He was on his way back from Italy but Daniel Harper didn't make it home in time to find out that he had been named the winner of Northern Ireland's 2019 Motorsport Award.
It came as a complete surprise to the 19-year-old British Porsche Carrera Cup champion when members of the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs voted for him ahead of Colin Turkington, who won the British Touring Car title for a record-equalling fourth time last season.
Harper has been selected by BMW to join their re-born Junior team and will spend the next two years living and racing in Germany.
He is currently based in Italy with new team-mates Max Hesse, a German, and American Neil Verhagen, where they are undergoing six weeks of assessments and training at the Formula Medicine facility at Viareggio.
Unaware he was in the running for the ANICC award, Harper had arranged to fly back yesterday to attend tonight's Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards gala dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where he is nominated in two categories.
"This has come as a complete shock to me. I never imagined I would be in the running for the Northern Ireland Award but I'm really honoured to be chosen," said Harper. "I'm just sorry I wasn't able to make it back in time."
Harper became the youngest winner of the UK's fastest one-make series, the Carrera Cup, in the second year of a Porsche scholarship, before being recruited by BMW for two years of intensive race training based at the Nurburgring.
He was one of four drivers shortlisted for the ANICC Award alongside Turkington and rally drivers Callum Devine, Motorsport Ireland's International Driver of the Year, and Josh McErlean, the new British Junior champion.
The Armagh City Hotel dinner saw champions in a variety of motorsport disciplines presented with their awards, including Stephen Wright, the first driver from the Republic to win the NI stage rally series (Mark McGeehan was the top navigator), David McCullough, the NI Formula Ford Championship winner, Graham Thompson (hillclimbs), Adrian Pollock (sprints) and Steven Ferguson (autotests).
There were presentations, too, to Eric Patterson, a 40-year veteran who was named Clubman of the Year, and Niall McGonigle, who won the marshal category of UK Volunteer of the Year.