Harrison hits stride at International Open
Nathan Harrison heads into the 2012-13 motorsport off-season boosted by a return to something approaching his previous title-winning form, after posting a series of strong results in the RGMMC International Open in Spain.
Having been forced to return to his karting roots after starting the year by stepping up to full circuit racing in the Ginetta Junior Championship, the 15-year old has gradually found his feet and, with a partial campaign in the British Senior Rotax Championship unlikely to yield a high enough finishing position, decided to enter the end-of-season International Open as a means of chasing a passport to the illustrious Rotax World Finals in Portugal later this month.
Running with the AIM Motorsport team that had happily snapped him up ahead of the ‘O’ Plate meeting in July, Harrison was immediately on the pace at Zuera, posting top five times throughout the pre-event practice sessions, and then continued his form into qualifying on Friday, where he recorded the fourth best lap despite running wet tyres on a drying circuit.
“Having started the year in the Ginetta, it has taken longer that I anticipated to re-adapt to racing karts,” Harrison concedes, “The technique is quite different and, while I’ve raced karts for years, it has taken until now for things to click completely. However, the weekend started positively, we seemed to have the kart set up perfectly for this circuit, and we were right there running with the favourites….”
With the field divided into four groups for Saturday’s heats, Harrison’s qualifying result guaranteed the Oxford-based youngster a front row start for each of his three outings, and he made the most of it in the first race by breaking away from the pack and claiming a comfortable victory, defeating the new British and European champion in the process.
Race two, however, wasn’t quite as straightforward, as Harrison initially found himself shuffled back to seventh, before mouting a comeback charge that eventually netted second spot. A similar result in the third and final heat – achieved after chasing down an early breakaway – left the Briton in third position on the overall classification and looking at a second row start for Sunday’s opening Pre-Final.
The final day of the meeting once again dawned bright and sunny, but there was a noticeable wind that had not been present earlier in the weekend, and the #328 kart appeared unsettled by it during the morning warm-up session. Despite attempting to find a cure for the problem, Harrison continued to lack his earlier pace when racing resumed, and found himself being picked off by the drivers immediately behind him, eventually coming home in seventh spot and facing a battle if he was to claim one of the two places on offer in the World Finals.
With just 15 laps to try and make progress in the last race, time was always against him and, despite a valiant effort, Harrison was prevented from moving up the order despite being able to run comfortably in the leading group. Seventh place, however, was still a decent return from the weekend, and gives the Briton a boost heading into the winter.
“Although it’s both disappointing and frustrating not to have earned one of the two trips to the World Finals that were on offer here – and we had the pace to do so – the weekend has not been wasted,” Harrison concluded, “I always knew that I had the ability to run with the best drivers in this competition, and my results earlier in the weekend showed that I was a genuine contender for the podium, so we’ll take that into the off season as we work on our programme for 2013.”
Whilst his return to form suggests that Harrison would again be a title threat in karting next season, he will continue to explore the options open to him to return to full circuit racing in one of the junior car championships.