Harper Fights Back To The Podium In Brands Hatch Season Opener

Daniel Harper superbly bounced back from race one disappointment to secure a fantastic podium finish during the opening rounds of his second season in the Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship at Brands Hatch this past weekend (01/02 April).
With the late nature of his deal to return to the grid this season meaning he was limited to only two pre-season test outings, Harper anticipated he would be on the back foot compared to some of his key title rivals during the season opener, but that would not prove to be the case at all in Kent.

The reigning Ginetta Junior Rookie Cup champion was immediately back into his rhythm and on the front-running pace around the 1.2 mile Indy circuit, impressively topping the timesheets in the opening free practice session on Friday before ending the day second fastest overall. Unfortunately for the Northern Irishman, he wouldn’t quite be able to replicate that performance during qualifying, with some difficulties with the balance of the car and missing the crucial tow on track leaving him fifth and fourth on the grid for the two races.

Harper would immediately gain ground in the opening encounter however, diving down the inside at Paddock Hill Bend in his Douglas Motorsport-prepared Ginetta G40 on lap one for fourth, before a superb move at the same corner five laps later would earn him third position. The introduction of the safety car soon after would put him on the tail of the lead battle, however disaster would strike at the restart as he spun down to seventeenth, though he would sensationally gain nine positions in the remaining four laps to take eighth at the finish.

After showing such stunning pace in the closing stages of that race, the 16 year old was confident of taking the podium finish he deserved in race two the next day and he would go on to do exactly that in front of a huge trackside crowd and the live ITV4 television cameras.

Another fast start would prove to be key for the Hillsborough-based racer, with a slick move into Clearways on the opening lap earning him third position, which he would cement over the next few laps with some impressive lap times pulling him clear of his pursuers. With the front two edging away, Harper would produce a mature, composed drive to maintain position to the chequered flag for the podium finish, which places him joint fourth in the championship standings heading to Donington Park in two weeks’ time (15/16 April).

Daniel Harper: “We were at the top of the timesheets in practice and it looked really promising for the weekend, but qualifying unfortunately didn’t go our way so we had some work to do in the races. I came through well in the first race, but at the second restart I spun down to the back.

“Thankfully I was able to fight back for some championship points that could be vital come the end of the year, and that gave me the confidence for race two. I was able to get into the podium positions which was great, but couldn’t quite catch the leaders.

“I’ve come away with more points than I did here twelve months ago which is a great start, and now we go to Donington Park with fond memories of last year. We got a third, second and first then, but we want a couple of wins this time around!

“It was fantastic to see the new livery this weekend with IFS Global Logistics, McGaughey Refrigerated Distribution, J Davey Construction Ltd and motorstoreNI onboard, and I can’t thank them and all my other sponsors enough for getting me on the grid this season.”

Images from Jakob Ebrey