Daniel Harper has stormed to within five points of the Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship points lead after producing a sensational display with two pole positions and a race victory during the triple-header meeting at Donington Park (15/16 April).
A supreme performance would see Harper prove to be the clear pace-setter across the meeting, just as he was twelve months ago when he enjoyed his breakthrough weekend in the series at the Leicestershire circuit with a stunning podium hat-trick including his maiden car-racing victory.
With those memories boosting his confidence on his return to the track for the Easter weekend action, the reigning Ginetta Junior Rookie Cup champion would stamp his authority on pre-event testing as he topped the timesheets across all three official free practice sessions on Thursday and Friday.
Harper would go on to convert his stunning raw pace into his first ever Ginetta Junior Championship pole positions in qualifying, with a blistering lap time of 1m 23.981s in his Douglas Motorsport Ginetta G40 seeing him top the timesheets by more than three tenths of a second.
That performance secured him pole position for the first two races of the weekend, but with the Donington circuit being renowned for producing incredibly close-fought Junior racing due to the tow available for pursuing cars, the Northern Irishman knew it would be a real battle to convert them into victories.
The opening race on Saturday afternoon got off to a positive start, with Harper managing to maintain his advantage at the front of the field either side of an early safety car period, however a robust shove wide at Redgate corner on lap five would drop him back to fifth position.
An instant, determined fightback would see the former Ginetta Scholarship winner get back up to third by the end of the lap, and a late challenge for second position would almost go his way on the final lap, but he had to settle for third at the chequered flag.
Harper would get the chance to stretch his legs and showcase his sublime pace in the second encounter on Sunday morning however. After holding the lead into an early safety car stoppage once again, a sensational restart would prove to be the key to a dominant success.
Catching out his pursuers, Harper would take the green flag over eight tenths of a second clear of the pack and from there he would never be caught, posting the fastest lap of the race as he pulled away from his closest competitor by nearly seven seconds for a stunning first win of 2017.
That result ensured Harper would also start the final race of the weekend from pole position, however a slow launch off the line would drop him to third by the time the field headed down the Craner Curves for the first time, placing Harper in the middle of an early four way battle for the lead.
A superb performance saw Harper pick his way past the competition to regain the race lead at Redgate on lap seven, but with him not quite able to break the tow in front, they stuck with him and created a sensational battle in the closing laps of the race.
With five cars duelling for the lead on the final lap being a potential recipe for disaster, a mature drive from the 16 year old saw him pick his way through to take the chequered flag in third place, however an unfortunate time penalty for exceeding track limits made that sixth in the final results.
While frustrated not to have completed a richly deserved podium treble for the weekend, Harper remains delighted to have closed the gap at the top of the championship standings from nineteen points to just five ahead of the next rounds of the championship at Thruxton next month (06/07 May).
Daniel Harper: “All in all it’s been a really good weekend. It felt fantastic to get back on the top step of the podium, as it’s been a long time coming from back at Snetterton in July, and to close the gap at the top of the standings to just five points is brilliant.
“It’s unfortunate to get the final podium taken away from us, but to take our first pole positions, a win and a third is still a fantastic weekend for us. I can’t thank Douglas Motorsport enough, the car was perfect every time we went on track.
“I also want to say a massive thank you to IFS Global Logistics, McGaughey Refrigerated Distribution, J Davey Construction Ltd, motorstoreNI, Solmatix, Nutts Corner and all my other sponsors for giving me this opportunity, and hopefully we can enjoy more success at Thruxton.”