Hot on the heels of the MotoGP at Donington, the British Speedway Grand Prix descends on the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff this weekend.
But unlike Donington, the British Speedway Grand Prix in Cardiff has a genuine chance of British success through the recently-crowned British Champion, Chris Harris.
The 25-year-old Cornishman, who is nicknamed ‘Bomber’ Harris, is in his first full season of Grand Prix racing and he has been little short of a sensation.
He’s leading his more experienced fellow countryman and team-mate, Scott Nicholls in the standings and has also already bagged his first podium.
MCN caught up British Speedway’s latest sensation ahead of the spectacular Grand Prix in Cardiff.
You’re currently lying in sixth place in the championship standings and finished third in the European Grand Prix, you must be feeling confident ahead of your home Grand Prix?
“Yes it’s been going a lot better than I expected. I did a lot of work on my bikes in the winter, trained very hard and all my hard work is paying off now in the Grands Prix. It’s a bit unexpected to be doing what we’re doing, but everyone knows I’m a racer and I go out there and do my best and at the moment it’s working.”
With over 40,000 people expected to be there and their air horns, it’s the biggest GP of the calendar. And this is an indoor track too, how are you going to approach this meeting?
“We’re just going to carry on doing what we’re doing and enjoy it. I won’t know until I get there at the practice on Friday about what set-up I will use. It will get the adrenalin running with all that support behind you, but I’m going to go with the same attitude and try and enjoy it. If you’re a biker, you should be there because it’s awesome, it’s brilliant, noisy and there isn’t an atmosphere quite like it.”
This is not the first time that you’ve raced inside Cardiff though is it?
“No that’s right; I had a late call-up in 2003. I had a ‘phone call on the Friday morning after I had been racing at Ipswich. Hans Andersen broke his hand unfortunately and on the way home I was joking to the boys saying, ‘Oh I might get a call up now to replace Hans’.
“I turned the ‘phone on at 9 o’clock on the Friday morning and there was a message from Middlo (Neil Middleditch, Great Britain team manager) to ring him straightaway if I wanted to ride in Cardiff. I called him back and said yes. We were only there for a short time because I bailed out in my second ride, but I gained a lot of experience there.”
How important could that experience be to you in Cardiff?
“It could help me out a lot because it’s a funny old track because it has a tendency to cut-up a lot. But hopefully that experience will see me through to the semi and the final.”
The last Grand Prix in Copenhagen was also on an indoor circuit like Cardiff and you had a disappointment there, does that affect your confidence?
“No. We had an engine go in one of my rides, but it’s just one of those things. It’s still a big learning curve for me and I found it okay, it was just the mechanical problems which let us down.”
Obviously your target is to finish inside the top-eight to guarantee your place in next year’s series. But if you don’t, and given your performances this year, are you confident that the FIM will hand you a permanent wild card place for 2008?
“I think I’ve shown what I can do and if I don’t finish in the top-8, or I do, I’m not going to be overly-disappointed because I know what I’m doing. If I give it 110% all the time and that happens then I’ll be happy.
“If we’re unfortunate and we don’t finish inside the top-8, but inside the top-10, then hopefully I can get one of the wild-card slots. It would be nice to finish inside the top-8 and get that automatic qualifying place and that’s what I’m aiming to do.”
I noticed that you have Norrie Allen in your team who helped Britain’s Mark Loram to win the World Championship in 2000, how did his involvement come about?
“Mark (Loram) got injured and my mechanic, Chris Anderson, mentioned Norrie to me and we agreed that I’d call him. He was hoping to get into the Grand Prix with Mark on a wild card, but I got in. Then Mark was injured so he agreed to come on board with us.
“At the time that I called him he had just agreed to help Screeny (Joe Screen) in Poland. He called us the next day and said that if Joe was all right about it he’d like to come on board, so he spoke to Joe who was okay about it. And he’s a good person to have around because he has a lot of experience.”
You’ve just won your first British Championship recently this must give you a huge lift?
“Every rider wants to be the best in their country, no matter what nationality they are, so to win that title at Wolves was a big honour for me. It was something I wanted to achieve because I never managed to do it at Under-21 level, so to do it at the senior level was something extra special.
“I had finished second to Scott Nicholls before. It’s probably the biggest victory of my career so far. I have been trying to win the title for years and it was a big team effort, not just now, but ever since I started racing. But winning a Grand Prix round is my goal and hopefully I can do that soon.”
You’ve been doing a bike swap for publicity with Leon Haslam of the Airwaves Ducati team and I understand that Leon has already had a go on your bike at Coventry. How did he get on?
“Pretty good to be fair, and he picked it up very quick. And I know he wants to have another go when he’s not got any meetings on so that he can have a proper go. If he does get injured then it doesn’t affect his year so much then because he had a big year ahead of him. But him and Karl Harris took to it quite quickly.”
And when are you going to have a go on a superbike?
“I think this is going to be at the end of the year now because Leon is busy with his racing and we are too. I’ve never rode a superbike before, so it’s something different and I am looking forward to it - first time for everything.”
Finally, how would you describe your racing style, what can people expect to see from Chris Harris at the British Grand Prix?
“I just go out there and give it 100 per cent and the throttle is not shut off until the chequered flag is waved. I try to cover every inch of that track to get out in front if I am behind.”
The British Speedway Grand Prix takes place at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on Saturday June 30, 2007 at 7.00pm. Tickets are available from www. speedwayworld.tv or call 0870 122 0022.