When the tapes go up at Mühldorf in Germany this coming Sunday (17 September) for the sixth and last Final of the 2023 FIM Long Track World Championship, only two men – home hero Martin Smolinski and Britain’s Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris – will be in contention for the crown.
Smolinski was the champion back in 2018, but for Harris – who was third last year – it could be his first FIM World Championship title, although the forty-year-old is remaining remarkably calm about the prospect of becoming champion.
“It’s been a fantastic season for me,” he said. “I started out a bit slowly in Herxheim which hasn’t always been the best track for me and I missed out on the Grand Final, but since then it has been good.
“I’m planning on approaching Sunday in the same way as I approach every other meeting. I’ll treat it as just another meeting and what will be will be. Martin is a fantastic rider and he’ll be on his home track so he knows his set-up and he knows the lines, but it’s a track I do enjoy going to so I hope we can take it down to the Grand Final and the best man will win I guess.”
Harris has been riding since he was five before starting out racing Grass Track a few years later. He then graduated onto Speedway and Long Track and still regularly competes in all three disciplines – although ‘regularly’ does not quite do justice to just how active he is during the season.
“Nothing else has ever really interested me apart from bikes. I’m very much racing every weekend really. If it’s not Long Track then I’ll have a Grass Track or there might be a Speedway meeting – last year I think I did one-hundred-and-twenty meetings all over Europe.
“Last weekend I was in Scotland on Friday, then we drove down to London to fly to Germany to race a Long Track meeting on the Saturday, I had another meeting in England on Sunday and then I drove another one-hundred-and-eighty kilometres so I could race again on the Monday.
“I love racing and while I’m still fit and healthy and young enough and still enjoy it I’ll keep going.”
Harris did not get off to the greatest of starts this season when he failed to make the Grand Final at the opening Final of the FIM Long Track World Championship at Herxheim in Germany in May.
However, in Ostrów in Poland he battled back into contention with a career-first victory and he then doubled up at Marmande in France to move to the top of the points table. A solid second at the fourth Final at Scheessel in Germany saw him extend his slender advantage over Smolinski, but the German reduced the deficit last time out at Morizes in France where he finished second, one place ahead of his rival.
The result sets up a thrilling season climax at Mühldorf with Harris leading Smolinski by a point and it is safe to say that despite his cool exterior, taking the title is a very big deal for the British star.
“To be an FIM World Champion will mean an awful lot to me. It’s something I set out to do a long time ago and it would be fantastic, a dream come true.”
The tapes are scheduled to go up on the first Heat at Mühldorf at 14:00 local time with the action available as a Pay-Per-View broadcast via a livestream package on the Tapes Up TV channel.