BMW M Motorsport works driver Dan Harper and team-mate Darren Leung will head into the final race of the 2023 British GT Championship season in contention for the GT3 drivers’ title after scoring a stunning race win at Brands Hatch this past weekend (09/10 September).
Seven weeks on from their last British GT appearance at Portimao, Harper, Leung and the Century Motorsport team returned to action knowing they needed a big result in Kent to keep their title aspirations alive going into the Donington Park finale next month. With no prior testing on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit heading into the weekend, Saturday’s two free practice sessions were even more important than usual as they dialled in the setup on their BMW M4 GT3 ahead of the all-important qualifying session that afternoon.
Battling the heatwave as temperatures hit 30 degrees Celsius outside and almost 50 degrees inside the car, Leung finished a great third fastest in his ten-minute segment before Harper went fourth in his. Their combined efforts secured them second on the grid for the two-hour race on Sunday.
With a great starting position to work from, Harper was determined to see them maximise the opportunity ahead of them. A great opening stint from Leung saw him negotiate a pair of safety car periods and keep their BMW right in contention at the front of the field.
Emerging from the mid-race pitstop in second position, Harper had the race leader fixed in his sights. After another safety car spell, the talented Northern Irishman settled into a rhythm behind Ross Gunn’s Aston Martin and started applying the pressure. As the duo worked their way through the GT4 traffic, Harper stayed on the offensive and a great run out of Hawthorns corner set him up for a bold move down the inside into Westfield. With the lead in hand, he was determined not to lose it again. A controlled, faultless drive over the remaining 29 minutes saw Harper keep Gunn at arms’ length throughout and secure a crucial second win of the season. In addition, he posted the fastest lap of the race and with it set the new GT3 race lap record for the Brands Hatch GP circuit.
The win means that Harper and Leung now sit 13 points behind championship leaders Jonny Adam and James Cottingham heading to Donington Park, with a maximum of 37.5 points still to fight for in the two-hour finale.
Daniel Harper: “We’re over the moon to take the victory. Coming into the weekend, this was exactly the result we needed to reduce the points deficit and keep ourselves in title contention for the season finale, so to achieve that is a fantastic feeling. We really had to work for it in the race. Darren lost a place on the start and then another when he caught some fluid on the track, but he got his head down, drove really well and kept us in the mix. The safety cars in his stint worked in our favour too, so we had a bit of luck go our way. I really enjoyed my stint. I feel one of the areas of my driving where I have an edge is being able to judge traffic and be more aggressive in those situations, which was crucial in me making the move on the Aston Martin for the lead. Credit to Ross Gunn too, he raced very cleanly. Considering where we were with the car after the opening free practice, the turnaround was brilliant and it’s testament to the hard work and talent within the team. That put us in the position to challenge for a trophy and fortunately we delivered come the race. We are happy to be going to Donington Park with a shot at the championship. We’ll look at the data from our race there earlier this year, see where we can improve and prepare as much as possible in advance. We’ll go there all guns blazing, give it everything and see what happens.”
Harper now heads into the season finales of his two main race programmes for the 2023 season. The GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup campaign comes to its conclusion in Barcelona at the end of the month (30 September – 01 October), before the British GT Championship decider at Donington Park (21 – 22 October).