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Ulster teen Harper produces lap of his life to claim first Junior victory for BMW at Nürburgring

 

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Youngest winners: Daniel Harper celebrates with his BMW Junior team-mates after their first Nurburgring victory

Youngest winners: Daniel Harper celebrates with his BMW Junior team-mates after their first Nurburgring victory

Youngest winners: Daniel Harper celebrates with his BMW Junior team-mates after their first Nurburgring victory

As the youngest ever GB Porsche Carrera Cup champion Daniel Harper is used to winning races but he couldn’t be more thrilled with his first victory for the BMW Junior team at the Nürburgring.

The 19-year-old from Hillsborough and his team-mates Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen won round four of the Nürburgring Endurance Series in their GT3 BMW M6, becoming the youngest-ever winners in the history of the series which uses the full 14 miles of the daunting and difficult Nordschleife circuit.

Indeed Harper, who is in the second year of a scholarship with BMW Motorsport, broke the GT3 lap record in qualifying only to be pipped for pole in the dying seconds by three-10ths of a second.

“The lap of my life,” he called it but there was better to come in the four-hour race.

American Verhagen took the wheel for the opening stint, running in third place before handing over to German Hesse who maintained the position until forced to take a drive-through penalty for an earlier collision.

It proved to be only a minor setback and when Harper took over for the final 90 minutes he quickly moved through into the lead chased by the Audi R8 of Frank Stippler and Vincent Kolb.

The Audi briefly led after the final round of pit stops but Harper quickly overtook it and resisted the challenge from Klob to win by three seconds.

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Harper said of his final stint, which developed into a thrilling sprint to the finish: “There was just full push as soon as I got into the car. I had the Audi right behind me. Those one and a half hours, were intense.

“There were a couple of wild moments on the grass but I am just so proud of the whole team. From last year, when the programme started, we have come so far together and I think this is a bit of a fairy tale."

Meanwhile it was a weekend to forget for Colin Turkington in the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch. After only qualifying his BMW 14th on the grid, the four-time champion failed to pick up any points in the first two races, finishing 20th and 17th before collecting two points with 14th in race three.

Chris Smiley had a better day, taking three top 10 finishes as his Hyundai team-mate Tom Ingram won race two. Tom Oliphant and Adam Morgan were the other race winners, both in BMWs.

Tom Edgar was unable to repeat his Snetterton success and slipped to second place in the UK Ginetta Junior series, finishing fourth, eighth and 10th in the three Brands Hatch races.

Locally, Jordan Dempsey had hoped to be racing in America but when his plans fell through the Mullingar driver has settled for competition closer to home including the NI Formula Ford Championship. He made it three wins out of four races, adding back-to-back victories at Kirkistown on Saturday to his win in the first round.

Dempsey was on pole for both races but dropped to third at the start of race one before fighting back to take the victory ahead of 2020 champion David McCullough and Alan Davidson who took second place in race two after McCullough ran into trouble.

There were double success, too, for Jim Larkham in the roadsports races as well as for Greg McMillan and Mark Stewart in he combined Mazda/Fiesta races and for Mike Johnston who set a new GT lap record.


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