Belfast Telegraph

Harper and Young are hoping to take glory bids up a gear

 

Trucking along: teenager Jack Young is bound for France after this weekend's races at Croft
Trucking along: teenager Jack Young is bound for France after this weekend's races at Croft

By Sammy Hamill

Two of Ulster's rising stars will be in action at Yorkshire circuit Croft this weekend, Daniel Harper in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB series and Jack Young in the UK Renault Clio Cup - and both are Championship leaders too.

Harper, in his second year of his Porsche Junior Scholarship, has already won twice this season, at Brands Hatch and Donington, and he arrives at Croft buoyed by his performance in testing ahead of a guest appearance in the Porsche Supercup round at the British Grand Prix meeting at Silverstone next month.

Over two days of testing, 18-year-old Harper outpaced all but one of the 30 Supercup drivers from around the world. But now it is back to the GB series in which he has a seven-point lead over Lewis Plato.

Young also has reason to be fired up ahead of the Renault Cup races. The Methodist College student, who dominated the last two rounds of the series at Donington, has announced new sponsorship backing from the Eddie Stobart transport group and his Clio will appear in their distinctive colours this weekend.

It will be a prelude to Young returning to France and the Paul Ricard circuit where he won the Clio Cup International last November. This time it is the Renault Sport Clio Cup Open, which takes place next Friday to Sunday and features a field of 50 drivers as part of the French F1 Grand Prix programme.

"This new title sponsorship with Eddie Stobart means a great deal to me and in a way has helped me believe in myself that little bit more," said the Belfast youngster.

"Becoming International Clio champion last year was a big moment in my career, and we learnt a lot from that achievement. Results are the only thing I'm interested in from here on in, and it's important to convert this excitement into success."

Meanwhile, Colin Turkington is called the 'King of Croft' for good reason - he has won 12 rounds of the British Touring Car Championship at the circuit.

And the reigning champion returns there this weekend as joint leader in his West Surrey Racing 3 Series BMW intent on adding to his victory tally.

"There is just something about Croft and its unique challenge that really excites me," said the Portadown driver. "It's easily my favourite circuit on the calendar and historically BMW has achieved great success there, so the pressure is on to keep that story going."

He moved to the top of the BTCC standings alongside Honda driver Rory Butcher after back-to-back wins at Donington and then strong performances at Thruxton last time out.

"It feels like Thruxton was ages ago, but that time was important to understand the development of the new 3 Series, analyse my performance and identify areas to improve before we plan our next attack," added Turkington.

"As joint Championship leader I'll be qualifying with some weight in the car (56kg) so will need to ensure I maximise everything from myself and the BMW - accurate engineering and bravery will be the difference between a good qualifying and a great one."

Turkington and Butcher are on 102 points with Josh Cook, BTC Racing team-mate of Carrickfergus driver Chris Smiley, just two behind after the first nine races.

Smiley, who recorded his first victory last season, has shown good pace again but a number of race incidents have been costly and he is back in 17th.

Meanwhile, Kris Meeke set the fifth fastest time in the shakedown test in Sardinia ahead of this weekend's Rally Italia. His Toyota team-mate Ott Tanak was second quickest behind Citroen's world champion Sebastien Ogier.

"It's clear this will be another tough challenge. The temperatures are going to stay high, and the roads are slow and technical," said Meeke. "My road position - fifth - is okay, which can have a big effect on this rally. But the stages are so narrow I need to be really clean."

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