Daniel Harper recorded a sensational class victory alongside his BMW Junior Team partners Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen in their first attempt at tackling the world-famous Nürburgring 24 Hour race this past weekend (26/27 September).
In a dramatic race that saw him tackling severe wet weather conditions, Harper put in a fantastic performance behind the wheel of their Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 to record a memorable win in the biggest race of his career to date.
Harper headed into the weekend knowing that the experience gained across the opening five races of the Nürburgring Endurance Series season was going to be crucial, particularly as he prepared to tackle the fearsome Nürburgring Nordschleife in the dark for the first time.
The fastest time across three qualifying sessions set the grid for the twice round-the-clock spectacular, however it was soon apparent that Thursday’s opening session was going to be the crucial one as the weather forecasts indicated it would be the only one in completely dry conditions.
A fantastic start in their BMW saw a rapid lap from Harper secure them the fastest time in their SP8T class and the quickest of all those in non-GT3 machinery. True to the forecasts, the weather deteriorated for the other two sessions.
While that meant the times wouldn’t improve and class pole position was secure, the qualifying sessions were still vital as it gave Harper the chance to get more running under his belt on the Nordschleife both at night, and in wet conditions on Friday morning.
That was particularly important as treacherous wet weather greeted the Northern Irishman as he took the race start behind the wheel of the #73 BMW. In “the worst conditions I’ve ever raced in”, he duly delivered a naturally cautious first stint to ensure no early drama.
Strong runs from Verhagen and Hesse meant that they were in the class lead when Harper took the wheel again. In the evening darkness, the 19 year old faced another tough challenge as he battled more heavy rain and fog, with the worsening conditions eventually leading to a red flag.
With too much standing water on circuit not draining away, the decision was made to suspend the race overnight and begin again in the morning. After losing around 10 hours of action, the race restarted with seven hours remaining on the clock.
Whist still wet, the track conditions were vastly improved on the night before as Hesse tackled the first stint. Harper was next behind the wheel, with the BRDC SuperStar taking advantage of a drying circuit to showcase his raw speed with the fastest lap of the race so far for the team.
Pumping in a brilliant run of consistently fast laps, Harper continued to increase their class lead before handing the car over to Verhagen. The American kept out of trouble and brought the car home to complete a faultless performance from the team and with it, the class victory.
Daniel Harper: “What an incredible week it has been. Our whole season so far has been building up to this weekend and to take the class win in our first Nürburgring 24 Hour race together as the BMW Junior Team is a fantastic result which we’re all very proud of.
“This was without a doubt the biggest challenge of my career so far. The Nordschleife is a huge test on any day, but to tackle it for 24 hours and in the night for the first time was huge. Adding the weather conditions on top made it a real test for us all.
“I’m delighted with how I performed personally, especially posting the fastest lap in qualifying in the dry conditions. My first two race stints were in without a doubt the toughest conditions I’ve ever raced in, but I kept out of trouble and set some competitive times.
“Teamwork is one of the most important factors to being successful in a 24 hour race and everyone at Walkenhorst Motorsport and BMW were brilliant. The car was fast and faultless from the opening session of the week onwards, while Max and Neil drove superbly throughout.
“A massive thank you to everyone involved for putting me in the position to achieve this result with the BMW Junior Team. It’s a huge accolade to achieve and hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy many more standout results with BMW in the future.
“Also, before the event I was given the amazing opportunity to shakedown ROWE Racing’s BMW M6 GT3’s. To see them then go on and win the race, scoring BMW’s first Nürburgring 24 Hours win for a decade, is amazing and a massive congratulations to the team and BMW Motorsport.”
Harper’s next race outing will see him return to Nürburgring Endurance Series action for the sixth round of the season, a four-hour race on Saturday 24th October.
Source. Simon Paice Media/Photo. BMW