97-year-old sets Guinness Record as the world’s oldest racer

Leslie Harris from New Zealand has set a Guinness World Record and is officially the world’s oldest motorcycle racer. He’s still competing too, and shows no signs of stopping despite being nearly 100 years old!

The world's oldest motorcycle racer, Leslie Harris

Earlier this year and just three weeks before his 98th birthday, Leslie took part in the Pukekohe 43rd Classic Motorcycle Festival in Auckland. The event is a regularity race, meaning the competitors must attempt to maintain the most consistent lap times possible.

It’s a race Leslie has competed in before, even going on to win in 2019 at the age of 93. Leslie has been unable to attend the event since 2020 after a spill at that year’s event left him with numerous broken bones. The Guinness World Records website reports that the bike slipped off its starting rollers as Leslie was trying to mount the machine. The resulting fall left Leslie with six broken ribs and a long time laid up for recovery. He also had a hip replacement in 2019, something that is fairly common for people that age and younger.

An original promotional picture of the bike Leslie rides

At the 2023 event, Leslie was using his historic BSA Bantam 175cc and managed to secure a fourth-place finish. He wasn’t alone in this year’s event though, as his son, Rod came eighth, and granddaughter, Olivia, chalked up a 21st-place finish.

Speaking about the event, his son Rod said:
“Consistent lap times are a crucial element in all motorsports, allowing race teams to have better control over fuel and vehicle wear. It is a skill that takes many years to master without modern timing machines.”

He also revealed that Les isn’t looking at hanging up his helmet any time soon, and claims he’s still out to find some more performance from the little two-stroke machine.

“It was very important to Les to be able to ride the track and compete for a trophy he had won at a previous event. His passion is racing his BSA Bantam classic motorbikes at whatever racing event he can enter. He is busy modifying his bike in preparation for the next event and to suit his ageing and shrinking frame. As Les says: ‘I’m not finished yet, I don’t need to leave.’”

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