Interview: With Paul Harrison (#2)

F1 recently managed to get a few minutes of Paul Harrisons time,

Over to Paul.

Hi, Paul Harrison driver of the No.2 car. I’m 39 years old, married to Lindsey and we have two children Melissa who has just turned 9 years old and Bradley driver of MinStox #22. Currently we live in Wickersley, Rotherham.

Paul what’s your occupation?

I am managing director of Meadowhall Transport which is a general haulage company mainly operating flat and crane offload vehicles and trailers. Also, Merlin Trucks which is a commercial vehicle repair and maintenance garage which undertakes work from small operators and multi-national companies. We (myself and sister) started this business in 1994 after I was made redundant from my father’s business following its closure due to it being located in the path of a new dual carriageway that was being built from the town centre to the motorway.

What’s it like being the son of one the all time greats of the sport Willie Harrison?

Fantastic, my Dad was always the only driver I ever supported growing up. Everyone else was just a hazard to him in my eyes. And to see him win the World Final in 1982 at the ‘old’ Belle Vue when I was a boy is something I just can’t describe other than amazing. Today my Dad is my biggest fan and biggest critic, he praises me when I get it right and tells me when I get it wrong. I’m very proud of my father.

So when did your stockcar racing start?

When I was 8 years old; I am still the youngest ever MiniStox driver. My dad was friends with Keith Barber and asked if I could move into the Ministox formula. Keith said if he can drive and he won’t be a danger to anyone – My Dad told him that he had taught me to drive! And I was in the Ministox formula, but that was a totally different era and I could never see anything like that happening again.

And now your Son Bradley is in the MiniStox Formula; have the cars changed much from your days in the formula?

Very much so, they really have progressed. When I raced them they were very much just an old mini with a roll cage in them and bumpers all the way round. While today they are a space frame with a mini inside with bumpers around the outside, tuned engines, racing set ups, the lot. But saying that I’ve watched an old Cine Film of the National Champion Race at Long Eaton in 1979, and they were pretty fast even back then. Great learning formula, great fun.

Do you recall your move into the F1’s?

I was sixteen and half years old, my mum insisted I sit my O levels first. My first meeting was the Euro at Northampton in the afternoon and then straight on to my 2nd at Long Eaton which was just a normal meeting. Back then it was just a case of changing the tyres between the tarmac of Northampton and the shale of Long Eaton.

Any moments from your racing career stand out?

The 1993 British Championship at Long Eaton. It was coming into the closing laps of the race and Peter Falding (33) was in front of me, as we went into the turn Peter moved aside as if to let me by; but instead of cutting up the inside I stuck him into the fence and took the win and the British Championship Title. Later that night as me and Lindsey (girlfriend at the time) made our way to the bar. I saw Peter standing by the door and I was thinking ‘this might get interesting’ but No, Peter stuck his hand out, shook my hand and said “Well Done Paul, I gave you the inside line hoping you’d take it so I could have stuck you in the fence on the next turn, but you got me first, well raced”.

Do you have a preferred surface?

Guess I’d say Tar as you don’t have to wash the car after (laugh). I like tar racing; to race fast and clean is something I try and do; to race a clean line just feels so good. I’ve never been one to get into hitting everything, slowing myself down and messing up my race. But then I do enjoy racing on shale, there’s nothing more satisfying than having a good Shale meeting with good results.

Do you have a preferred engine?

I have run a small block on tarmac for the last ten years. I do prefer it, although I was a 540 big block supporter until having one. Because of the smaller stroke they pick up quicker and throw you out of the corner (provided your car is set up right) and this also helps by slowing the engine quicker when you shut off and brake for the corner. There is no doubt that car set up is critical although not every driver is suited to the same set up. The young drivers racing one car on two surfaces do a fantastic job to remain competitive which is credit to their dedication.
I have also raced a small block on shale for the last few years although my spare car is a big block 540 which I last raced at the Kings Lynn World Final; and the few meetings before that. I don’t think there is much of an advantage either way really and its more down to preference than anything else. The big blocks will usually go longer between re-builds due to them not revving as much so can be seen as a more economical option. Again, car set up is more the key because although the fans would probably prefer to see the full on broadside style of driving, the quickest way around shale is a tight tidy line which is easiest adopted when the car is set up to let you drive like that.

Any track’s from the past you’d bring back in all there glory?

Old Belle Vue. I was lucky enough to race there. The last ever meeting there, I was out in a Wainman hire car. I was leading the final, then with about two laps to go I spotted Stu Smith Snr in my rear view mirror. Stu was using Harry Smith’s car. Then ‘wallop’ he stuck me in the fence; well more on top of Ray Tyldsley’s car that was already in the fence at the time. Everything about the Old Belle Vue was just magic; the Crowd and atmosphere, the songs the crowd would sing, the noise of the place. And a fun fair as well! Brilliant track, magic days.

How many people on your team currently?

I’m lucky to have a pretty big team; not all mechanics, but on average there’s probably sixteen on the bus at any one meeting. That kind of support is just fantastic, My dad’s still my number one fan and is almost always there supporting me. Mechanics range from about 6 to 8. Ray used to be one of my Dad’s mechanics! Ray is 70 in July and a few of the other lads are getting on a bit. It is like an old folks outing on our coach somedays!! It’s testament to Ray’s dedication that he has been in the Harrison team for over 40 years and that its normal for him to come and potter on the cars 2 or 3 afternoons a week which does make everyone else’s life in the team a lot easier.

So how much time do you spend at the workshop?

These day’s I try to limit it to just a Tuesday evenings. I love my family and spending time with them outside of racing. Bradley along with his MiniStox racing also plays a bit of football & rugby and I enjoy watching him play. You know sometimes we will go to Rotherham FC to watch a game; I’ve never really been a big football fan or follow a team just enjoy doing things with my family as well as racing.
I think that’s one of the reason’s my racing is very much self funded, it’s my hobby, and I choose when and where I race with no pressure from sponsors and the like.

Do you a favourite car that you’ve raced?

It is difficult to pick out a particular favourite car; but I did like the car we built ourselves for the ’91 season which I won both my British titles in on different surfaces. I have also enjoyed racing the FWJ cars as they are uncomplicated and easy to work on. From getting the cars I do make my own adjustments to suit my style of driving so my cars will not be set up the same as Frank’s. Although I am happy to share ideas with less experienced drivers who sometimes need a point in the right direction.

F1 – Outside of Stockcar racing what would be your favourite books / films / TV Shows / Music ?

I only seem to read autobiographies and have read dozens of people’s from all walks of life. My current read is Bruce Parry who travelled the Amazon meeting the people who inhabit the area.

Favourite film is the Shawshank Redemption with its brilliant ending. I do enjoy a wide range of other films and went to the flics to see the comedy Four Christmases for Brad’s Birthday.

TV wise, I watch all sorts. I enjoy a good laugh to some of the stand ups, particularly Peter Kay. I love Only Fools and Horses and still laugh even though I have seen them all dozens of times. I like documentaries, dramas, survivals and cookery programmes (although the only cooking I do is the occasional BBQ in the summer).
The kids like Corrie and Eastenders, so they also get an occasional viewing.

I have varied tastes of music and my i-phone is loaded with all sorts. I have only ever been to two live concerts to see Simply Red years ago and the Kaiser Chiefs last year.

Thank you very much for your time Paul, We at wish you all the best of luck in your future racing and hope to catch up with again at a later date for another natter. Cheers Paul.

Thank you, It’s been a pleasure talking you. So this is Paul Harrison signing off for now.

Interview Copyright 2009 S.Cording


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