We thought we would ask a few questions of Geoff Harper – owner of Team HLR (Harper Leonard Racing). Geoff is the epitome of someone who has always put back into our sport of speedway so we thought it only right that we leave the last word with him!
Q: How did you get into speedway and where did the name Harper Leonard Racing come from?
A:Having done a lot of Kart racing as a teenager I sold my only road car to buy a TQ midget and go Speedway Racing. With a ton of enthusiasm and no budget, I tried to race for two seasons on limited money but eventually sold the car.
A close friend of mine Wayne Thompson gave me an opportunity to race a very unique car – A coil car with a three cylinder hand crafted engine built by Wayne. We campaigned that that car for many seasons racing at Western Springs, Meremere, KihiKihi and Bay Park Speedways.
I also did a stint crewing for Ted Tracy for a few seasons. Then we purchased two cars off Ray Allach for Rob Leonard and myself. We were referred to as Harper Leonard Racing. In time it just became HLR. This name will stay with me for as long as I am involved in the sport in memory of my friend Rob Leonard, with whom I shared a whole lot of fun with (even when we couldn’t afford it).
Q: As the president of Western Springs Drivers Club, now in its second year, what do you think the club has achieved this season?
A: The club was formulated to give a clear path of communication between all the section clubs eg Sprint Cars, Midgets, TQs and F2’s. A lot of issues were openly discussed and resolved and the year ended with an Awards Evening with all competitors being able to attend and recognise their successes. This current year has been relatively quiet which I guess means things are moving along ok. There will be another Awards Evening to celebrate success at the end of this season.
Q: You are on the Speedway New Zealand technical committee, what does this role involve?
A: Mostly just to input opinion when the Speedway Board has to make a ruling around a technical issue. These opinions are considered by the board and then they make the rulings accordingly.
Q: How many cars do you have in the HLR stable and who are your drivers?
A: There are a few spare cars as well as what is racing at Western Springs. The logic being it takes pressure off the crews etc. If we have an incident it is a priority for us to always field the cars to fulfil our sponsor / partner agreements.
Q: All your cars are painted in the distinctive blue and have similar numbers. Is there a reason behind the colours and car numbers?
A: The colour we just stumbled upon. For those who have been around a while the Sammy Swindell Channel Lock Sprintcar was of a similar blue. We have been able to use this as our signature and blend all our partner identification in the signage The numbers evolved from Rob Leonard having 57 and myself having 27 so that’s why we have stuck with the number 7 theme.
Q: I understand your race shop is second to none and was featured on the Speedsport television show. Do you have a routine in your race shop i.e. a particular night each week for drivers to work on cars etc.?
A: Each car has dedicated crew, usually three, and during the season we have crew nights which are Tuesday and Thursday. We unload and clean all equipment Sunday so all cars are ready for prep and we know our work load for the next meeting. Our shop is well equipped and we try and do as much in house as we can which helps the teams learn about their cars.
Q: What was your personal highlight for this season?
A: Any night any one of our cars is on the podium is definitely a highlight, #27 Hayden is having a very strong season and is in contention for another championship and #8 Caleb is also in contention for a championship placing in the F2 midgets while #78 Shannon recently had her first feature win at Springs. Truly any night we come home from racing and we are all in one piece and have been competitive it’s a highlight.
Q: Tell us something about Geoff Harper that we don’t know?
A: I am driven and I like to be competitive. Seeing younger people achieve and having success both in business and speedway and knowing you have had an influence on that is great. All of this has also been possible with the support of my wife and partner Suzanne.