It is without question that Nathan Harrison has had his fair share of misfortune during his relatively short road-racing career. A huge incident in 2015 almost cost him his leg and with it the prospect of competing on the iconic 37.73-mile Mountain Course. Regardless, his gritty determination has brought him back to full fitness with the Onchan prodigy representing one of the brightest Manx prospects since the likes of Dan Kneen, Conor Cummins and Michael Evans.
Harrison's debut MGP tenure was certainly a mixed one. The fortnight started off badly for all due to the ever unpredictable Manx weather, with Nathan unable to complete an unsupervised lap until the Thursday of practice week. Adding to his misery, mechanical failure forced him to retire from the Newcomer's Race with a lead of 14.3 seconds with victory beckoning. Albeit, Harrison finished the week off with a valiant 13th place in the Senior with a highly impressive lap of 117.882 to boot, as he scooped up the Lady Hill Rosebowl trophy for the best local resident.
Manx Grand Prix's Sam Bowers caught up with Harrison to discuss his MGP debut alongside prospects for the upcoming race season.
SB: Competing in the Manx was a life-long dream of yours and a long time coming following a serious incident in 2015. What was it like heading down Bray Hill flat-out on two wheels instead of in your van at 30 mph?
NH: "It is something you can’t even put into words, something you feel as if you shouldn’t really be able to do. I don’t think anything will ever come close to it in my life - that’s how much of a buzz you get. Nothing comes close to being flat-out down a main road with a 30mph speed limit that I drive most days, lined with with houses, walls and people enjoying watching you!"
SB: Practice week was one of the worst rain affected in the event's 95 year history. How frustrating was it for you?
NH: "Frustrating didn’t even come close with it being something you had waited for for what felt like a lifetime. It was the same thing but on a different day. The days leading up to first practice also dragged, but obviously there wasn't anything you could do. Everyone was in the same boat too, and as I have always said, what will be will be."
SB: You’ve had some great mentors around you giving advice, from the late great Dan Kneen to brother Glenn and TT-Winner Dean Harrison. How useful has their advice been?
NH: "Obviously any help from someone that’s been there and done it can be of value. But advice from two people who compete up at the sharp end is a different matter, and when I’m a person that wants to win races that’s exactly what I need. My brother Glenn has lapped at over 120mph in the Manx Grand Prix and Dean Harrison is, well, Dean Harrison! A proven TT-winner, hopefully I can follow in his footsteps. Their knowledge of the Mountain course that I took on board was priceless - giving me a solid platform to build upon in 2019."
SB: Although ultimately short-lived, how did it feel knowing that you were leading a race on the IOM Mountain Course?
NH: "When I came out of the Sulby Bridge right behind Thomas Maxwell (No1) and saw that [the initial leader of the race] Mike Browne had blown up, I knew I was just in the position I needed to be. I passed Thomas into Ramsey and came to the realisation that I was actually leading the race! Exciting the Gooseneck I saw Travelling Marshal Jim Hunter come to the side of the road with one hand signalling P1 and the other with a thumbs up. It was an unreal feeling going through the Grandstand knowing that you were leading a race round the Isle of Man TT course - it’s just a shame it ended how it did!"
SB: You picked up the Lady Hill Rosebowl for the best local resident in the 2018 Senior Manx Grand Prix. Did that make up for your misfortune in the Newcomer’s Race?
NH: "Yes I suppose it did in a way. To come away with the best local rider in my first Manx Grand Prix as a newcomer was a great achievement. I’m a 'what’s meant to be will be' sort of person and, as gutted as I was to lose out on winning my first race, it just wasn’t meant to be on that particular day! As my Mum told me, I’ve been through worse with my accident and overcame that, so I could easily make amends for the Newcomer's disappointment by winning plenty of other races!"
SB: What events do you plan to partake in this year? NW200? Ulster Grand Prix?
NH: "I’m going over to the North West 200 for the first time this year. I am also competing in the Post-TT and Southern 100 and hope to be racing up at the business end with all the fast boys which will get me right up to speed by the time the MGP arrives in August."
SB: I notice that you have got a new 600 for this year’s campaign on the roads. How does this bike differ from the old machine?
NH: "The new 600 is the same model as I currently have as Suzuki haven’t updated the 600 since 2011, but thanks to Chris Preston, Quayside Tyres and WWW.DTHC.com they have purchased me a brand new bike primarily for the roads. We know we have a good bike as over the winter months we have had some pretty special parts put on it, so hopefully I can ride as good as the bike is and together be a competitive package!"
SB: Looking towards August, how has your preparation been going for your second MGP tenure?
NH: "My preparation for the 2019 Manx Grand Prix couldn't have been going better really. Thanks to very supportive parents and title sponsor Chris Preston (as much as they’d rather me not race!), I have been able to head to Spain to test the new bike where I was 2 seconds quicker than I was there in 2018. I have also been spinning plenty of laps around Jurby and had my first race meeting at Donnington Park at the end of March. It's been great fun and I have been getting plenty of miles under my belt and feeling as good as I have on a bike since my accident in 2015."
SB: What are your ambitions for MGP 2019? And do you see yourself moving up to the TT the following year?
NH: "I have only ever had one ambition and that’s to win. We will build up slowly in practice week and come race day, hopefully, I’ll have the pace to achieve what I’ve always wanted to achieve, a Mountain Course victory! My plan is to compete in the Manx for one final year to get some more experience before making the step-up to the TT in 2020."
Best of luck, Nathan!