sport actually started at 10am on the cold cloudy morning of 28 May 1907. At that moment Frank Hulbert and Jack Marshall fired up and pointed their single cylinder Triumph motorcycles up a dusty track towards Ballacraine to start the very first TT race on the Isle of Man.The two Triumphs spluttered into life to begin a 158 mile journey around the St Johns course and motor cycle racing was born. Twenty three other riders joined the pioneers and just 12 returned to the finish. The two Triumphs finished second and third respectively behind the Matchless of Charlie Collier who took four hours 8m8.02 s to complete the race at an average speed 61.47 kms. A year later Marshall reversed the result over Collier to bring Triumph their first TT win.

When the World Championship staged its first ever premier class 500 cc race in 1949 at the TT races in the Isle of Man Triumph were there once again. New Zealander Syd Jensen brought the Triumph home in fifth place in the seven lap race won by Harold Daniell riding the Norton. Triumph had to wait 20 years before their one and only grand prix podium finish which finally came at the fastest circuit of them all. The versatile Test rider and racer Percy Tait finished second on the 500 cc Triumph behind Giacomo Agostini in the 13 lap 1969 Belgium Grand Prix at the magnificent Spa Francorchamps circuit.

On Sunday the revitalised Triumph factory made a welcome return to grand prix racing with their magnificent 765 cc triples screaming below the Losail International floodlights in a superb Moto2 race. At the finish just 0.026 s separated Lorenzo Baldassari and Tom Luthi at the finish. Triumph has replaced Honda as the engine suppliers in the Moto 2 class and there will be plenty more Qatar type races in the next 18 grands prix. Sunday was just a foretaste of the battles they lay ahead.

Welcome back to the big time Triumph. All we need now to complete the picture is a British rider winning on a British Motorcycle – Sam Lowes please take note.

By | March 14th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on RIGHT FROM THE START – TRIUMPH FOR TRIUMPH

Record there to be beaten?

It was the performances of Pecco Bagnaia in the first Sepang test and then Fabio Quartararo in Qatar that got me thinking; have any riders making their debuts in the MotoGP four-stroke era won first time out or even qualified on the front row?

The simple answer is no to the first question but yes to the second. One hundred and six riders have made their debuts in the premier class during this era, yet nobody has won first time out. Two, however, have qualified on the front row and one in pole.

Three Spanish riders have come closest first time out and finished on the podium. The first was Dani Pedrosa at his home grand prix at Jerez in 2006. Dani, racing the Repsol Honda for the first time after winning the 125cc and two 250cc world titles, finished second four seconds behind Loris Capirossi on the factory Ducati.

Two years later, another double 250cc World Champion Jorge Lorenzo made his MotoGP debut in Qatar. It was Ducati once again that won the race with Casey Stoner in the saddle. Lorenzo, on the factory Yamaha, was second five seconds down with Pedrosa third. Marc Marquez made his much-heralded debut in the premier class in 2013 with those 125cc and Moto2 world titles under his belt. Under the Losail International floodlights, he eventually finished third behind the Yamaha´s of Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Marquez did go one better than his countrymen Pedrosa and Lorenzo by winning the world title first time out, however.

I would have thought more debutants would have qualified on the front row. Perhaps taking a big risk on that one important qualifying lap but it’s not the case. Those two riders who have qualified on the front row have suffered very different fortunes since those impressive performances. Lorenzo followed up a pole position at that opening round in 2008 with a brilliant second place. He went onto to win three MotoGP world titles and fancies his chances to make it four this season riding the factory Honda.

Alongside Lorenzo on the front row at Qatar in 2008 was British rider James Toseland. The World Superbike Champion, riding the Tech 3 Yamaha, made a sensational start to his MotoGP career. He qualified in second place and finished sixth in the race and looked set to make a big impact in the premier class, but it didn’t happen. Injuries forced him to retire to pursue a new career in the music industry and as a television pundit.

Bagnaia and Quartararo step onto the big stage for the first time under the spotlights this weekend after impressing in pre-season testing. Can they re-write the history books by winning first time out? It’s a very big ask and just check out the previous 106 riders who have tried. The last rider to win on his premier class debut was Max Biaggi with victory at Suzuka in 1998 on the two-stroke Honda but records are there for the beating.

By | March 7th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Record there to be beaten?

