Daniel Harper will head into the 2017 Ginetta Junior Championship season finale at the end of the month with a chance of title glory after continuing his challenge with a double podium finish at Silverstone this past weekend (16/17 September).
Harper’s twelfth and thirteenth top three results of the campaign means he will head into the final three races of the season around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit (30 September/1 October) only 55 points behind the championship leader.
Following the most successful weekend of his car-racing career so far at Rockingham last month, when he secured a double victory and a second place finish, the Northern Irishman headed into Silverstone’s triple-header feeling confident of continuing his strong run of current form.
After producing some promising pace in both wet and dry conditions across two days of official testing, things unfortunately wouldn’t quite go Harper’s way in qualifying on Saturday morning as he found himself unable to reap the benefits of a tow like many of his rivals.
Unable to enjoy the extra pull it creates down the circuit’s three long straights, Harper was powerless to prevent himself placing his Douglas Motorsport Ginetta G40 sixth and eighth on the grid for the opening two races of the weekend.
The sixteen year old would hit back in superb style during the first race that afternoon, with a sensational opening lap of the short, fast Silverstone national circuit seeing him rise from sixth to second, before he grabbed the race lead heading into Becketts on the second lap. Rainfall soon after added another dimension to the race as Harper found himself embroiled in a duel for victory with championship leader Tom Gamble, the duo swapping lead a number of times before a slide wide at Copse dropped Harper to second, which he maintained to the finish.
That result filled the IFS Global Logistics, McGaughey Refrigerated Distribution, J Davey Construction Ltd, MotorstoreNI, Solmatix and Nutts Corner Circuit supported driver with confidence ahead of the next two races in front of a huge trackside crowd on Sunday.
A positive start to race two saw him gain a couple of positions to sixth on the opening lap, but heading into Brooklands next time around some contact from his team-mate would send him spinning in the middle of the circuit, leaving him lucky not to be collected by another car.
Recovering in fourteenth position, a fired up Harper would produce a truly brilliant comeback drive as he picked his way through the close-fought midfield battles to an eventual finish of sixth place, which put him on row three of the grid for the final race of the weekend.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras, the Hillsborough racer would bide his time in fifth over the first half of the race before mounting a brilliant charge in the closing stages, with slick overtaking moves into Becketts on consecutive laps earning him a third place finish.
Daniel Harper: “We definitely had some strong pace this weekend and after qualifying put us on the back foot, I’m pleased to come away from the weekend with a pair of podium finishes and a strong comeback drive in race two.
I was pleased to have been quick in both the wet and dry conditions, and it’s just frustrating we received the contact in race two otherwise I’m sure we’d have taken a hat-trick of silverware from the weekend to continue our great recent form. We still got a good points haul though and we’ve closed the gap to second in the championship heading to Brands Hatch. While winning the title is a long shot at this stage, there’s three races to go and anything can happen, so we will be giving absolutely everything!”
Images from Jakob Ebrey Photography