Harris enjoying life in the FIA fast lane

Last updated 12:00 26/12/2013

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Shayne Harris sits at the same table as the world's motorsport power-brokers and because of it he can expect many more flights to France.

The Palmerston North man is now a deputy vice-president of the FIA, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, which regularly meets in Paris.

Harris stepped into the deputy's role as MotorSport New Zealand's (MNZ) president, a role he has had since 2010.

His day job is as support services group manager at the Manawatu District Council in Feilding.

He recently returned from the FIA's general assembly, effectively their annual meeting, which had representatives from 129 countries, out of 232 member organisations.

The world is split into seven zones, New Zealand's is the Asia-Pacific zone, and only 25 people sit at the world council table which is presided over by Frenchman Jean Todt. Harris is deputy to the long-serving New Zealand rally identity, Morrie Chandler.

In the absence of Chandler, Harris assumes his role. If Chandler slowly pulls back, Harris would take over the position. He was only the fourth MotorSport NZ president to be elected in more than 50 years. Before Harris, Invercargill's Steven Kennedy was president for 12 years, preceded by Chandler for 21 years and the late Ron Frost from 1958 to 1977.

Harris has had the quickest rise of the lot, spending just two years on the national executive before being elected the head of the board table unopposed. He also serves on the Sport Manawatu board.

A former racer who started in Formula Vees, he has paid his dues around the circuits of New Zealand as a steward, assistant race director for national championships for seven years, clerk of the course for the A1GP in Taupo and three years with the Hamilton V8 Supercars, and a director of Rally New Zealand.

In MNZ he has been embroiled in the politics and litigation which have beset the sport over the past three years.

"It caused a huge rift in the sport, affected all the support classes and everybody else."

He said a lot of bridges have been mended between MNZ and the V8 SuperTourers and Harris would like to see even more effort put in to getting closer. The SuperTourers and the Toyota Racing Series will run on the same programme at Manfeild on February 8-9.

"Slowly but surely we're getting things back together."

Harris was away at the FIA meeting in Paris when MNZ staff met the track representatives bidding for the New Zealand Grand Prix rights from 2015. But he can confirm the bids have been cut by MNZ to two, existing rights-holders Manfeild and the new Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.

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"It's healthy to have competition," Harris said.

"I have pushed quite hard for the last three or four years for the grand prix to become an iconic event.

"It has got a lot of history to it. It suits Toyota to have it as the last round, a fitting way to finish off five rounds on the trot."

Harris would like a decision on NZGP rights to be announced by the middle of next month, rather than waiting until February at the NZGP round at Manfeild.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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