Dereham Dynamo Dan Zelos had one foot on the podium at Silverstone in the latest round of the Renault UK Clio Cup – until a tussle between two rivals wiped him out.
The Evergreen-backed WDE Motorsport driver once again converted his practice pace into a strong qualifying spot for race one and from fifth he weaved his way through to advance to second within three laps.
After briefly leading the pack Zelos was dragged back into the mix but among the leading group he settled into what seemed like a comfortable second spot heading towards the halfway mark.
Then disaster struck. Mike Epps and Jack Young got into a battle for position which saw them make hard contact. Epps careered into Zelos, who was trying to keep clear of the clash, forcing him into the gravel and down into eighth.
Zelos was unable to claw back any position but his car had escaped relatively unscathed so he went into race two confident of once more joining the front-runners and perhaps claiming that elusive top three spot.
Another great start saw him make a brave lunge for third. Unfortunately he went into the corner too fast and found himself once more in the gravel. From last place he posted fastest sector times all over the track to climb beck to 13th place, but he could go no further at the home of British motor racing.
“We were fast from the outset and I felt we were in strong shape,” said Zelos. “The WDE boys did a great job as ever and gave me a really good car. Qualifying was tough with so much traffic to navigate, which made getting into the right position on-track at the right time pretty key.
“I got a run on Max Coates at the start of race one to go around the outside and up to fourth. There was a lot of dicing for position, and I managed to sneak past James Dorlin into third. I was then fighting with Bradley Burns and my team-mate Paul Rivett for the lead and I grabbed second when we went three-abreast into Brooklands, but when Young and Epps tangled later on, Mike’s car ricocheted off into mine – with all the dust, it felt like I was competing in rallycross rather than Clios!
“It was hugely disappointing, because we had been running comfortably inside the top three and clearly had the speed to win, but it was simply a case of wrong place, wrong time – just not our day.
“I got another good start in Sunday’s race and a great tow going down the back straight for the first time. I pulled out to try to grab third, but I picked up even more tow than I’d anticipated and all of a sudden we were three-wide for the lead going into Brooklands, which hadn’t been in my plan! I was very deep into the corner and tried to get the car turned in and thought I could hang onto it, but it just got away from me and sent me spinning across the track.
“At least nobody could accuse me of not trying! If it had come off, it would have been a blinding move and I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t given it a go but you live and learn. After that, our pace was really strong, but I was left praying for a safety car that never came.
“We’ll take a similar strategy into Brands Hatch, and having scored two podiums there last year, the target has to be to win my first Clio Cup race. I love the GP layout – it’s a real drivers’ circuit – and I’m confident we’ll be quick round there. Some of the other guys need to be careful as they are battling for the title, but we don’t have that pressure and effectively have nothing to lose, so hopefully we can capitalise upon the situation and go out there and really turn some heads.”
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