NEVER SAY NEVER

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE MOTORCYCLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

BY NICK HARRIS 

PUBLISHED IN HARDBACK BY VIRGIN BOOKS | 23rd MAY 2019 | £20.00 | ISBN 9780753553855 

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Motorcycle World Championships, the most dangerous and exciting sport in the world, legendary commentator Nick Harris, ‘The Voice’ of MotoGP, chronicles seventy years of drama, adrenaline, tragedy and celebration in a brand new book, Never Say Never. 

For 40 years Nick travelled the world reporting and commentating on MotoGP, and this rare privileged access has given him unparalleled insight into this incredible sport. From a motorcycle trip across Argentina the week before the Falklands war, to ignoring the apartheid travelling ban in South Africa, Nick has witnessed a changing world developing alongside the highs and lows of the greatest motorcycle races of all time. 

In a white-knuckle ride through the twists and turns of Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, Nick Harris provides a new, mostly eye-witness account of the history of MotoGP, the battles and feuds both on and off the track, the remarkable personalities and the great tragedies of the sport from 1949 to present day. 

As a trusted insider, Nick got to know Valentino Rossi, Barry Sheene, Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood as individuals. He saw feuds unfold, champions made and careers ended, and in Never Say Never, he shares the real stories behind the greatest legends of the sport. This is the book the motorcycling world has been waiting for. 

ABOUT NICK: 

Nick Harris has been a respected journalist, broadcaster and author for over 40 years. He is best known as a legendary television and radio commentator and presenter, presenting and commentating on the MotoGP World Championship for much of his career, attracting over 20 million viewers worldwide to each grand prix. When he announced his retirement in 2017, over 1.2 million fans tuned into his farewell video on Facebook, filmed with Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. Nick is the author of several books, including the bestselling biography of Barry Sheene. His great passion is Oxford United Football Club, having previously served on the board of Directors. 

Twitter: @NickHarrisMedia | Website: www.nick-harris.co.uk 

Pre-order Never Say Never here

FOR ALL MEDIA ENQUIRIES CONTACT PATSY O’NEILL AT EBURY PUBLISHING poneill@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk T: 020 8293 8783

 

By | March 7th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on NEVER SAY NEVER

COUCH POTATO

It’s amazing how much easier it is to commentate on a MotoGP™ race from your couch at home with a cup of tea in your hand. Why is it you see everything that is going on? Every pass, every mistake and every fastest lap just comfortably appears in front of you with such great clarity while in the confines of the commentary box with all the relevant facts and figures pinned on the wall around me, I could still miss things. I certainly now understand why viewers can get so annoyed and shout at the screen – Perhaps it’s that cup of tea that makes the difference. 

For the first time in 39 years I watched this year’s MotoGP World Championship from the outside and it was amazing experience for somebody who has been so involved for so long. It certainly made me realise what a truly unbelievable Championship it is. It’s absolutely made for the television viewer and very rarely have they switched over to watch its four wheel counterpart while any of the three Championship races have been on screen. 

Watching at first was so difficult but I got used to it and to the relief of the people around me stopped commentating from the couch by the time we got to Assen. I thought Dovizioso was going to win the title and just loved those battles with Marquez. I marvelled at Marquez’s ability to hang on and even pop his shoulder back into place when he didn’t. I so enjoyed watching that pure style of Lorenzo at last getting to grips with the Ducati and raised a glass to Rossi. Signing a new two deal with his 40thbirthday on the horizon, setting up a team that won the Moto2™ World Championship for Peko Bagnaia, cheering his step – brother on to his first grand prix win is the story of a true legend. I just wish he’d won in Malaysia. I celebrated that Moto3™ title with Jorge Martin after handing over so many Tissot Pole position watches to him over the years and woke up the neighbours celebrating Cal Crutchlow’s win in Argentina. I was sad to see the departure of Scott Redding and not just for those amazing haircuts. He’s done so much to increase the popularity of the sport in Britain since that 2008 win at Donington Park. Also the departure of the likeable Alvaro Bautista after an amazing career in all three classes.

Of course I missed so many things apart from the racing. Breakfast at Ducati, watching the football over a beer and discussing the prospects of the Cornish Pirates Rugby team at Alpine stars. The commentary box humour, checking how Oxford United have fared on my phone in the middle of the Qualifying press conference and of course the friendship and camaraderie that so long in the paddock brings.

Most of all I’ve missed that amazing feeling at 14.00 on a Sunday afternoon when the lights switched from red. That’s a unique moment that is such a privilege to have  experienced and can never be repeated.

