HARRIS RECALLS EARLY EXETER RACING DAYS


Westcountry racer Chris Harris speaks with Andy Mitchell about his time racing for the Exeter Falcons

Chris Harris cannot have many regrets about his career but one missed opportunity with Exeter sticks in his mind – not least because “it will never happen again”.
The Cornish born flyer, who would become a three-time British champion and stalwart of 103 Grand Prix meetings was still too young to buy a pint when he was entrusted with a shot at history alongside fellow reserve Bobby Eldridge at the County Ground in 2000.
The duo had played their parts in a 75-15 whitewash of Arena Essex just days earlier and despite facing more formidable opposition in Glasgow, featuring former world number-two Les Collins, a repeat was very much on the cards.
With the final nominated race to go the score was 70-14, the Tigers had been well and truly tamed with guest Scott Swain and Collins tasked with mitigating the embarrassment in heat 15 against the two least-senior riders the Falcons could track.
Club and city historian Tony Lethbridge takes up the story.
“I think the crowd was a bit surprised but they were also fully confident because at the time, Chris and Bobby had shown they were capable of beating everyone, they had done throughout the night,” he said.
“They got round the first corner in front and Chris had ridden Les wide, holding him up by the fence but unfortunately nipped underneath him.
“Chris pushed him all the way but couldn’t get past and Glasgow got the point to avoid a whitewash.”
It was a race that needed no introduction to Harris, even after all these years.
“The heat leaders didn’t want to go out for 15 and they stuck it on me and Bobby, spoiling our two 75-15s,” he recalled.
“The lads said give it to the reserves and I thought ‘here we go’. I was absolutely gutted after, fuming to be honest. It will never happen again and it spoiled my maximum as well.”
It didn’t matter too much in the end with Exeter winning a league title for only the second time in club history and the last time before closure in 2005, a season that properly set Harris on his way.
“It was a fantastic time and the type of success you race for; you want medals and it gave me a taste for winning more,” he added.
It was a good job he had the taste for it because he went on to become one of British speedway’s most decorated and popular racers.
Alongside individual glory he boasts six league championships to date, the most recent being with Poole Pirates in 2018.
Even in the twilight of his career the trademark moves that inspired the nickname Bomber – one he picked up through a newspaper headline while with Exeter – remain the same.
Harris tells the full story of his family struggling to make ends meet in his junior days and then the untimely death of his father, grasstrack rider Cedric Caff, in edition two of Falcons Nest, a programme-style magazine celebrating Exeter Speedway.
It focuses on the 2000 Premier League championship-winning campaign with a retro race card, pictures, Lethbridge’s untold tales from behind the scenes and the results and scorers from that memorable campaign.
Steve Luxton, a shareholder of the company that is trying to revive speedway in the city, also provides an update on the latest efforts to secure a site for a new track.
Copies start heading out tomorrow (Monday) and can be ordered for £2.25 plus £1.75 postage and packaging via PayPal: paypal.me/programmeordering
Those wishing to pay by cheque should email: programmeordering@gmail.com

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.