Interview: With Tom Harris (#84)

Tom Harris one of Stockcar’s young guns recently spoke to F1 Stockcars.

Hi, I’m Tom Harris driver of the 84 car son of Mick Harris ( No.8 car) my home town is Shipton-on-stour.

Hi Tom, thanks for taking the time to chat could you tell me what your occupation is.

I’m a mechanic. I work with HGV’s and artics doing anything from servicing, Mot’s, running repairs and breakdowns.

How did you get into racing?

From my Dad (Mick) when I was about 5 years old he got himself a formula Two stockcar. But back then I was more interested in racing my Motorcross motorbike.

How long did you race bikes for Tom and when the shift to Stockcars?

I raced bikes from age five to about nine. I remember going to watch my Dad at Long Eaton one time when I had a broken leg (from Motorcross) and remember it being freezing cold – not being able to move about. I’d say it was around 1997 when I first started to move over to Stockcars. It was around that time that I first took an interest in my Dad’s F1 and begin to start helping my Dad with his car.
When I was ten years old I got a MiniStox and raced that up to the age of fifteen.

Why only fifteen Tom?

When I got to fifteen I decided that I was going to do something with an old F1 chassis of my Dads that was just sitting in the corner of the workshop getting robbed for parts. I set to rebuilding it into a car. That took about the whole year to do.

Any Drivers you admire?

Other than my Dad, it’s FWJ and Andy Smith. That’s what I’m aiming to be.

And was that the car you came out in?

Yes it was that car; but before I moved into the formula we took the car to Northampton for a practice session. I must have spent four hours just going round on my own, getting the feel to the car and started learning how to drive it before racing it. It felt excellent. Not just the power and the fact that I was in an F1 but it was an F1 I’d spent pretty much every free minute of my time building for the past year. My Dad was there with his car and he was running in the engine that had just been rebuilt by Murray Harrison (Car No.97), After I’d been out for like four hours in mine and my Dad’s car was run-in, he let me have ago in his. It was a totally different kettle of fish! I’d spent four hours thinking mine was the bee’s knees then I got in a ‘proper’ race ready car and it just left mine for dead.

Do you remember much about your debut?

Yes it was at Kings Lynn and I started at the back. Before that first race, I was not necessarily nervous, well I was but I just didn’t want to make myself look stupid, getting lapped how ever many times and whatever. I got a 9th Place in that race and pretty much rattled myself round the fence for the whole race. I was going too mad, far too much throttle. I remember getting back into the pits and being told to calm down. That’s really important to listen to all the advice you’re given when you start. My Dad, FWJ, Andy Smith have all given me advice and I try to take it on board and do it, it really does help you.

How much time will you try and spend in the workshop a week?

Being able to drive is only about 40% of it, once you can kind of do that then the most important thing is Workshop time. Getting to know as much as you can about your car, what it can and can’t do is everything. I’ll spend every night after work in the workshop from say 5:30 to 9:30 / 10pm in the week. Even if there’s not damage to repair, I’ll tinker on. I want to be the next Andy Smith or FWJ and they have not got where they are today from running the same racing set ups but by trying different things. Some things work some things don’t and I want to find out that with my own car. The workshop is where you really win races, the more you put in the more reliable and competitive your car will be.

That’s quite a lot of time, Tom do you listen to the radio or anything while working?

I’ll have radio One on, blast that out it helps you work.

So any jobs on the car you’re less keen on doing?

Not really, It’s what I enjoy doing but saying that I can’t stand the smell of Gear oil! So changing the Diff and Gears is not the most attractive thought. (laughs)

And what about your team?

I’ve got a really good team and friends that help out. My main mechanics I would say are Michael, Carl and of course my Dad. Every Wednesday evening they all try and get to the workshop to help out. Race Day’s are different, you never know who else might lend a hand or who you’ll lend a hand to all depending on who needs help. Who’s got the most damage? The Sport can be good like that.

Any moments from your racing career stand out?

Skegness Semi last year (2008). I didn’t get the result, but in that race it felt like it was all coming together, I could be fast and aggressive. Up till then I could be fast or aggressive, but that race felt great. I felt so in control it (my car) was doing everything I wanted it to do. That race was a big bench mark for me.
And Warenton in Belgium, racing on that track was unbelievable, So fast. Not your normal UK type track or racing but opening it up round there was awesome.

Any tracks you wish could once again be open for F1 Racing?

Baarlo in Netherlands and Bradford, big fast tracks. I’ve never raced at either as I’m too young but from watching videos and listening to people talk about those two tracks, they are the one’s I’d love to have a go on.

New Zealand 2009 *interview took place Winter 2008.

I can’t wait! Since I started racing I’ve always wanted to go over there and race, hearing the stories of how FWJ, Stu Smith and others have got on. I just wanted to go.

The racing is quite different in NZ how do you think you’ll get on?

Now, I think I’ve got what it takes. It’s taken me a few years to learn my racing craft and build up my experience, but I feel so ready for this now. I’ve been a lot more aggressive in my racing this year and built up my speed to go with that. To be given respect from UK drivers that I could only ever dream of having their respect is unbelievable. I’m so up for this challenge. I just wish I was there already!

It’s a long flight over, what’s on your ipod?

I’ll have a bit of the Prodigy on.

Good luck in New Zealand, before we end is there any advice you’d give to anyone starting out in F1 Stockcar racing.

Slow is faster and keep your head, it will come.

Thank you for your time Tom and hope to catch up with you on your safe return. From all at F1 Stockcars Good luck.

Anytime, Cheers. Tom Harris #84.

Tom Harris Waves to crowd at Warneton (Belgium) 2008. Photo Colin Cass.

Tom Harris Waves to crowd at Warneton (Belgium) 2008. Photo Colin Cass.

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