Nathan Harrison storms to European runner-up laurels

Nathan Harrison has celebrated arguably the greatest success of his burgeoning karting career to-date in concluding the 2011 Euro Rotax Challenge ranked second in Europe – and now he has his sights firmly set on going one spot better still on home turf in the national Super 1 Series.

Having placed an excellent fourth at the end of his ‘rookie’ campaign on the international stage in the Euro Rotax Challenge in 2010 – an experience that he confesses was inevitably ‘a really big learning curve’ with a whole new set of rivals and circuits to get to grips with, but one to which, as his results attested, he adapted magnificently – Nathan entered his sophomore season abroad bidding to put all that he had learned to good use.

A brace of runner-up finishes in the opening round at Genk in Belgium represented a strong start indeed, whilst next time out at Wackersdorf in Germany, the Oxford speed demon found himself needing to fight his way back from a luckless qualifying session that had left him all the way down in 40th spot. His recovery was awe-inspiring.

“We were out on slick tyres in qualifying when it came on to rain,” Nathan recounts, “and after that, we just couldn’t get a clear lap in. We were aiming to make it into the top ten in the final, but we didn’t really expect to end up on the podium again. It was quite a challenge working my way through the field – but a lot of fun at the same time.”

Fifth position in the pre-final and third in the final were tremendous accomplishments in the face of adversity, and the Botley-based ace gave another demonstration of just what a quick learner he is by storming to a second place double in round three at Thy Karting in Denmark, a circuit upon which he had never so much as set eyes before. The same was true of Angerville in France – scene of the season finale, where much was at stake.

With the destiny of the title already decided, Nathan’s target was to hang onto the runner-up laurels, and he describes his cross-Channel adventure as a ‘steady weekend’, reasoning that ‘I just wanted to play it safe to maintain second place in the championship – I knew I couldn’t really afford to make any mistakes, so I wasn’t pushing as hard as I would normally have been’. Eighth and 11th positions might have been somewhat below the Cumnor Hill hotshot’s usual standards, but in the circumstances, they did the job perfectly.

“The aim had been to finish inside the top three in the championship this year to make it through to the end-of-season World Finals,” he reflected after winding up as vice-champion amongst the Euro Rotax Challenge’s 64 fiercely-competitive Junior Rotax class contenders. “I was quite confident we could do that – and all the hard work paid off in the end.

“The opposition was really tough, with a lot of top drivers out there – and the only one who finished ahead of me in the standings was a former world champion! It was nice to be racing against people like that – and beating most of them, too!

“To end up ranked second in Europe is a brilliant achievement, and will look really good on my CV. It was amazing to prove myself as one of the very best drivers out there, and hard to explain how it felt, to be truthful. It took me a little while to get over what we’d actually done.”

Recognising that it is all good experience, too, as he advances his career, the Matthew Arnold School pupil now has his focus fully reverted to the hotly-contested Super 1 Series, in which he is currently embroiled in a tense tussle for the drivers’ crown. Musing that it has been ‘a really challenging year’ so far, it is also one that has yielded four victories and four runner-up finishes from the opening 12 rounds.

Boosted by a mid-season team switch to Evolution Racing, although he acknowledges that it is ‘a very close battle’, with one outing remaining – at Three Sisters near Wigan – Nathan is in optimistic mood. He does, after all, know what it takes to win the British Championship – he’s done it before.

“The pressure is definitely building as we approach the end of the season,” the 15-year-old conceded, “but what we’ve achieved in Europe has given me a really big lift – so bring it on!”