A sensational performance on Saturday (26th June) saw Harper produce lap record pace during qualifying, before putting in a faultless display during the second half of the four hour race to secure a superb win and become the youngest ever driver line-up to win in the championship.
Returning to NES action after a strong showing in the Nürburgring 24 Hours race earlier in the month, the Northern Irishman got the chance to get back up to speed around the full 15 mile Nordschleife in his BMW M6 GT3 during a free practice session on Friday. Harper followed that up with a sublime performance during qualifying. A blistering effort of 7m 52.691s broke the existing GT3 qualifying lap record for the championship, though a few minutes later he unfortunately saw his time pipped by just three tenths of a second. The 20 year old’s brilliant effort was still enough to secure the BMW Junior Team second on the grid for the race that afternoon though. Verhagen started proceedings behind the wheel and did a great job in a hard fought first hour to remain firmly in the podium battle.
Hesse followed his team-mate’s lead to stay in the lead group, meaning that when Harper took over after the halfway mark he was sitting in third place. That soon became second, before he stormed into the race lead with a daring, high speed move into Tiergarten. Harper went on to produce a truly incredible stint behind the wheel. With his closest rival right on his tail, there was absolutely no room for error as the BRDC SuperStar pushed the BMW to its absolute limit for lap after lap around the Nordschleife. The close duel for the lead went on for over 90 minutes, with Harper producing a mature, composed and faultless drive to maintain the advantage. Breaking away in the closing laps, he stormed through to the chequered flag to seal a memorable victory.
Joined by his team-mates in parc ferme for some emotional celebrations of their milestone achievement, the trio then took to the top step of the Nürburgring podium to the delight of BMW Team RMG and their colleagues in the BMW Junior Team programme watching on.
Daniel Harper: “I can’t quite believe this. This is without a doubt one of the best and most important days in my career so far. To break the lap record in qualifying and then bring the car home for the race win is incredible and such a special feeling. We knew on Friday that the car was feeling quick and that with everything we’ve learnt in the recent events, we were confident we could push for a good result. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be quite so quick come qualifying on Saturday though. I felt at one with the car and the whole lap just came together perfectly for me. It’s one of the best laps I’ve ever driven, and maybe ever will. That put us in a strong position for the race start and both Neil and Max did a fantastic job to keep us right in the battle for the podium. Once I got into the lead, it was really intense at the front. The Audi kept me on my toes throughout and I knew that just one small mistake could be the different between a race win or not. I’m delighted to have got the job done and brought the car home for the win. I’m so proud of everyone involved in the BMW Junior Team programme for this success, and to BMW Team RMG who have done a fantastic job in their first season of GT3 racing. It’s an honour to race for BMW Motorsport and thank you so much to them for making this all possible.”
Harper and the BMW Junior Team will be aiming to carry the momentum from this victory and challenge for more success in the next Nürburgring Endurance Series event, which is a double header over the weekend of 10/11 July.
Images from BMW Motorsport