Dan Zelos showcased his raw speed and racecraft in the Renault UK Clio Cup in all conditions at Rockingham last weekend, despite contact from a rival costing him a potential podium finish in race one.
He responded to the setback in style to storm through the spray and score a top five finish in front of the live ITV4 cameras the following day.
Evergreen Tyres-backed driver Zelos arrived at Rockingham in the midst of a rich vein of form in the high-profile British Touring Car Championship feeder series off the back of four consecutive top five performances for WDE Motorsport.
The highly-rated Dereham-based hotshot found qualifying a struggle as he registered an uncharacteristically lowly ninth on the starting grid.
Undeterred, he produced a superb opening lap in Saturday’s contest to vault up into fourth position. Pushing hard for a place on the podium he found himself sideswiped by championship leader Max Coates, removing the No.45 car immediately from contention.
Race two was a rather wetter affair, with a greasy track surface putting the emphasis firmly on car control – one of Zelos’ strongest suits. In front of a huge trackside crowd, the 20-year-old duly scythed past his adversaries to his fifth top five finish of the 2018 campaign, passing the likes of title protagonist James Dorlin and race one winner Daniel Rowbottom along the way.
Lapping amongst the quickest drivers on the circuit throughout, he matched three-time champion Paul Rivett for pace in the closing stages and ultimately took the chequered flag barely a second adrift of his title-chasing WDE team-mate, completing an excellent recovery from his Saturday disappointment and consolidating his top 10 standing in the overall points table.
“You could certainly describe Rockingham as a weekend of two halves!” reflected the Norwich University of Arts Graphic Design undergraduate and former Dereham Sixth Form College student. “In Saturday’s race, I got away well from the line and heading towards Deene Hairpin for the first time, I went up high on the banking and left my braking as late as I dared. I was able to sweep around the outside and by the end of lap one I was up into fourth place, which was a mega start.
“After that, I was challenging for third when Coates just turned across the front of me going into the chicane on lap two. It was a big hit that caused significant front-right suspension damage, which put me out on the spot. That was hugely frustrating, because we definitely had the pace to fight for a podium position, and while Max received a verbal warning for the incident, that didn’t change the end result.
“Sunday’s race was wet to begin with, but the track was consistently drying, which made for very tricky conditions. Rockingham is always tough on the tyres, and when it rains, the grip level is reduced to almost zero. It was a real step into the unknown, but my car felt great – which is testament to the awesome job done, as ever, by all the WDE boys – and the key was to drive patiently and stick to the wet line without overstepping the limit.
“Still, it was a real positive for me to be running at the same pace as Paul, given all his experience and success in the series. If we had qualified further up the grid, I have no doubt we would have been pushing for a top three finish again. We clearly have the potential to do that on a regular basis now – it’s just about putting all the pieces in the right places.”
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