Bomber happy to get on his bike for pounds and points

About 275 kilometres along the magnificent Baltic coastline from Stockholm is the city of Vastervik. Once a bustling timber port, it is now a popular tourist attraction which doubles in population during the extraordinarily light summer months.

One of the more unlikely visitors to this picturesque destination is Chris Harris, one of Britain's leading speedway riders, who makes a regular pilgrimage in pursuit of pounds, points and the best domestic competition in the world. The journey from his home in Coventry to Vastervik's speedway circuit is one he has undertaken for three years, about a dozen times a season, but he feels it is his destiny.

"I did not perform brilliantly at school. All I ever wanted to do was ride bikes. Thankfully, I had some ability for speedway," he says, having had just three hours' sleep following an evening race at Belle Vue in Manchester and an early-morning plane trip to attend the latest Swedish meeting. "Having been brought up on a farm, I couldn't work in an office, nine to five. I haven't got the brain power for that."

Welcome, then, to the demanding life of a modern speedway rider. Few British sportsmen embark on a more tortuous weekly professional schedule. Throughout the domestic season, which begins in March and reaches its climax in October, the Cornish-born 25-year-old will attend 130 meetings, racing for three teams: the Elite League champions, Coventry Bees (any time during the week); Vastervik (home and away meetings every Tuesday); and KM Ostrow in Poland (most Sunday nights). To the detriment of his carbon footprint, but to the benefit of the low-cost airlines, Harris made 80 flights around Europe in six months last year.

"It can be lonely. The travelling gets you down but you have to deal with it. I'll sleep in a van, on a plane or at the airport," says Harris, nicknamed Bomber. "It catches up on you."

Harris will be there when the Speedway Grand Prix circuit arrives in Cardiff on Saturday. It was at the Millennium Stadium 12 months ago when, in his debut season, Harris announced himself to the world's elite. Overtaking the former world champion Greg Hancock on the last corner of the grand final, Harris became the first home winner of a British GP since 2000. "I'm capable of winning on the world stage consistently. It'll take a couple of years but I have to be prepared to keep plugging away."

Although his form has waned, credit for that Cardiff ride should also go to the members of Team Harris – his manager, Chris Anderson, organises the travel, while mechanics Steven Midgley and Norrie Allan ensure that his 11 engines and eight fixed-gear bikes – with no brakes and top speeds of 70mph – are operational and transported safely.

All Harris needs to do is turn up and ride. Given that his three club contracts are performance-related, it is no surprise everything is meticulously planned. "The better you are, the better deal you get," he says. "But if I don't score a point in a meeting, I don't earn anything – and the mechanics still get paid."

The recognition Harris earns from racing abroad makes it all worthwhile. Last Tuesday, less than an hour after producing his best performance of the season, in which he was the joint highest points-scorer in five heats – helping Vastervik to a 56-40 win over local rivals Elit Vetlanda live on Swedish television – Harris was surrounded by local fans.

Speedway has a high profile in Scandinavia, but viewing figures have also quadrupled in Britain. "Footballers make me laugh when they moan about three matches a week," Harris says. "They only run round after a ball. We get knocked down, battered and bruised, then get back on our bikes. How can they be tired? That's prima donnas for you. They should try speedway."

Life and times

Born: 28 November 1982, Truro, Cornwall.

Nickname: Bomber.

Vital statistics: 5ft 5in, 9st.

Rides for: Coventry Bees (British League); Rybnik (Polish League); Vastervik (Swedish League); Slangerup (Danish League).

Individual honours: British champion 2007, British Grand Prix winner 2007.

Team Honours: Elite League champion 2005, 2007; Elite League KO Cup Winner 2006, 2007; Premier League champion 2000; Craven Shield winner 2007; Premier Trophy winner 2002; Conference League champion 1998; Conference League Knockout Cup 1998.

Interests: Football, motorcross, gym.

Extras: Before taking up speedway he was a farmer. Injuries suffered due to speedway include cracked shoulder blade and broken wrist.

Tom Bateman

The British Speedway Grand Prix is liveon Sky Sports 1 from 7pm next Saturday

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments