FROM 1960 to 1981 Graeme Harris was one of the rulers of Claremont Speedway, roaring around the dusty circuit at speeds of up to 80mph on his beloved tandem Jawa sidecar.
The twin Jawa as it was known by its many fans was a unique beast, considered innovative for its time, the bike was built by longtime friend and associate Bill Brown.
The design featured two 500cc speedway solo engines mounted behind one another in a tandem arrangement.
When Harris retired from the sport he gave the bike to his long time speedway mechanical and design partner Bill Brown who subsequently rebuilt and lovingly restored the bike to all of its former glory with the help of his grandson Matt Brown.
After having displayed it at various shows around Australia over the past few years, the Brown family have returned the sidecar to Harris to display at his Engel World shop in Midland until late September.
The bike’s presence clearly brings back fond memories for the 75 year-old who spoke glowingly about the professional sport that was the launching pad for a successful life and business career.
Harris still works seven days a week and said that he’s a proud member of the local business community who works in Midland but sleeps in Subiaco.
Harris grew up near the showgrounds and his proximity led to him not only attending the venue from a young age but he also soon became involved in the sport.
Initially a sidecar passenger for a year, Harris switched to riding where he enjoyed great success until retiring in the early 80’s.
During his illustrious career he won over 200 races with sidecar passengers John Watkins, Murray Grant and Andy Bowman.
Included among these victories were the 1970/71 WA state championships and he twice finished second in the Australian best pairs championship in Adelaide in 76/77 and in Launceston during the 77/78 season having previously twice finished third in that division.
Originally a motor mechanic Harris credits sidecar racing with being the springboard to everything he has achieved during his life and he used it to supplement his income.
“On a good night you could equal your pay for the week,” he said.
“It was great learning arena, speedway taught me the value of team work, organizational skills, personal discipline, drive and ambition and it helped set me up for life.
“Discipline was the key, if you weren’t disciplined you weren’t going to succeed.
“Back then not only did you have to work full time but you also had to get your own sponsors and run everything yourself.
“Teamwork was essential as you had to work together to balance the bike and to maintain traction.
“Speedway had its drawback as well though as some of the injuries were pretty bad.
“I broke my back, fractured my skull and partially paralysed one side of my face but I don’t have any regrets.
“One time I badly broke my wrist and was unable to operate the bike’s throttle but I just asked Bill to install a foot throttle and rode with a foot throttle for three years.”
By Andrew Carter