Unless you’re Pastor Maldonado, Formula One is the tarmac-based high-adrenaline sport we’ve all come to love, despite our constant wave of moaning and trepidation. For example, we cried in our droves last year when V8’s were outlawed from Formula One racing. The thing is though, V8’s still kind of exist in Formula One. Just not the one we know so well.
Tom Harris only knows this too well. Harris was the 2013 BRISCA F1 World Champion, competing in the premier oval racing stock car series, entertaining crowds at the likes of Brandon Stadium in Coventry, and out in the sticks at the Norfolk Arena. No sign of Silverstone or Goodwood in this game.
We caught up with Harris at Autosport International – just days ahead of his oval racing debut in America – to learn a little more about the sport. “We race on dirt-track or tarmac ovals. The cars are built with a box section chassis and V8 American engines with 700 bhp. Oh, and it’s a full contact sport.”
Everything Bernie’s F1 isn’t, then.
In fact BRISCA F1 is the polar opposite to it’s more established namesake, trading the multi-million pound development race for the £3.50 race to make it from the burger van to the racetrack in time for the next 20-lap heat, which in itself is far from a straight forward race.
“The more points you get in the season, the better you are, and the further you start back on the grid, just like a handicap system. So the good guys have to start at the back and get to the front, which makes quite entertaining really!” enthused Tom.
With a lack of carbon fibre and an abundance of corrugated metal, BRISCA has taken the brave decision to omit DRS from the sport, with Harris and co opting for a more personal touch. We’ll call it the “Nico Rosberg factor”.
“If a guy is faster than you and you get the opportunity, you can poke them into the fence”, Tom grins, “without having to worry about catching them purely on speed. In that respect we’re in a very distinct sport.
It’s this ability to “poke” that has seen Harris rise to the top of the popular sport, and all by the age of 25. “I started when I was ten; I did a junior formula called ‘Ministox’, and I did that until I was 15. At that point I had a year off to build one of my Dad’s old stock cars up, and then from there I jumped straight into Formula One with that very car.”
Much like the other British world champions associated with the words “Formula One”, the Banbury ace had a spectacular career in, erm, Formula One. “I built up a couple of new cars and I managed to win the title. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a kid and since I started out. I somehow managed it.”
Following in the footsteps of Our Nige, Harris is tackling his season as reigning champ over in the United States competing in the prestigious Chilli Bowl Nationals, the birthplace and amphitheatre of stock car racing since the early 1920s. “The creme-de-la-creme of the sport race in America. That’s where all the top boys are, and if you want to race with the best, that’s the best place to go. So I’m going!”
And we wish you all the best of luck, champ!