The championship breakthrough Evergreen driver Dan Zelos has been threatening all season finally came at the legendary Brands Hatch with victory in race one of the latest round of the Mini Challenge.
Seven podium spots in 11 starts had put the everyday exceptional racer in the driving seat in the Rookie Cup, but up to now a race win had proved elusive.
The talented young Norfolk ace arrived at Brands full of confidence however, thanks largely to an impressive podium record there in both the Renault UK Clio Cup and Ginetta Junior Championship.
And any doubts that something special was in the air disappeared as Zelos produced a superb qualifting lap to snare pole position on the starting grid ahead of Mini UK VIP teammate – and championship leader – Nathan Harrison.
When the real racing began Zelos sprinted into an immediate lead as he and Harrison completed the first lap a staggering 3.4 seconds clear of the chasing pack. By the time the safety car came out on lap five the Dereham hotshot had stretched his margin over Harrison to almost 1.8 seconds.
Having lost his margin, with Harrison now glued firmly to his tail, Zelos briefly lost the back end of his Mini over the bump into Paddock Hill Bend allowing his pursuer past. But a red flag for another incident saw the result counted back a lap, meaning the 21-year-old deservedly claimed his first season victory and a maximum points haul from race one to tighten his grip on the Rookie Cup.
In race two the grid was reversed and, from a starting position of 10th on the grid, Zelos stormed through the pack and finished up just shy of another podium, half a second away in fact in fourth spot.“They always say the first victory is the hardest,” he said. “While a countback wasn’t the way I wanted to take it, the fact is Nathan wouldn’t even have been close to me without the safety car intervention. After missing out on top spot due to bad luck a couple of times, I think we deserved a little luck for this one!”
And while the Rookie Cup remains a priority for Zelos, his major points haul has seen him turn his attention to the overall championship standings.
“We need to continue closing the gap in the championship to see if we can make a real fight of this,” he said. “Hopefully the top two will trip up at some stage and we can take advantage. Now I’ve finally got that first win under my belt, I’ve really developed a taste for it!”
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