Daniel Harper swaps school for racing at Monza
When he made his rally debut in a junior event at the Kirkistown track in Co Down less than three years ago Daniel Harper could never have imagined he would be preparing to race on one of the world's greatest circuits this weekend.
The 17-year-old Dromore High School student is heading for Monza, the Italian Grand Prix circuit, for his first overseas race in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB series and is thrilled at the prospect.
"I can't wait to race in Europe for the first time, especially at such an iconic circuit as Monza," tweeted Harper, who has already made a big impression in his debut season in the Porsche championship with a first podium finish at Donington just over a week ago.
A multi-karting and quad racing champion, Harper initially made his car debut in a Northern Ireland junior rally championship round at Kirkistown aged just 14. With his dad Stan a leading rally car preparation specialist it was expected that's where his motorsport future lay.
But he quickly switched to racing, winning a scholarship to compete in the UK Ginetta Junior Championship, scoring numerous race wins, before being chosen by Porsche to succeed fellow Ulsterman Charlie Eastwood, the outgoing champion, as their youngest ever scholar for the 2018/19 seasons.
Explaining his switch to racing, Harper said: "At the time there was no way forward for me in rallying. I was only 14 coming on 15 and without a full driving licence I could only do Junior 1000 events for the next couple of years.
"Racing offered better opportunities for a driver of my age, first with the Ginetta Juniors and now this unbelievable chance to race in the Carrera Cup with a professional team. If I had stuck to rallying it could never have happened for me."
Despite only turning 17 just before Christmas, and quickly passing his driving test - he still has R plates on his road car -Harper has already proved himself an inspired choice by Porsche, taking third place in just his third race and racking up his first fastest lap too.
It might have been even better, a puncture spoiling his debut at Brands Hatch and then a freak incident in race two at Donington when a stone holed a radiator on his JTR-run Carrera.
Now it is on to the daunting Monza track where Harper will be aiming to progress from his sixth place over two races on Saturday and Sunday.
In action, too, at the Italian circuit will be Wayne Boyd who drives a United Autosports LMP2 Ligier Nissan in round two of the European Le Mans Championship.