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Daniel Harper is all revved up for belated BMW debut

 

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On course: Daniel Harper is glad to be back to his day job

On course: Daniel Harper is glad to be back to his day job

On course: Daniel Harper is glad to be back to his day job

He's had to wait a while but Daniel Harper finally got behind the wheel of a BMW this week and now he is on course for his first real race of the year.

Now back in Germany after three months of lockdown at home in Hillsborough, he will join his BMW Junior team-mates Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen for the delayed opening round of this season's Nurburgring Endurance Series (NLS) on June 27.

The trio had just completed eight weeks of training in Italy and Germany and were on the verge of making their first appearance at the iconic Nurburgring circuit when the coronavirus struck and they were hastily dispatched back to their homes.

So hastily, in fact, that 18-year-old Harper didn't even have time to warn his dad Stan, who was in the air and on his way to Germany to see him make his BMW debut.

Since then, 2019 British Porsche Carrera Cup champion Daniel has been keeping up his fitness regime and playing a starring role online in virtual racing.

But as the threat of the virus has receded, they were recalled to their base near the Nurburgring last week and have settled back into the house they share, cooking and cleaning for themselves and posting a video of their attempts to construct flat-pack cupboards.

More importantly, accompanied by their mentors, Jochen Neerpasch and Dirk Adorf, they got their first laps at the wheel of a BMW race car under their belt last Monday at the permit test, which all drivers most undergo before they can race at the daunting Nordschleife-Nurburgring circuit.

They will initially drive a BMW M240i Racing in the June 27 race before moving up to an M4 GT4 in preparation for their first 24-hour race in September. The next step in their two-year programme is a BMW M6 GT3.

"It's great to be back to my day job after so many months without any races," said Harper. "The permit test went really well and it was fantastic to do the first few laps on the Nordschleife after driving it virtually so many times.

"Getting our permits was our primary goal - and we achieved it. Now it is all about preparation for our first race together and, honestly, we can't wait. Roll on the 27th!"

Meanwhile, another of Northern Ireland's budding young stars, Josh McErlean, is still waiting for the chance to go rallying again. With both the Irish Tarmac and British Championships abandoned, he has had to make do with virtual competition and has proved equally adept.

Winner of the British Junior title last season, McErlean had ambitious plans to tackle the main series in an R5 Hyundai this year. But, with everything on hold, he is taking on the BRC eSports Championship and, with three podium finishes, he holds second place behind leader James Morgan.

The Welshman has won all three rounds so far and has a substantial lead going into the final event on Scottish gravel roads at the end of the month.

Belfast Telegraph