Daniel Harper endured a frustrating end to the first half of his 2017 Ginetta Junior Championship season at Croft this past weekend (10/11 June), with luck deserting the talented Northern Irishman as he battled to a best finish of sixth position in North Yorkshire. The sixteen year old kicked off the meeting in perfect fashion on Friday as he came straight in from a GCSE Biology exam and set the fastest time of the day across the two practice sessions, though a change of weather conditions overnight would present a new challenge on Saturday.
A busy day would feature a qualifying session and two races on a treacherously wet circuit, with Harper surviving unexpected contact from one of his team-mates to finish qualifying fourth overall for the opening encounter and on the front row for race two. There would be a dramatic conclusion to the session though with a late spin at the chicane sending his bonnet flying and ripping off his radiator, however a fantastic job by the Douglas Motorsport team ensured the #33 machine was ready to go for race one.
A grid penalty carried over from Oulton Park meant Harper would start from back in ninth, but he started well and immediately gained two positions with a fantastic launch off the line, though a difficult first lap from there would see him slip back to twelfth. After surviving a moment under braking at Tower on lap three, the reigning Ginetta Junior Rookie Cup champion was able to go on the offensive in the second half of the race and some slick overtaking moves earned him a seventh place finish at the chequered flag. There would be further frustration in the second race later that day though, with Harper impressively maintaining second position until more contact from his team-mate sent him off track at one of the fastest parts of the circuit, the Jim Clark Esses.
Fortunately Harper was able to recover to the circuit in fourth position, however with reduced visibility due to mud on his windscreen and some light damage to the car, he was powerless to prevent himself slipping to sixth by the finish.
While Sunday marked a new day, it would unfortunately prove to tell a similar story of misfortune in race three for the Hillsborough-based racer. After gaining a position through the opening couple of corners to run fifth, he would unfortunately encounter contact later in the lap. Hit in the rear on the approach to Sunny In and pushed wide, his rival would then spin across the circuit and send Harper off onto the grass in avoidance, with the subsequent loss of time as he recovered to the track dropping him down to fifteenth position. A spirited fightback would see Harper battle his way through to eighth place at the finish, with another strong points result ensuring he remains in the championship top four heading into the seven week summer break before the trip to Snetterton on 29/30 July.
Daniel Harper: “Overall we didn’t seem to have the pace we needed to be at the front this weekend. We topped the timesheets on Friday which is what we want, but we hadn’t had much wet running before Saturday and we struggled to find the right set-up. The races just didn’t seem to go our way at all though, with some bad luck and contact from others costing us the opportunity to try and challenge for the podium, but we can at least come away with the positive of three more points finishes under our belt. We’ll be working hard over the summer break to ensure we come back at Snetterton right at the front of the field. We know anything can happen in the Ginetta Juniors and the points we’ve lost in the first half of the season, we’re aiming to get back in the second half!”
Images from Jakob Ebrey Photography