'Bomber' Harris is close to creating Peterborough Panthers history by conquering the world

Chris Harris in action for Panthers against Ipswich. Photo: David Lowndes.Chris Harris in action for Panthers against Ipswich. Photo: David Lowndes.
Chris Harris in action for Panthers against Ipswich. Photo: David Lowndes.
​Chris Harris is only 12 rides away from glory and becoming the first Panthers rider to be crowned an individual world champion.

​The Panthers’ skipper can edge closer to winning the World Long Track Championship on Saturday in the fifth of six title-deciding Grand Prix rounds.

He goes into the meeting at Morizes, France, heading the standings, three points ahead of his ex-Coventry teammate Martin Smolinski.

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Harris is the rider on a roll having won two of the last three rounds – at Ostrow in Poland and Marmande in France – and finishing runner-up at Scheessel, Germany, earlier this month.

Long track racing is like speedway, but on much bigger shale tracks, anything from 700 to 1,000 metres long, and is especially popular on the continent and ‘Bomber’, who is 40, would become only the fourth British rider to win the FIM gold medal since the Championship was first launched in 1971.

Harris admits: “It would mean such a lot to me. It’s something I watched as a kid and to think I can do what only Michael Lee, Simon Wigg and Kelvin Tatum have done would be amazing, especially given my background in grass track racing.

“My late dad was a long track and grass track fan and it would have meant so much to him for me to be world champion.”

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Harris only went into the discipline in 2017 after his days as a speedway Grand Prix regular ended, explaining: “I wanted to ride grass track at the weekends to keep me busy and I asked to be a wild card into the long track series.

"They put my name forward and I got a wild card and I have been in it ever since.”

Despite being a comparative novice compared with some of his rivals, Harris won a bronze medal last year and is now favourite to last the distance over the final two rounds to claim the crown.

Harris added: “It’s only three points between me and Martin and anything can happen so I’m not getting too carried away.

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"I know racing can turn around in the blink of an eye, but it’s nice to be in my position.

"It’s better to be three points ahead than three points behind with just two meetings to go.

“I know I have got Martin as my closest rival, and I’ve definitely got a target on my back as he isn’t going to give up.”

The pair will clash again on Saturday and, unless there is a dramatic result there, everything will go down to the sixth and final round at Muhldorf, Germany, on Sunday, September 17.

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While the German star has the edge in experience on the 1,000 metre tracks – he was World Champion in 2018 – it is the Panthers star who is at the top of his game after dropping only one point from five rides in Monday night’s KO Cup win against Ipswich at the East of England Arena.

Harris will be back in Panthers’ colours for tonight’s (Thursday) Premiership match against Wolverhampton and then races for his Championship side Glasgow in the National Pairs event at Oxford tomorrow night (Friday) before setting off on the 750-mile overnight trek to the south of France.

“There are only two of us who can drive on the trip,” Harris revealed. “My mechaic Grant Bignell and myself.

"I will get some sleep in the van, but I will have to do some driving as well.”