GRR

This Harris-Rotax 250cc is a Members' Meeting missile

03rd May 2018
Andrew Willis

In a 76th Members’ Meeting Hailwood Trophy field that would have been dominated by Yamahas, it was lovely to see a unique British bike standing proudly in the paddocks.

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The machine in question is a 1984 Harris-Rotax 250cc, owned by Chris Wilson, a charming man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his machines. 

“It’s got a really odd and unique round tube aluminium frame. Normally it’s round tubing steel or box-section steel, but Harris built the bike to test geometry and to see if round tube aluminium works. It did, but the cost implications meant it wasn’t followed up”. 

Built in 1982 for three-time TT winner Alex George, the British Harris chassis is mounted with an Austrian Rotax engine, intended to take on the might of championship-winning Yamahas. Alex never got the chance, with George Russell having the pleasure of riding it instead. 

“For some bizarre reason, this bike – a 250cc – was entered into the 350cc British Championships, and it was competitive. It worked very well, but it never really had a fair shot at anything”.

In a twist of fate, it was Alex George who would end up putting the bike into storage in his workshop in 1984. The very bike that was built for him to win championships on. 

“Alex took the fairing off, lost the fairing and didn’t touch it until three years ago when I saw it. Long story short, I bought the bike, got it restored, and I absolutely love it!”.

Known for being somewhat temperamental, the Harris-Rotax has found itself in good hands with Chris Wilson, and his rider, Sebastian Gutsch from BMW.

“It just needs love and attention. Sebastian the rider loves the bike, so it’s his intention to do just that. Last year he took the bike back to Germany. He’s prepared it, taken the engine out, and taken it to Austria to Rotax themselves, they’ve had a look at it and want to develop the bike even further”.

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The prospect of seeing his pride-and-joy competing at the sharp-end of historic meets had Chris talking with genuine excitement.

“This would be sat in a workshop doing nothing if it hadn’t been rescued. Fundamentally, this should be an absolute missile. It should fly. Perhaps not this weekend, but when it’s running properly, it should be insanely quick”. 

With the icy, snow-swept conditions putting a stop to any two-wheeled fever at 76MM, Chris is realistic whilst looking to the future. 

“I never put pressure on my riders to go or not to go. If they want to go out and they come off, no one ever gets moaned at. They don’t come off on purpose”.

“We want to be a regular competitor here.  What would be really cool is to have my two German Knights, as they call themselves, riding two very British bikes. My other bike is The Cotton-Rotax which was Steve Tonkin’s TT-winning bike. It would be really cool to have two German guys on two British bikes. I think that’s what Goodwood aspires too. Odd combinations and great stories”.

Franky Chris, we can’t wait to see the Harris-Rotax fulfil its potential as a Members’ Meeting missile. There’s always next year!

Photography by James Lynch

  • 76MM

  • Harris-Rotax

  • 2018

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