Daniel Harper has continued his fantastic start to the second half of the 2017 Ginetta Junior Championship season with a hard-fought pair of podium finishes at Knockhill this past weekend (12/13 August).
Harper headed into the meeting with confidence high following a stunning double victory at Snetterton two weeks before, and the Northern Irishman carried that momentum into official testing in Scotland as he superbly set the pace across all five sessions on Wednesday.That would set the tone for a positive start to the race meeting itself, with Harper excelling in damp conditions to the top the timesheets at the end of Friday’s running, before narrowly missing out on doing the same during Saturday morning’s final practice outing.
With all that experience under his belt, Harper was confident of challenging for the top in qualifying later that day and despite running without the benefit of a tow like many of his rivals, the sixteen year old would lead the way once again with a blistering effort of 1m 01.851s. Harper lined up for his fourth pole position of the season so far alongside his Douglas Motorsport team-mate Kiern Jewiss in Sunday’s race one, with the duo kicking off proceedings by trading the lead in thrilling fashion across the opening couple of laps.
It was reigning Rookie Cup champion Harper who would emerge in a lead that he would then maintain until lap five, when a slight mistake coming out of Clark’s unfortunately left him stuck on the outside line, with the pack duly pushing him back to sixth position. Harper was not deterred though and mounted an impressive fightback, picking up a position on the next lap before closing on two of his title rivals ahead, with a fearless move around the outside at the infamous Duffus Dip securing him fourth soon after. The IFS Global Logistics, McGaughey Refrigerated Distribution, J Davey Construction Ltd, MotorstoreNI, Solmatix, Daily Bake and Nutts Corner Circuit backed racer would go on to take the finish in fourth, however a penalty for the driver ahead promoted him to the podium.
Harper would firmly set his sights on a repeat performance in front of the live ITV4 television cameras in the second race later that day, for which he would line up in fourth position on the grid courtesy of his second best lap-time from qualifying the previous day.
Maintaining position on the opening lap, Harper would move up to third position on the second tour with a dive down the inside of Tom Gamble into McIntyres, however next time around a robust move from the same driver would see him shoved onto the gravel and down to fifth position.
After settling back into his rhythm, Harper would grab fourth place heading into Duffus Dip on lap six and battle for third position before the race was neutralised with the introduction of the safety car, a moment that would be crucial as the race progressed. With the field now bunched back together, the Hillsborough racer would immediately move into third position at the restart, before a mechanical failure for a rival promoted him to second place and right onto the rear bumper of his team-mate Jewiss. Putting the pressure on with the fastest lap of the race, Harper would make his move on the penultimate lap of the race with a sensational overtake around the outside on the run through Butchers into the chicane, though Jewiss would unfortunately get him back on the final tour.
Second position at the finish would still mark Harper’s eighth podium finish of the season so far though, with his Knockhill double helping him move 24 points closer to the summit of the standings ahead of the next rounds of the championship at Rockingham next weekend (26/27 August).
Daniel Harper: “I’m delighted with how this week has gone at Knockhill. We were quick right from the first session on Wednesday and to convert that pace into a pole position, fastest lap and two podium finishes is fantastic for me and the team, who were fantastic. It was a brilliant fight in race two and we can’t complain much with a Douglas Motorsport one-two. Kiern [Jewiss] drove a brilliant race and I pulled a great move on him, then he got me back with a great move too, so I’m happy to come away with second. We’ve had great pace all weekend, we’ve got some really good points for the championship and closed the gap to the top of the standings. Now, we just want to carry on this momentum and push for some more silverware at Rockingham next time out.”
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.
Images from Jakob Ebrey Photography