Daniel Harper continued his love affair with the Snetterton circuit this past weekend (29/30 July) as stormed to a sensational first double victory of his Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship career to reignite his 2017 title challenge.
After twice crossing the line first at the circuit last season, only to have one win taken away post-race, Harper returned to Norfolk following the series’ long seven week summer break in confident mood that he could kick off the second half of the season with a return to the winners circle.
The meeting would begin in positive fashion for the reigning Ginetta Junior Rookie Cup champion as he set the pace in Friday’s second free practice session, before going on to convert that raw speed into a challenge for the pole positions in qualifying on Saturday. At the end of the fifteen minute session Harper could have hardly been any closer to the top of the timesheets, finishing less than a tenth of a second off pole position as a best effort of 2m 21.140s secured him second and third on the grid for the opening two races later that day.
The Northern Irishman would slip back to fifth during a busy opening lap of race one as he avoided some erratic driving from his rivals, but from there he got his head down and worked his way through some incidents to emerge in second position at the end of lap two. Onto the tail of his race leading team-mate Kiern Jewiss, Harper would dive down the inside at Agostini corner to take control of the race on lap four, however that would last just over a lap before Jewiss got back ahead heading through the final corner. The battle would eventually come to a head on the final lap as the podium contenders headed into the first corner three abreast, with Harper superbly emerging in front before soaking up pressure for the remainder of the lap on his way to a brilliant, hard-fought victory.
It would prove to be a similar story a couple of hours later in race two meanwhile, with Harper slipping back to fourth on the opening lap this time around – a position he would maintain for the majority of the race as he settled into another immensely close-fought battle.
Once again the race would be decided by some late action though and this time around contact between the top two on the penultimate lap would send them both off circuit, with Harper storming through to take second position, which he maintained to the chequered flag.
The race leader had been handed a time penalty for exceeding track limits though, meaning that Harper was once again the race winner in his Douglas Motorsport prepared Ginetta G40, completing a perfect double for the day and making it five overall wins in his Ginetta Junior career so far.
That victory meant the Hillsborough-based racer would start the final race of the weekend on Sunday from pole position in front of a huge trackside crowd and the live ITV4 television cameras, however a tough opening lap would see him pushed back to fourth place.
Harper would find himself embroiled in a fierce battle over the final positions in the top six for the remainder of the race, with the places changing hands multiple times every lap on the way to the chequered flag, which he took in a hard-fought fifth place for more crucial points.
The weekend’s results mean the IFS Global Logistics, McGaughey Refrigerated Distribution, J Davey Construction Ltd, Motorstore NI, Solmatix and Nutts Corner Circuit supported driver has moved up to fourth in the points standings ahead of the visit to Knockhill next weekend (12/13 August).
Daniel Harper: “Looking at the weekend overall, it’s certainly been one of the best meetings of my car-racing career so far with two wins and a fifth place, and I can’t have many complaints at all as it’s moved me thirty points closer to the top of the championship standings. All three races were really difficult and really close-fought. The races are never easy in the Juniors, but this weekend has felt like one of the closest and most action-packed weekends I’ve been involved in, so to come away with two wins feels fantastic. There’s a long way to go this season with eleven races left, but we’ve started off the second half of the season in really positive fashion and hopefully we can carry this momentum into Knockhill. We had the speed there last season and hopefully we can return to the top step of the podium.”
Images from Jakob Ebrey Photography.
About Daniel Harper:
Daniel Harper is a 16 year old racing driver from Hillsborough, Northern Ireland. Starting his racing career aged 6, Harper was a multiple champion in both quad bike racing and karting in his early years, before entering Junior rallying in 2015.
After winning three events in the Ireland Junior 1000 Rally Challenge, Harper made the transition into circuit racing last season after beating over sixty other drivers to win the coveted Ginetta Junior Scholarship. Harper has since competed in the Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship with front-running outfit Douglas Motorsport, racing across Britain as part of the hugely popular Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship package.
Harper shone in his maiden campaign, with two race victories and five other overall top three finishes guiding him to fifth overall in the standings, whilst no less than fifteen class podiums would lead to him being crowned the Rookie champion.