Daniel Harper once again showcased stunning speed and racecraft as he secured a superb first podium finish of his Porsche Carrera Cup GB career in only his third race in the series at Donington Park this past weekend (28/29 April).
Harper headed into the meeting with confidence high after showing hugely promising pace on his Carrera Cup GB debut three weeks prior, and he returned to Donington Park with fond memories of the circuit having won there in both of his two seasons in the Ginetta Juniors. The Northern Irishman would immediately produce quick lap-times during pre-event testing on Thursday, finishing in the top three on the timesheets during each of the two sessions as he ended the day just two tenths of a second shy of the fastest time.
A change of weather conditions would present a different challenge for the fonaCAB supported driver come Saturday though, with morning rainfall ending as they headed out on track for qualifying, ensuring the track would begin to dry out as the session progressed. The best times would therefore come in the closing moments of the session, with Harper producing a great effort to post the fourth fastest time overall, just five hundredths of a second shy of the top three, to put himself right into podium contention for race one that afternoon.
The seventeen year old would unfortunately lose a couple of positions off the line at the start of the race, however he fought back almost immediately to take fifth place by the end of the opening lap, before grabbing fourth a handful of laps later.
A near two second gap would separate him from the driver ahead, however Harper chipped away at his advantage and couldn’t have gotten closer to passing him on lap fourteen as they ran side-by-side at over 100mph down the infamous Craner Curves. While the position wouldn’t go his way that time, he would get the spot a few laps later as a superb last gasp dive down the inside at Redgate corner got him third place, which he held to the finish for a richly-deserved breakthrough Carrera Cup GB podium finish.
Buoyed by that success, Harper was determined to repeat the performance in front of the live ITV4 television cameras the following day, with the reverse grid draw ensuring he was right in the mix in race two as he started third overall on a now dry circuit. The Dromore High School pupil produced a superb start to immediately rise to second position, however it quickly became apparent that something was wrong as an alarming lack of grip forced Harper to drop down the field as he struggled to keep his car on the tarmac.
It became clear after the race that the problem was due to a small stone having punctured his radiator which led to coolant spraying onto his tyres, but once there was a drop in pressure the leak stopped and Harper was able to get back up to the speed.
By this stage he had dropped to nineteenth position though, but with a mid-race safety car period bunching up the field, the Daily Bake and McGaughey Refrigerated Distribution-backed racer was presented with a clear opportunity to mount a comeback drive. A brilliant performance saw him gain no less than twelve positions as he stormed his way through the field to a fantastic seventh place at the finish – a result that was a testimony to the quality of Porsche’s engine that showed no signs of overheating despite the radiator damage.
That result salvaged him some crucial championship points, with Harper lying sixth in the standings heading into the next meeting in two weeks’ time (11-13 May), which sees the series head overseas to race in support of the European Le Mans Series at the iconic Monza circuit in Italy.
Daniel Harper: “Overall it’s been a really strong weekend for us. We’ve proven again that we have the pace to be fighting right at the front of the field this season and were it not for some more bad luck, we could have come away with a pair of podium finishes.
“To get onto the podium for the first time in race one was an unbelievable feeling. I didn’t think it would come so early in the season, but JTR provided me a fantastic car and that gave me the confidence to express myself and go on the attack. I wanted to follow that up with another great result in race two, but after the puncture at Brands Hatch it seems luck deserted us again as the smallest of stones managed to get flicked up into my radiator and cause all the fluid to leak out. To be able to recover from that and fight my way back through the field to a top ten finish was brilliant. Monza is next up and I can’t wait to race at such an historic circuit. It’s going to be new for almost everyone on the grid and it’s going to be a really exciting challenge.”