It probably seems strange to be reading a tribute to a driver in only his 9th season of racing. Maybe it is a tad early but every now and then an extra special driver emerges who seems to be the complete package. I believe that is the case with Tom and I'll outline my reasons so you can judge for yourself.
Some of the most entertaining and successful drivers in the sport of F1 stock car racing have come from the Mini Stox ranks, an important and vital feeder formula for F1 stock car drivers, and it is always fascinating to witness the way a 16-year-old copes with five times the power of a mini, how they progress through the grades and how they handle the inevitable setbacks along the way.
The very top drivers in F1 stock car racing all possess a natural ability to harness the enormous power of a V8 Chevy on short oval raceways while battling for track position during what is a full contact motorsport. Track craft comes with experience both good and bad and the very best hone those skills race by race. The results can be seen as the seasons come and go in their improving racing CVs and a few go on to claim a place in the BriSCA F1 Hall of Fame.
Over the years, iconic names such as Smith, Cronshaw, Harrison, Wainman, Lund and Falding have demonstrated these attributes and graced the ovals, with sons following on in the wheel tracks of their fathers.
Now there is another name rapidly putting together an impressive racing CV with a reputation to match. In 2012, Tom became the European Champion and World Cup Winner. By August he had 5 Final wins and 10 Heat wins, led the All-Season Grading Points chart and was leading the National Series Shoot-Out, for the silver roof, after round 1. He was on row 2 of the World Final at Skegness in September and one of the firm favourites for gold. (Sadly, in a hard and destructive race, Tom was unable to last the distance, going out with severe car damage.)
Below is a pic of the Raceway Venray Holland programme from 18/19th August 2012 - the venue of Tom's World Cup win:
And here is a pic of the World Cup on Tom's shale car at Coventry on 1st September 2012:
Tom was born in November 1988 and when old enough he raced in the mini stox formula for just over four years, being a star grade driver for much of that time.
His introduction to the Big League came in 2005 at the age of 16. He had spent the winter of 2004 renovating an ex 64 Kev Smith car that was little more than a rolling chassis, having donated many parts to his father Mick Harris' No. 8 stock car.
Tom's debut was at Coventry on April 2nd 2005 and he scored grading points in the Grand National and was well placed in the extra Dash for the Cash race. He continued to score points at every meeting he attended and topped that opening month off with his first Final victory at Kings Lynn on April 30th. That was also after briefly being hospitalised following total brake failure and a heavy impact with the fence at Hednesford on April 24th. He went on to finish 15th in the National Points Championship in his first season with that 1 Final and 8 heat wins.
Tom's racing CV since then reads as follows:
2006 - 18th in National Points with 3 heat wins.
2007 - 10th in National Points with 1 Final and 1 heat win.
2008 - 12th in National Points with 1 Final and 5 heat wins. 8th in World Final.
2009 - 8th in National Points with 2 Finals and 9 heat wims.
2010 - 3rd in National Points with 4 Finals and 12 heat wins.
2011 - 1st in National Points with 8 Finals and 17 heat wins. 6th in World Final.
There had been an absence of championship victories until the current season.
In 2009 he was part of the Team GB squad who competed for the first time in the New Zealand Super Stocks Car Team Championships and finished 3rd. He was again a key member of the team in 2010 when they proved that 2009 was no fluke and finished runners up with Tom voted Entertainer of the Teams for his outstanding blocking efforts. He was again in the team in 2011 when Team GB finished 5th and also in 2012 when they finished 3rd.
Tom devotes all his time to F1 stock cars. He has become a successful and innovative stock car builder competing with the likes of Frankie Wainman Jnr and Wayne Helliwell. He offers a service to the sport from repairs to complete cars and supplies shale and tarmac wings and his construction skills are in demand both in the UK and Holland. The competition and availability of top quality stock cars from these three builders to new and existing drivers can only be good for the sport.
Below is a model of Tom's 2012 car with the red and yellow chequered aerofoil of the European Champion and the gold stripes of the World Cup Winner:
After just eight and a half seasons, Tom Harris remains an exciting prospect and has already made a claim for a place in Stock Car Racing's Hall of Fame. In my view he seems to possess those special qualities that make certain F1 stock car drivers stand out from the pack e.g. fiercely competitive but accepts that he is not going to win every race; respect for fellow drivers but doesn't fear reputations; great anticipation on track and ability to read a race under pressure; controlled aggression, able to withstand hits and deliver them; appears calm under pressure both on and off the track; innovative engineering skills; prepared to push the boundaries; not fazed by setbacks on or off the track; articulate when interviewed and a good ambassador for the sport in the UK and beyond; professional image in terms of car preparation, transporter and team wear.
He competes week in, week out with not only more experienced rivals like 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr, 2 Paul Harrison, 53 John Lund and others but other young and equally talented drivers like 4 Daniel Johnson (he has an equally impressive racing CV since his debut in 2006), 197 Ryan Harrison, 321 Ed Neachell, 55 Craig Finnikin, 217 Lee Fairhurst, 464 Luke Davidson and many others, not to mention crowd favourite 150 Mick Sworder! That he is able to hold his own in a sport where reputations can come unstuck on the front bumper of a rival speaks volumes, and I would argue that the competition between the top drivers is as fierce as I have ever witnessed it over the last 40 odd years. The gap between lower graded drivers and the star men in terms of competitive cars is much narrower these days and if a white or yellow grade driver gets a head start while the red grades are sorting themselves out, they are difficult to catch over 16 or 20 laps.
There can be little doubt that more Championships will come the way of Tom Harris in the seasons to come but he will not have it all his own way and it's a certainty that fans of stock car racing will flock to see Tom and the others going head to head. I can foresee the battles between Harris, Fairhurst, Johnson and Finnikin conjuring up memories of the unforgettable Smith, Wainman, Lund and Speak encounters of the past.
UPDATE NOV 2012
Tom's 2012 season proved to be his most successful so far. His achievements read as follows:
National Series Shoot-Out Champion - silver roof
European Champion - red and yellow chequered roof
World Cup Winner - gold stripes
Grand National Champion
All-Season Grading Points Champion
7 Final victories and 11 Heat wins
UPDATE NOV 2013
Tom lived up to expectation in the 2013 season despite fierce competition. He won 1 Final and 20 Heats. In the Major Championships he defended his Gold Cup Championship in Holland in August to retain the gold stripes on his roof and then proceeded to win the most coveted Championship in the sport - the World Championship at Kings Lynn on 21st September. He has elected to carry the racing number 1 as World Champion.
He won the All-Season Grading Points Championship and came second to 197 Ryan Harrison in the National Series Championship, just eight points in arrears.
Below is a picture of Tom's gold-winged car at Northampton the day after his World Final victory with his trophy on the front of the car:
UPDATE TO END OF 2014 SEASON
Tom Harris built cars proved to be very successful during the 2014 season with 2 Paul Harrison winning his 4th British Championship in a Harris Motorsport tarmac car at Birmingham. Three of the first four finishers were in cars built by Tom.
Tom experienced engine problems during the first part of this season but by the finish he had recorded his best ever number of Final wins with 9 and added the Final at Stoke at Christmas for good measure. He has now won a total of 36 Finals since his debut in 2005.
He became Scottish Champion and finished 2nd in the All Season National Points, 2nd in the National Series and 6th in the World Final at Coventry.
An exciting development during the close season was the report that Tom has been invited to represent the UK in the 2015 Chili Bowl Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma USA driving a Sprint Car. The number of cars competing is expected to exceed the 281 who participated in 2014.