Following a strong performance that yielded a double podium finish at PF International, Nathan Harrison will head into the final outing of 2011 in the fiercely-contested national Super 1 Series as the hunter in the battle for the British Championship crown – and that is exactly the way he likes it.
Up against no fewer than 62 Junior Rotax class adversaries – the indisputable crème de la crème of the country’s young driving talent at that level – Nathan has been a front-runner season-long, with four victories and four runner-up finishes to his name from the opening ten rounds. Although he might describe PF as a ‘boring’ track with a ‘lethal’ first corner prone to causing ‘chaos’, he nevertheless travelled to the Lincolnshire circuit in optimistic mood.
“Going into the weekend, I was feeling pretty confident because I’ve usually been fast round PF,” explained the highly-rated Oxford speed demon. “I won the Super 1 Championship there in 2009, and finished third in Kartmasters the same year, so I’d had some good results in the past.”
Qualifying second-fastest in his group – his best of the year, and a scant tenth of a second adrift of the benchmark – was an excellent start, and even more encouragingly still, by his own admission, Nathan is much more of a natural racer than qualifier.
Having made solid improvements in his single-lap form since switching teams to join Evolution Racing midway through 2011, his qualifying effort at PF delivered the Botley-based ace a timely boost ahead of his two heat races – the first of which he would begin on the unenviable outside line in fourth place.“I managed to get across at the beginning without losing too much ground, thankfully,” he recalled, “although the two leaders were able to get away. I progressed to third, and slowly reeled them back in – and over the last couple of laps, I was practically right with them. There just weren’t quite enough laps left to launch an attack – one more, and I might have been able to give it a go. Third was still a really good result, though.”
Indeed it was, and Nathan took the chequered flag a mere three-quarters-of-a-second shy of the race-winner, with the leading trio well clear of the chasing pack behind. Unfortunately, heat two would swiftly turn into ‘a bit of a disaster’.
“I got a decent start but then got knocked off,” the Cumnor Hill hotshot revealed. “I fought my way back through to fourth – although I must have been hit from behind about 20 times along the way! The driving standards over the weekend were absolutely shocking. I’ve never been in a race with such poor driving – it was a challenge all of its own just to stay on the circuit!
“I then managed to move from 12th to first during the space of a single lap; I took advantage of a battle ahead with drivers going four-abreast – holding back a bit because I could tell it wasn’t going to end well – passed two people at once into one corner and snatched the lead into the last corner, before being rammed by a driver who had gone off the track and upon rejoining smacked straight into the side of me! That completely destroyed my race and left me feeling gutted, to be honest.”
Winding up a wholly unrepresentative eighth – albeit still, incredibly, less than two seconds away from the winner – Nathan reflected that although he was ‘frustrated by what had happened’, at the same time, he knew he ‘couldn’t let my head go down...and I was really happy with my own performance, at least’. He would begin the first final from fifth.
“I got a good start to move immediately up to third,” recounted the Matthew Arnold School pupil, “and I later progressed to second and was catching the leader – but then when I attacked him, I got run off the track yet again! He just put his sidepod into my sidepod and gave me no room at all, which I thought was really unsportsmanlike. That left me with grass on my tyres for three laps – costing me a position – and after that, there were only four more laps to go so I was forced to settle for third when we clearly had the pace to win.”
Acknowledging that it was another ‘really frustrating’ race, to cross the finish line a mere seven tenths behind and having set a better fastest lap time than the winner along the way underlined Nathan’s conviction and understandable sense of ill-justice.
From third on the grid for the second final, the 15-year-old initially gained a spot courtesy of a bright getaway when the starting lights went out, but he subsequently found himself under attack and dragged back into in a ‘lively’ tussle before ultimately reclaiming third, right on the tail of the runner-up when the flag fell and this time lapping faster than both of the drivers who finished ahead of him.
Tallying more vital points – and proving that he had the title battle firmly at the forefront of his mind – Nathan might have been disappointed at having been denied the opportunity to challenge for victory due to his rivals’ questionable aggression, but he was justifiably ‘happy’ with a second consecutive third place. And besides, he will have another chance to ascend the top step of the podium in the season finale at Three Sisters near Wigan later this month – as he bids to lift the coveted British laurels at the same time.
“I just want to go there in a relaxed frame of mind,” he confessed, with only six points separating him from the championship leader and 100 remaining up for grabs. “I’m happier entering the last meeting in the position I’m in; it means the pressure is all on the other guy rather than me, since he has the most to lose. I’m feeling pretty confident because I love the Three Sisters track – it’s really fast-and-flowing and I rate it as one of the best in Britain, and we went well there last year – so the fight goes on!”