On September 13, 2023, the Guinness Book of World Records announced a new recordholder for the world’s oldest motorcycle racer. Back in February 2023, a racer named Leslie Harris competed on his BSA Bantam at the Pukekohe 43rd Classic Motorcycle Festival in Auckland, New Zealand. 

Harris was 97 at the time, and the event took place about three weeks before his 98th birthday. At the time, the event was already quite special for multiple reasons. For one, Harris was racing with two other generations of his family in the event.  

His eldest son Rod, who was 64 at the time, and granddaughter Olivia, aged 21, also suited up to take part during the festival. The event was also bittersweet, as the circuit had been sold and this was the very last time that event would be held there—but at least they were all there to experience it together. 

All three members of the Harris family competed in the Regularity race, where the goal is not quickness, but consistency. The rider with the most consistent lap times wins. Les was a previous winner of this event back in 2019, when he was just 93 years old. 

For various reasons, Les hadn’t been able to compete between 2019 and 2023, so he was very much looking forward to saddling back up and getting out on track on his beloved BSA Bantam. First, he had hip surgery after the 2019 event, which of course required recovery time. At the 2020 event, he’d planned to compete but then injured himself during qualifying, breaking six ribs. That meant more recovery time—and unfortunately, no competition. 

Then the COVID pandemic came, and all kinds of public events, including races, simply weren’t held for a couple of years. Would 2023 finally break the racing drought? 

Thankfully, it worked out—and all three members of the Harris family were on track that day. Les finished in fourth place, while Rod took eighth and Olivia took 21st in her first year of competition.

Racing doesn’t always run in families, but it’s always extra cool to see when it does. Considering that Les has apparently been racing since 1953—that's 70 years, if you’re counting—it seems likely that the two younger generations have happy memories of time spent at the track with Les. 

What’s Les going to do now that he’s a Guinness World Record holder? If all goes according to plan, he’ll be racing in February 2024, at the 44th Classic Motorcycle Festival—when he’ll be 98 years old and should be able to break his old record. 

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