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Race report

Harper and Leung secure British GT title in chaotic finale

Dan Harper and Darren Leung secured the British GT GT3 title after finishing second in a chaotic Donington Park decider.

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The closing weekend of the season was eventful from the word go, with numerous grid penalties that saw the Century Motorsport BMW promoted to pole position overnight, before an appeal from Beechdean Motorsport – the original polesitter – returned it the front row to its initial post-session look.

But this was nothing compared to the mayhem of Sunday’s race, where the permutations meant Leung and Harper needed to finish in the top five to stand any chance of taking the title. This task, however, was made more difficult with a 20-second success penalty applied following the duo’s victory last time out at Brands Hatch.

This was partially negated with championship rival James Cottingham – alongside Philip Ellis rather than Jonny Adam – also having a 10-second success penalty.

Aware of the job he needed to do, Leung put the hammer down early on, running side-by-side with Andrew Howard through the Craner Curves before making his move stick into the Old Hairpin.

Unrelenting, Leung quickly pulled out a five-second lead before a 20-minute safety car period ruined his progress. The intervention was caused after the #86 and #80 Ginetta GT4 cars collided on the run to Redgate, crashing heavily into the tyre barrier.

When the action got under way, Leung resumed his charge and this time pulled out a 19.7s lead before a glut of crashes, including a high-speed off for John Seale which forced a further 10-minute safety car disruption.

With the period taking proceedings up to the GT3 pit window, this inflicted maximum pain for the BMW entry.

The British GT GT3 championship-winning BMW M4 of Darren Leung and Dan Harper

Photo by: JEP

The British GT GT3 championship-winning BMW M4 of Darren Leung and Dan Harper

Despite Cottingham suffering an off-race, this put him as the clear favourite to secure the title. But the race took another twist following the stops when Cottingham was revealed to have overtaken under yellow flags and was handed a drive-through penalty.

With a fired-up Harper at the wheel, the BMW M4 GT3 scythed through the order, holding nothing back, with the championship-deciding pass coming with half an hour left. Even with one hand on the title, Harper continued to push and eventually crossed the line in second, behind – the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini of Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell.

“The year has just been real heads down and focusing on getting me up to speed,” said Leung.

“I’ve not been doing this very long so everyone has had a big job trying to get me there and they’ve all done an incredible job, just helping me to learn things to put us into contention.

“Our goal at the start of the year was to mathematically have a chance [at the decider], so when we turned up only 13 points off and the only other contenders, we were over the moon with that.

“But then we knew that we just needed things to fall our way on the day.”

On his storming drive through the field, Harper added: “I actually said after the race that I don’t think I breathed for about 30 minutes and whenever I got to about third and there was a decent gap, I just finally breathed and calmed down.

The British GT GT3 championship-winning BMW M4 of Darren Leung and Dan Harper

Photo by: JEP

The British GT GT3 championship-winning BMW M4 of Darren Leung and Dan Harper

“At the beginning, I came out of the pits and there was the safety car. We were P16 at that point and we were like ‘this is going to be difficult’.

“But we had incredible pace, the car was on rails. I picked them off one by one and as soon as I got into a championship winning place, I just finally could relax and bring it home.”

Erik Evans and Matt Cowley triumphed both on the day and across the season in the GT4 class, passing the majority of the field after dropping to the back during the pitstop phase.

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