IT WAS only when he put it down in writing that Nick Harris truly appreciated what he had lived through.

Almost four decades spent travelling the world covering what is now known as MotoGP came to an end at Valencia in November 2017.

In the 18 months since his final commentary in the series, Harris’s big project has been to write a book.

Never Say Never is part-autobiography, part-history of the Motorcycle World Championships, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

And the process of writing the 380-page love letter to one of his biggest passions has been cathartic, after admitting it had been a difficult world to leave behind.

“It’s the 70 years through my eyes, so it brought back a lot of memories,” he said.

“I hope it’s quite a cleansing experience – it’s a year and a half since I finished and it gets better all the time.

“It also made me realise when I wrote the final chapter that it was the right time to finish.

“When you’re in it, your whole life is centred around MotoGP.

“The most important thing in the world is who has qualified in pole position and who has won.

“You live in this incredible bubble and lose sight of other things.

“This has helped and it made me realise how incredibly lucky I have been.”

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  • Nick Harris at his final MotoGP press conference in 2007, surrounded by (from left): Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso. The video of him watching a tribute to his career was viewed more than 1.2 million times  Picture: Gold and Goose

It is a career which has taken the 72-year-old to races in dozens of countries, criss-crossing major historical events in the process.

It has put him on the scene of many big moments, although on at least one occasion he was completely oblivious, such as a trip to Argentina in 1982.

He said: “It was the first time I had been to Buenos Aires and it was a brilliant, lively city.

“In those days to get a colour picture on the front page you had to fly the films out.

“I went to the airport and there were quite a lot of military transport planes there. It didn’t really register with me as to why.

“The race on the Sunday was brilliant, Kenny Roberts won, Barry Sheene was second.

“We boarded the British Caledonian flight that night to Gatwick and when we got back in the morning everything was about the Falklands.

“War was declared a couple of days later and we were one of the last flights out. We did not have a clue.”

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  • Nick Harris (left) with Guenther Wiesinger interviewing Roger De Coster in 1978

While it is a career packed full of fantastic moments, there have also been terrible lows.

Safety standards have improved immeasurably over the years, but the danger remains and Harris movingly writes about having to fill time on air in Malaysia eight years ago waiting to have Marco Simoncelli’s death confirmed.

“That was massive. I wouldn’t say you become immune to it, but it is part and parcel of the job.

“It’s a lot safer now, but you can’t race motorbikes at 220mph without it being dangerous.

“I remember Mick Patrick, an Oxford boy who was a very good racer in the British Championship, was killed at Cadwell Park (in 1977) and that came as a big jolt to me.

“Colin Fenton, a very well-known journalist in Oxford, rang and told me.

“I was devastated and he said ‘you’re coming to Radio Oxford now to do a piece’.

“I said no, but he said ‘you are, because to pay respect to somebody and honour them is how you have to do things’.

“That has stuck with me ever since.”

While Harris is synonymous locally with BBC Radio Oxford and his commentaries on Oxford United, the 20 million-strong audiences in MotoGP has made his distinctive tones recognisable across the world.

“I’m an Oxford boy and I’m extremely proud of that,” he said.

“It was only when I was packing up, those final few races, when I found out how many people knew who I was.

“It’s quite unnerving. You’d be in Kuala Lumpur or Melbourne and get recognised.

“You can’t pretend you don’t like the interest.

“But it’s incredibly important you keep your feet on the ground – as I only realised right at the end it wasn’t too bad.

“Other than family and friends, Oxford United and MotoGP are the two great loves of my life, so what has happened is absolutely unbelievable.”

FOR someone so proud of his roots, it is fitting Nick Harris’s career was book-ended by Oxfordshire riders.

Incredibly, one of his earliest influences also lived in Cumnor – Dick Madsen-Mygdal.

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The legendary Mike Hailwood (above), who won nine world titles, came from Boars Hill, while Harris’s later career saw Forest Hill’s Bradley Smith come through to race at the highest level.

He said: “Mike Hailwood was my hero, because I grew up idolising him and he was an Oxford boy.

“Then seeing Bradley come through and win that first Grand Prix in Jerez on the 125cc (in 2009) was amazing.

“He and his dad met me in the garden of the Bear & Ragged Staff when Bradley was about 14.

“They said they wanted to go Grand Prix racing.

“I followed his career from there and his two podium finishes in MotoGP were very special.”

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  • Bradley Smith  Picture: Philip Platzer

Never Say Never by Nick Harris is out now, published by Virgin Books.