By | November 23rd, 2018|Uncategorised|Comments Off on COUCH POTATO

Party time in Valencia

No World Championships to be decided this time round and so it’s party time in Valencia before the 2019 season gets underway on Tuesday. Enjoy Sunday night because by Tuesday morning those 19 Grands Prix this year are a thing of the past as the first test of the new season get underway. MotoGP™ can certainly never be accused of standing still but thank goodness the test does not start on the Monday as it used to. Plenty of sore heads out on the track, in pit lane and in the media centre on those best to be forgotten Monday mornings which would also include test rides on the MotoGP™ machines for selected members of the media causing more headaches for the teams and not caused by the night before.

This is the 20th Grand Prix to be staged at Valencia with that first race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in 1999. The circuit has staged the final Grand Prix for the last 17 years making it the venue that has staged the final event on most occasions. The MotoGP™ title has been decided on four occasions in Valencia. Who will forget 2006 when Nicky Hayden clinched the title finishing third after Valentino Rossi had crashed out. The decency and sportsmanship of Nicky’s Dad Earl knocking on the door of Rossi’s motorhome to offer his condolences before returning to celebrate his son’s title. It was a total contrast in 2015. Never in the 69-year history of the sport has there been such a poisonous acrimonious build up to a race, let alone before one that would decide the title. Never has a race sparked so much global interest in the Marquez/Rossi war that resulted in the title going to Jorge Lorenzo. There was certainly no knocking on motorhome doors that time round. Marquez clinched his first MotoGP™ title at Valencia in 2013 and his fourth last year.

Beware this year’s World Champions Marc Marquez, Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin. There has never been a year when the three Championship winners have all won their respective races since the final round has been staged in Valencia.

Dani Pedrosa bows out of Grand Prix racing on Sunday at a circuit he has won more races than any other rider. Four MotoGP™ wins are joined by two 250s and one in the 125cc class. A final goodbye from Dani with a victory would certainly spark a big party. Not perhaps everybody in the fountain, hotel furniture in the swimming pool, Brazilian police being called with the hotel waterfall being diverted into the lobby and guns being fired into the ceiling of the Zoom Zoom club in Goiania in the hellraising non-social media days of the eighties and nineties but never the less one hell of a party to rightly celebrate a fantastic career.

By | November 16th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Party time in Valencia

So close

It was so so close to the absolute perfect day in Malaysia for a rider who has experienced so many in that amazing career. Four laps from the finish of the MotoGP™ race at the Shell Malaysia Grand Prix on Sunday Valentino Rossi was on course to experience a day that most sportsman at any level can only dream about.

His step brother Luca Marini had just won his first Grand Prix after victory in the Moto2™ race. Marini’s team-mate Francesco (Pecco) Bagnaia clinched the Moto2™ World title after finishing third in the same race and both riding for Rossi’s Sky Racing Team VR46 team. Could it get any better – yes was the answer because Vale himself was leading the MotoGP™ race as they flashed across the line at Sepang with four laps remaining. Just over 22km remaining on the red-hot tarmac before the 39 year old Italian would be celebrating his first win of the season to end a perfect day even by his incredible standards.

Nine World titles and 115 Grands Prix wins in 22 years of Grand Prix racing have taught Vale never to count his chickens, never presume in any circumstances in a sport that has a habit of wrecking the party just as you are putting up the decorations and the guests are about to arrive. Less than ten seconds after racing past his pit board telling him Marc Marquez was closing he went down at turn one in front of a sea of yellow flags in the Rossi grandstand.

The perfect day may have been ruined but this should take nothing away from the Sepang experience that is the perfect illustration on why the man from Tavulla has had a bigger impact and influence both on and off the track than any other rider in the 69-year history of the sport. Who else at 39 years old could lead a MotoGP™ race for so long in such sweltering conditions around one of the most demanding race tracks in the 19 race calendar? Who else would form his own team after being dismayed at the lack of young Italian talent on the world scene and then build a dirt track and ranch to train with the youngsters who have gone on to become World Champions? Who else could protect and deal with the publicity the arrival of his step brother in the World Championship generated and then help him become a Grand Prix winner.

Who else would have already announced his plans to carry on racing for at least two more years as he approaches that dreaded 40th birthday? Who else would just relish the fact that his protégés are now lining up to take him on in the ultimate MotoGP™ test with the latest World Champion Bagnaia joining Jack Miller next season in the Alma Pramac Ducati team?

There is nobody else because there is only one person and his name is Valentino Rossi.

By | November 9th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on So close