Belfast Telegraph

Only 16 and cannot legally drive yet... but Daniel Harper gets nod to race £300k Porsche

By Sammy Hamill

He isn't old enough to drive on the road and catches the bus to Dromore High School each day - but next year Daniel Harper will take to Britain's top race tracks in a £300,000 Porsche.

The 16-year-old from Hillsborough has been chosen as Porsche GB's next scholarship winner and will race in the British Carrera Cup series backed by a funding package worth £170,000 over two years.

He becomes the second Ulster driver in a row to win the lucrative prize, following in the footsteps of Charlie Eastwood, who was awarded the scholarship for 2016/17 and went on to become Carrera Cup champion this season.

Eastwood was there with his family at the ceremony at Ascot racecourse in Berkshire on Saturday night, collecting the cup and picking up the keys to a Porsche 911 Carrera, his road car for the next year, and rushing to congratulate his young fellow countryman. Harper himself was stunned to be selected from the five finalists.

"I couldn't believe it when they called out my name. The other four finalists all had good records in racing and I thought my age might count against me," he said. "When they said it was me, it all became a bit of blur.

"I was hugging my dad Stan and the Eastwoods were in tears.

"It was all very emotional.

"It is all only starting to sink in now that I'm back home.

"There are a lot of things to be decided over the next few months before the season starts in the spring, like which team I'm going to go with.

"Charlie won the championship with Redline Racing and they have an outstanding record, but nothing is decided yet. It will be done in conjunction with Porsche GB. But for now I'm just savouring the moment and looking forward to seeing my mates at the school bus stop in the morning. My phone went mad on Saturday night after the news got out and I'm probably going to get a bit of stick from them.

"They'll want to know why I'm not giving them a lift in my Porsche. I wish…"

Harper's rise through the racing ranks has been extraordinary. The son of one of Ulster's leading rally engineers, he had a record-breaking career in karts and quad bikes before making his rally debut at 14 in the Junior Ireland 1000 series, where he won two of his first three events in a little Nissan Micra.

He was one of 65 candidates for a scholarship to race in the UK Ginetta Junior series.

He came through to win the award, taking the rookie title in 2016 before finishing runner-up in the overall competition this season, winning five times with the Ulster-owned Douglas Motorsport team.

From an initial panel of 23 potential Porsche drivers, Harper was shortlisted for a final shoot-out between five of them at Silverstone last month.

And although he had never before driven a 480 horse power GT3 Porsche, he proved to be the fastest.

Porsche motorsport manager James MacNaughton said: "We're looking forward to helping him hone his skills as a world-class driver over the course of his two years with us."

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