West Country racer Chris Harris has questioned the decision to scrap league racing in the UK for 2020, in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that October was the target date for sporting stadia crowds to return, writes Gareth Davies.
Harris, who hails from Probus in Cornwall, was due to line up in the top two tiers of British speedway this year at Peterborough Panthers (Premiership) and Birmingham Brummies (Championship). He also had a similar race schedule in 2019 with Norfolk side the Ipswich Witches and here in the South West at Highbridge with Somerset Rebels.
Despite the best efforts of all involved with the sport, which relies heavily on turnstile clicks to survive, the PM’s address last week, which gave much needed hope to other sports such as football, sounded a death knell for the British speedway league season, which didn’t turn a wheel in anger because of Covid-19. Speaking exclusively to The Independent Harris also revealed that he may have to look for alternative employment to make up the loss of income suffered by professional speedway’s temporary annulment.
“I’m sure they (The British Speedway Promotors) could have done something like a live stream for meetings or at least looked into that,” he began. “Cancelling the season is obviously not ideal, given the situation everyone is in, but it is the same for everyone. We haven’t raced since the end of last season meaning that we have gone a whole year and a bit without earning and it has been really tough. The clubs just got in touch with riders and said that the season has been cancelled and we will be in touch with regard to next season. Because of that, I guess I’ll have to get myself a job to give myself a bit of income and to keep myself busy.
“Trying to live off one earning that the wife is bringing in is also tough.”
Speedway has become notorious in recent years for continually chopping and changing its rules with some alterations working well and others failing spectacularly. With no obvious amendment’s forthcoming for next term it would seem highly that 2020’s rules would now become 2021’s and also, many teams would look to track the same seven riders.
While Harris agreed with that particular notion, he did provide words of caution for the future that some riders have given up on the sport and won’t return.
“From what I have been hearing, the clubs want to keep the same teams if riders want to come back,” added the 37-year-old. “I know a few riders have said they won’t be going back because they have jobs now and to go back to speedway won’t be viable.”
With Harris certainly approaching the twilight years of a glittering career, the 2007 British Grand Prix champion feels that despite the lack of action on these shores, he will still be as competitive as ever in 2021 when league racing returns.
“I should be OK to be honest because I have got a couple of meetings in France to complete,” he said defiantly. “The season in France normally starts before the British season does, but because of the virus, I’ve still got a couple of meetings to finish off out there.
“I have also still got a few long track meetings too.”
Harris, who has also ridden for Poole Pirates during his career, took his formative shale steps at two clubs that are now sadly defunct in the Exeter Falcons and Trelawny Tigers. The former, who were based in disused clay pits at Nanpean, near St Austell, brought racing back to Cornwall in 1997 after a 34-year absence under their original St Austell Gulls name. Harris was a key part of the Gulls’ septet as they rode in the Conference League, Britain’s third tier, which is now known as the National League, and contains Devon’s Plymouth Gladiators.
However, in 2000, with the Gulls needing to step up to second-tier racing, they were sold to a new promotion and they duly took their place in the Premier League – now called the Championship.
Once again, Harris was part of a rebranded Trelawny Tigers outfit and during 2003, the last season of racing before they were forced to close, they also entered a Conference side named the Trelawny Pitbull’s.
Given the unique location of racing and being a proud Cornishman, Harris was keen to look back fondly on his time racing professionally in the Duchy.
“It was where I started and I always loved that track,” he remarked. “I think it was one of the best tracks around and considering how small it was, there was still plenty of racing lines. The setting of speedway being staged in the clay pits was something that everybody used to comment on. They used to say it was like driving onto the moon, not that I know what the moon looks like though.
“All joking I aside, it was such a shame it closed because I had some great times there, great racing and very successful years there.”

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.