Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship
Dan Harper ready to mount his Ginetta Junior title challenge
Douglas Motorsport driver Dan Harper will be looking to ignite his Ginetta Junior Championship title challenge as the series heads to Oulton Park this weekend. The second-year driver currently sits second in the standings after one victory and a trio of third place results in the opening seven races of the season. Dan showed his raw speed in the most recent meeting at Thruxton where he charged through the field to collect valuable championship points, after having a number of his qualifying lap times removed. Even after just three meetings, Harper’s consistency is impressive being one of only four drivers to complete every lap of the season so far.
After enjoying success in junior rallies, Harper claimed the illustrious Ginetta Scholarship prize at the end of 2015 to give him a fully funded seat in the 2016 championship with Douglas Motorsport. From the outset, Dan impressed by taking an overall race win during the second round of the championship at Donington, before following up this achievement at Snetterton. Harper achieved five other podium results during the season which led to a fifth-place finish in the overall standings, also claiming the rookie title over Seb Priaulx. Apart from a double retirement at Oulton Park, Harper finished the other 23 races inside the points which enabled him to gain much needed track time and develop his racecraft during his rookie year.
Returning with Douglas Motorsport for the 2017 season, Harper was targeting the title but knew his second year in the series would come filled with challenges. Dan made a steady start to the season during the opening meeting on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, finishing eighth in race one before collecting his first podium of the year in third during race two. After enjoying great success at Donington in his rookie year, Harper was aiming to repeat his victory this year. Following another third place result in race one, Dan took a commanding win in race two, crossing the line over six seconds clear of his nearest competitor. A treble-podium weekend looked set to be on the cards after Harper finished the final race third on the road, however a track limits penalty dropped him to sixth. Nevertheless, Dan once again showed impressive pace at Donington which would give him a valuable confidence boost heading into Thruxton.
Thruxton is known as the most unique circuit on the calendar due to its high average speeds and effectiveness of the slipstream. Although the circuit wasn’t the kindest for Dan last season, the added experience that the Northern Irish driver had under his belt would enable him to challenge for victories. Harper started the weekend positively by setting the second fastest time in practice, before backing this up with a qualifying time which led to a front row starting position. Throughout the race, Dan impressed by taking the victory on the road, coupled with the fastest lap of the race. Unfortunately, a five second penalty for exceeding track limits pushed the Douglas Motorsport driver down to fourth.
Due to a number of Dan’s qualifying times being taken away, he would start race two from 16th on the grid, a tall order but not impossible in the unpredictability of the Ginetta Junior Championship. After moving into the top-10 on the opening lap, Harper once again showed his impressive racecraft by slowly carving his way through the field, capitalising on battles taking place around him. Despite not being able to utilise a slipstream ahead of him during the second half of the race, Dan finished on the podium in third position, crowing off one of the best drives in recent Ginetta Junior Championship history.
It could be argued that Dan has shown more raw speed than any other driver this season, and combined with his impressive overtaking ability, this puts him in a great position heading into Oulton Park, a circuit which is historically difficult to overtake at. Qualifying will be crucial and Harper will be aiming for a front row start to ensure he can take a good haul of points and close the gap to championship leader Tom Gamble. With 19 races remaining in this year’s Ginetta Junior Championship, Dan will be hoping to keep up his early season momentum to ensure he’ll be in the mix for the season finale at Brands Hatch in October.
Harper Fights Back To The Podium In Brands Hatch Season Opener
Daniel Harper superbly bounced back from race one disappointment to secure a fantastic podium finish during the opening rounds of his second season in the Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship at Brands Hatch this past weekend (01/02 April).
With the late nature of his deal to return to the grid this season meaning he was limited to only two pre-season test outings, Harper anticipated he would be on the back foot compared to some of his key title rivals during the season opener, but that would not prove to be the case at all in Kent.
The reigning Ginetta Junior Rookie Cup champion was immediately back into his rhythm and on the front-running pace around the 1.2 mile Indy circuit, impressively topping the timesheets in the opening free practice session on Friday before ending the day second fastest overall.
Unfortunately for the Northern Irishman, he wouldn’t quite be able to replicate that performance during qualifying, with some difficulties with the balance of the car and missing the crucial tow on track leaving him fifth and fourth on the grid for the two races.
Harper would immediately gain ground in the opening encounter however, diving down the inside at Paddock Hill Bend in his Douglas Motorsport-prepared Ginetta G40 on lap one for fourth, before a superb move at the same corner five laps later would earn him third position.
The introduction of the safety car soon after would put him on the tail of the lead battle, however disaster would strike at the restart as he spun down to seventeenth, though he would sensationally gain nine positions in the remaining four laps to take eighth at the finish.
After showing such stunning pace in the closing stages of that race, the 16 year old was confident of taking the podium finish he deserved in race two the next day and he would go on to do exactly that in front of a huge trackside crowd and the live ITV4 television cameras.
Another fast start would prove to be key for the Hillsborough-based racer, with a slick move into Clearways on the opening lap earning him third position, which he would cement over the next few laps with some impressive lap times pulling him clear of his pursuers.
With the front two edging away, Harper would produce a mature, composed drive to maintain position to the chequered flag for the podium finish, which places him joint fourth in the championship standings heading to Donington Park in two weeks’ time (15/16 April).
Daniel Harper: “We were at the top of the timesheets in practice and it looked really promising for the weekend, but qualifying unfortunately didn’t go our way so we had some work to do in the races. I came through well in the first race, but at the second restart I spun down to the back.
Thankfully I was able to fight back for some championship points that could be vital come the end of the year, and that gave me the confidence for race two. I was able to get into the podium positions which was great, but couldn’t quite catch the leaders.
I've come away with more points than I did here twelve months ago which is a great start, and now we go to Donington Park with fond memories of last year. We got a third, second and first then, but we want a couple of wins this time around!
It was fantastic to see the new livery this weekend with IFS Global Logistics, McGaughey Refrigerated Distribution, J Davey Construction Ltd and motorstoreNI onboard, and I can’t thank them and all my other sponsors enough for getting me on the grid this season.”
Images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography