BMW factory driver Dan Harper has said he still hasn’t gotten over how he and co-driver Darren Leung secured the 2023 British GT Championship in what was a thrilling end to the season in a chaotic two-hour dash at Donington Park

Winning the title in what was his first season in British GT has marked out the 23-year-old as one to watch for the future, with BMW already choosing him as one of the stars of its GT programmes with a 2024 season that includes an unexpected return to defend his crown – more on that later – as well as drives in GT World Challenge Endurance and Sprint Cups – the latter with Leung – as well as at the 24 Hour enduros at Spa and the Nürburgring. 

Before that, was a partnership with Leung who had taken the step up into British GT after a thrilling rise through the motorsport ranks, having only started his racing career in 2021 with a season in Ginetta’s GT Academy – designed for novice racers. 

Joining forces at Century Motorsport, Leung had taken part in the 2022 finale alongside Alex Sims before linking up with Harper for 2023. Despite not working together before, the pair gelled right from the off – with Harper praising Leung’s dedication to improving himself and his driving wherever possible. 

He explained: “Last season with Darren, that was my first experience working with an Am and I obviously hear all the stories of Ams and they just enjoy it and they just arrive and drive. That was the complete opposite with Darren. He was putting in at times more effort than I was with all the video and the data! He’s so data driven, due to his background in business, and yeah like, all year we were just looking through the data.

“Last year was an amazing season, winning the championship and in the way we did it as well at Donington was crazy. I still haven’t quite got over it.”

Now, Leung has carried on his rapid rise up the motorsport ranks with drives in the FIA World Endurance Championship – where he took a win at Imola alongside Sean Galeal and Augusto Farfus – and Harper has taken on new programmes for 2024, including a surprise return to British GT and a chance to defend his title. 

Getting the phone call on the Monday before the season-opening round of Oulton Park came as shock to him, but getting back into a familiar team with a driver in Michael Johnston that he’s familiar with – Johnston drove one of Century’s GT4 BMWs last season – helped ease what was a frantic start to the campaign.

“It was very last minute – Monday afternoon, I think about 12:00. I got the first phone call from the guy from BMW saying you might be going to Oulton Park to be doing British GT,” Harper said. “Then Nathan [Freke, Century Motorsport boss] called and said ‘yeah, you’re definitely going to be doing the full season with MJ.’ So yeah, I was definitely excited but very unprepared. But I know the car well, know the team well, and MJ had been doing well in pre-season testing, so it was a no brainer to come back and try to defend the title.”

Despite a quiet start to the campaign at Oulton – a ninth and 14th in the two one-hour races in what was a less than ideal weekend for BMW machinery all-round – Harper has confidence that defending his title with Johnston is a realistic aim.

He and Leung took two sixths in the opening round before taking a hard-earned victory at the Silverstone 500 and Harper’s confident that the break between Oulton and this weekend’s return to Silverstone has given the pair more time to work on getting up to speed.

“I think MJ and I, when we get more time together, we’re going to be a very strong, strong pairing and obviously the aim is always to win a championship,” Harper added.

“Coming into the weekend [Oulton Park] MJ was feeling a little bit down from testing and from media day, etc. He thought that he was a bit off. So I told him to forget about that and just enjoy the weekend because we have had zero time to prepare with each other.”

While Harper is confident that the defence of his crown is a possibility, he’s had more obstacles thrown in his way this year with not just the arrival of Mercedes ace Maxi Götz, but also a new arrival at BMW in the shape of Raffaele Marciello. 

Despite being a rival on-track, the pair have already built up a strong rapport off-track as they look to maximise the performance of the M4 for their respective Ams. 

Harper said: “All day on Friday and Saturday during testing, we were communicating with each other just on WhatsApp, just messaging what ABS settings he’s been using, traction control, brake bias and just how the car is feeling. It’s just great to have that because last year it was just me sort of going off what information I knew so it’s great to have him.

“It’s great to have him in the BMW group of drivers and I’m really excited to be going up against him this year in British GT. Obviously I’ve been against him last year already, not in the same car, and we’ve raced a lot with each other in GT World Challenge so yeah, I respect him a lot. Last year we had a couple of nice fights – one in Portimao – and we’ve always been very respectful on track. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it. And it’s great to have another like factory BMW driver here to compare with.”


Please consider making a donation so we can keep bringing you our best content from the racetrack.