The revised calendar for the 2020 season saw the second and third rounds of the NES take place on the same weekend, meaning Harper and his BMW Junior Team stablemates Neil Verhagen and Max Hesse contested a four hour race on each day.
If that wasn’t already a busy enough schedule for the Northern Irishman, he also found himself in the unique position of competing in two cars in the same races – identical BMW M240i Racing machines for the FK Performance and Walkenhorst Motorsport teams.
This was because Harper and co needed to complete a set number of laps of the Nordschleife across the weekend to upgrade their circuit permits. If successful, they would then be able to step up to a BMW M4 GT4 for the next round of the series.
Prior to each day’s race, there was a 90 minute qualifying session to tackle. On Saturday, Harper starred as he qualified the FK Performance car second quickest in the competitive M240i Racing class, while Verhagen put the Walkenhorst car fifth.
The 19 year old started the race and moved up to second place on lap two. Edging clear of the pack behind, Harper maximised the rest of his stint to get some crucial experience of traffic management in multi-class racing. After handing the car over to Hesse, Harper had a short break before taking the final stint in the Walkenhorst machine. He ran in the podium places until the closing stages, when a late pitstop meant he eventually led his team-mate home to fifth and sixth in class.
On Sunday, Harper’s attention was focused solely on the FK Performance prepared BMW and a strong start in qualifying saw him place them third on the class grid. He went on to start the race behind the wheel, tackling a double stint of over two hours.
Staying out of trouble during the busy opening laps, the BRDC SuperStars member fought to second place and held it throughout the early stages. Consistent lap times kept him in touch with the leader and he moved to the front of the class during the first pitstop cycle.
A brilliant performance from there saw him post a new circuit lap record for the M240i as he built a lead of 23 seconds before handing the car over to Verhagen. The American took full advantage of the prime position and led to the finish to secure them the class win, with the sister car in fifth.
Daniel Harper: “I’m absolutely over the moon to score a victory in class in just our third race together as the BMW Junior Team. I think everyone is in some shock as we didn’t expect to challenge the M240i class experts, let alone beat them in our second true race.
It was a weekend of new experiences for me, jumping between two different cars and working with two teams in the same meeting. The teamwork was great across the board though and both cars were a dream to drive, which made my job easy behind the wheel! I’m pleased with my pace across the event, particularly in race two. I loved my first experience of a double stint, and to set a new lap record for the car so late into my run was mega. Neil and Max both drove superbly too and as a team it was a great weekend. We are now really excited to move up to the BMW M4 GT4 for the rest of the season and we can’t wait for the next race. Thank you so much to BMW Motorsport for this continued opportunity – hopefully there’s much more success to come.”