Harper Ignites Title Challenge With Career Best Weekend At Rockingham
Daniel Harper enjoyed the most successful meeting of his car-racing career so far at Rockingham this past weekend (26/27 August) as he sensationally converted a pair of pole positions into two race victories and a second place finish in the Ginetta Junior Championship.
Harper headed into the weekend determined to continue his positive run of form in the series having secured four podium finishes in the previous five races since the mid-season summer break, with that success having moved him within thirty points of the championship lead.
The Rockingham meeting came at the end of a great few days for the talented Northern Irishman, who made a return to karting the weekend prior and superbly won the Irish Grand Prix, before picking up some hugely positive GCSE results during the week.
After working hard with the Douglas Motorsport team to perfect the car’s set-up over Friday’s two free practice sessions, Harper would reap the rewards on Saturday morning as he sensationally secured his fifth and sixth pole positions of the season so far in qualifying.
The first two races of the weekend would follow that afternoon, with the opening encounter seeing Harper initially lose his advantage off the line as he ran three abreast through the turn one banking, however a great move down the inside into the Deene hairpin put him back in front.
Following a short safety car period, a strong restart maintained the sixteen year old his advantage and whilst he was quicker than his pursuers around the technical infield section, the slipstreaming effect on the banking meant he couldn’t forge a gap out front. Harper would produce impressive defensive driving in the closing laps to hold onto the lead and take the chequered flag first for the victory, a success he was keen to replicate as he lined up on pole position for the second race a few hours later.
Unfortunately another slow getaway at the start would see Harper slip to third position, but he was immediately on the offensive and traded second position back and forth with Harry King on lap two, before making a move stick into Gracelands on lap three. With the leader having already managed to break the tow and build an unassailable two second gap ahead, Harper would focus on edging away from the pack behind over the remainder of the race on his way to a second place finish, capping off a near-perfect day in Corby.
It would get even better the next day however as Harper produced a standout performance in front of the live ITV4 television cameras in race three, with a sensational opening few laps seeing him battle wheel-to-wheel for second position. A fearless move down the inside around the turn one banking decisively secured him the position on lap three and his focus immediately turned to closing down a gap to the leader, setting the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit.
By lap seven the Hillsborough based racer was right onto the leaders tail and a great dive down the inside into the Deene hairpin a lap later secured him the race lead, which he maintained to the finish with some smart defensive driving to record a stunning fifth win of the season.
The result was met by wild celebrations from his family and the Douglas Motorsport team, as well as his supporters watching at home on television, with the victory capping off what was the most successful weekend by any driver in the series this season so far.
Harper’s six and seventh victories of his Junior career have moved him just sixteen points shy of the championship lead with two triple-header meetings remaining, the first of which is a visit to the ‘home of British motor racing’ Silverstone in three weeks’ time (16/17 September).
Daniel Harper: “This was my best ever weekend in the championship and I’m ecstatic. Two pole positions, two race wins and a second place, I really can’t ask for much more than that! It’s absolutely amazing and we really didn’t expect a weekend like this after a difficult Friday. Qualifying was superb for us and really set us up to fight for the wins like this. I really enjoyed all of the races, the racing was close and fair, and to come away with three more podium finishes continues our really strong start to the second half of the season. The results have put us right back into the championship fight and we’ve just got to keep going the way we are and try to carry this momentum into the remaining races. I’m really looking forward to going to Silverstone and hopefully we can enjoy another weekend like this.”
Images from Jakob Ebrey Photography