Our Harper keeps cool to clinch historic Cup glory
A nervy and emotional Daniel Harper eased his car over the finish line of a slippery Silverstone circuit in seventh place - not the result many expected but it was just enough to ensure he became the youngest champion in the history of Britain's Porsche Carrera Cup.
The 18-year-old from Hillsborough had done all the hard work in previous races, winning seven times, and he showed his racing maturity yesterday morning by mastering the treacherous conditions on slick tyres to bring his IFS Logistics Carrera safely home in a position which secured the title.
And as Colin Turkington fought tooth-and-nail to preserve his advantage in the British Touring Car Championship, another of Ulster's rising teenage stars, Jack Young, grabbed the lead in the frenetic duel for the UK Renault Clio Cup.
By then Harper was already celebrating becoming Carrera champion with three rounds to spare. He had qualified on pole position for the first of two races yesterday and elected to start on dry weather tyres despite the track being soaking wet.
It was a gamble which didn't pay off and as half the field streamed past him, Harper dropped to the middle of the pack, tip-toeing the mighty Porsche through the puddles as George Gamble, who had also come out on slicks, dived into the pits to change tyres and at the end of the warm-up lap.
He rejoined dead last but surged through the field to win the race, while Harper slithered his way to a lowly - for him - seventh, just enough to wrap up the series and prompt his JTR team to re-livery his car in champion gold for the second of yesterday's two races. With nothing more to prove, Harper completed the job with fourth place as Gamble won again.
Young, meanwhile, got a huge break in the second of the two Renault races. He had taken fourth place in race one of Saturday, when, despite setting the fastest lap, he lost out in a close battle which saw Brett Lidsey win for the first time and arch-rival Max Coates increase his lead at the top to six points.
Yesterday, 17-year-old Belfast student Young surged into the lead in his Stobart Racing Clio but Lidsey and Coates harassed him lap after lap until the closing stages when Jade Edwards tried to join the battle and collided with the cars of Coates and Lidsey, sending them spinning off the track.
Young, who has had three victories taken away from him for over-aggressive driving, was able to carry on to the chequered flag and will take a 15-point lead over Coates into the finale at Brands Hatch in two weeks' time.
Turkington, chasing a fourth British Touring Car title, needed all his skill and fighting spirit to rescue what might have been a disastrous day in the penultimate round of races.
As his fellow Ulsterman Chris Smylie qualified on the front of the grid in his BTC Racing Honda and went on to finish in third place behind the winning Toyota of Tom Ingram, Turkington's BMW, laden with maximum success ballast, drifted back into the pack from sixth.
Then, mid-race, he spun, avoiding the Vauxhall of former team-mate Robert Collard, dropping further back before eventually finishing 14th. But Turkington came storming back in race two, charging through the field from the seventh row in his ballast-free car to take second place behind Ingram as the rain came pouring down again and it was red-flagged two laps short.
In a crazy race three, Turkington started on slicks but the rain returned and like most of the field he headed for the pits to change tyres. Rejoining in 22nd place, he clawed his way to seventh - ahead of title rivals Andrew Jordan and Dan Cammish.
His lead in the series, which had started at 10 points, slumped to four but ended up at 16 heading to Brands Hatch.