97-year-old New Zealander Leslie Harris becomes Guinness record holder

The Guinness Book of World Records finally has a name to fill the slot for “world’s oldest competitive motorcycle racer”: Leslie Harris. In February of this year, New Zealand native Harris was three weeks shy of his 98th birthday when he took part in the The Pukekohe 43rd Classic Motorcycle Festival in Auckland, New Zealand. The then-97-year-old rode in the Regularity Parade, a competition to see who among the field can ride the most consistent lap times. The NZ Motorcycle Racing Register doesn’t consider the Regularity event as a race, but it is a competitive event that requires a qualification race, meeting Guinness’ standards. Harris — Les to his friends — rode with his 64-year-old son Rod and 21-year-old daughter Olivia also in the field, and finished fourth.

His sons Rod and Tim might have been the catalyst to make this all happen. The Guinness website maintains pages for records that haven’t been filled yet, such as world’s oldest female ice hockey player and oldest motocross racer. Anyone can nominate a person for a slot by filling out the application form, which his sons did before the Pukekohe event. Of course, it took Les to make the field and do the work.

And Les might have placed higher if he’d been a little less rusty. He won the same competition at the same event in 2019 when he was 93. In 2020, preparing to qualify to defend his win, Les fell down and broke six ribs when his beloved BSA Bantam 175cc two-stroke slipped off the roller starters. In 2021 and 2022, the organizer didn’t hold the event due to Covid, so this was Les’ first time back in four years. Now that he’s got hard laps in again, he’ll probably be breaking his own record soon. Tim Harris said his dad is busy modifying his bike in preparation for the next event and to suit his aging and shrinking frame. As Les says: ‘I’m not finished yet, I don’t need to leave.'” Race fans should look for him at the Spring Classic in October and the 44th Annual NZCMRR Classic Racing Festival next February.

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