John Innes catches up with famous motorcycling commentator and legend Nick Harris, who this year retired from commentating MotoGP for Dorna. Interview by John Innes
Well they say all good things must come to an end, but I never expected to hear the news that the voice of MotoGP, Mr. Nick Harris was going to hang up the mic after the final Grand Prix of 2017 at Valencia in Spain.
It seems like an age ago that I was fortunate enough to be granted a few minutes back in 2013 with the man himself. Nick is a very private person and gives very few interviews, so having sought him out at Phillip Island I was pleased when once again he agreed to give me some of his time.
I am sure it was a very emotional time come the end of that final MotoGP race at Valencia, as the next chapter of his life starts, for the quiet unassuming man from Oxfordshire as he moves into retirement.
I started by reminding Harris of our chat back in 2013, when he had no intention of retiring, and asked him what had changed in the four years that made him bring down the curtain on his illustrious career.
Nick Harris: “Oh, well nothing can remain the same forever can it, so I think you have to realise that. Maybe I wanted one more year but that didn’t work out, and I’m 70 years old now, and travelled the world for 38 years. It will be a massive change in my life and lifestyle, but you have to make that decision sometime and it’s been helped that the decision has a little bit been made for me as well, its probably a good thing in the end.”
What can we expect from Nick Harris in retirement?
Nick Harris: “Oh golly, I don’t really know at the moment. I’m going to go home, sort everything out that needs sorting out and then see what is what. I’ll carry on doing the soccer, [Nick commentates on local soccer for the BBC during the off-season] on most weekends. I really enjoy radio work very, very much, I was bought up as a radio commentator, rather than a TV commentator so that will be nice. Dorna say I am going to be doing some work for them, what that will be or if it will happen we’ll have to wait and see. I will definitely write a lot more, probably set up a blog, all of the things I don’t really understand and will have to find out about, (laughs) and that sort of thing, and I would dearly love to write a book.
“That would be my number one aim, to write a book. We all think that when we have travelled the world and have done this, that and everything else, we think it unique and people would think it was fantastic and what a great subject. In reality there are hundreds of people like me that have done exactly the same as what I’ve done, so I’m under no illusions that people are going to be mad to publish a book I’ve written, but you can self-publish now, so I’ll be exploring all that as well.”
Will you continue to travel?
Nick Harris: “Oh yes very much so, I very much want to travel more in Britain which is just the best country for scenery and everything else. I love Scotland, I love the Scottish Islands, I’ve been to the Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetlands, and I have friends who live in the North-West of Scotland, I absolutely love it up there. So I’ll definitely be going there, but there are plenty of other areas of Britain that I don’t know at all, so I will start looking at them, and of course there will be foreign travel as well. But I’ll start in Britain first and have a really good look at the country.”
The work with Dorna, would that be like ‘Guest Appearances’?
Nick Harris: “No I don’t think so; I don’t think you will see my face again, the mic will be hung up for good. I imagine that will be the case, it wouldn’t be very fair to those who take over, to make guest appearances, I can’t imagine that at all. There may be some writing for them but that is a long, long way to being decided, they have far more important things to make decisions on, than what I’m going to do for them.”
I don’t see you having much time in retirement to spend in the garden.
Nick Harris: “You got that absolutely right (laughs), I’ll be busy, I’ll be busy until the day they put me in the ground in the churchyard in my village, that’s the way I am, the way I’ve always been. Obviously I’ll slow up a fair bit with the travelling, I’ll always be doing something, there are always little projects, there are certain things I do for MotoGP that aren’t Dorna based, that I’ll probably keep on doing, where I don’t need to be at the races. Some writing I do and stuff, but in these situations you have to finish the season, go home and just assess what is what and just go from there. We have a nice holiday planned in January, we are going to the Caribbean which we love and then I’ll really sit down and sort things out.”
38 years on the road, anything you wish you had done but haven’t?
Nick Harris: “Yes, on a personal level I wish I could have gotten the British media more interested in motorcycle Grand Prix racing. I think their coverage and the coverage by certain aspects of the media is scandalous. I have tried and tried and tried to change that, but they are obsessed with four wheels and not two wheels for the seventeen years that I have worked for Dorna. They have changed, but not as much as I would have liked.
“That’s one of my biggest regrets, but when you come to places like Australia and Malaysia, the interest is at such a high level and it disappoints me that it is not the same in Britain. Lack of success has a lot to do with that, and Cal Crutchlow obviously changed that last year, but until the next Barry Sheene comes along we’ll just have to wait and see. But I am disappointed.”
Sadly there will never be another Barry Sheene.
Nick Harris: “Well there won’t be no, with the world we live in now, with social media and every step of someone’s life filmed on cameras and phones and everything else. It was a very different world in the ‘70s and ‘80s than it is now, for riders in particular.”
Give me one real highlight from your 38 years travelling the GP world.
Nick Harris: “Oh by golly, there are so many, I’d like to pick a couple if I may. As a fan in 1965 I went to the TT on a day trip and saw Mike Hailwood win the TT on an MV Augusta, that was pretty special for me as I was such a big fan of his. I went to Assen again as a fan in 1975 and saw Barry Sheene win that first GP when he beat Ago on the line, there was thirty of us there that day with the British flag and all.
“On a professional basis two races in South Africa when Sete Gibernau won shortly after his team mate Daijiro Kato was killed at Suzuka, that was an incredibly emotional victory, and Valentino Rossi winning there after he had switched from Honda to Yamaha that was also very special indeed. But really there are hundreds of special memories, Bradley Smith, an Oxford boy, I’ve known since he was twelve years old, winning his first Grand Prix on a 125GP machine at Jerez. There is any number of them.”
Thanks to Nick for giving so graciously of his time on both occasions.