Season’s best for Zelos is a real home comfort

Home is where the heart is – and heart was something Dan Zelos had in abundance as he delivered his best performance of the season on his own doorstep, clocking up a fourth-placed finish in the Renault UK Clio Cup at Snetterton.

The Evergreen-backed Dereham Dynamo thrived in the hot conditions, qualifying in fifth twice to bring up his eighth consecutive top 5 grid place – something only championship leader Max Coates had managed to date.

Initially it looked as though the curse of bad luck that has afflicted his season may still be there as a loose exhaust restricted his track time prior to qualifying. But when he did get out on track he was flying, outpacing his WDE Motorsport teammates in free practice.

Sporting sparkling new livery to mark five years of Evergreen sponsorship, Zelos had to change tack as the blistering heat of qualifying on Saturday turned to the stormy rain of race day on Sunday.

Carefully steering clear of trouble in race one Zelos tiptoed gingerly around the course during a lively opening lap that saw a number of cars go sliding across the grass. Settling into seventh position, he advanced to sixth when the leader similarly skated off approaching mid-distance before showcasing his excellent racecraft in front of the ITV4 television cameras to pinch fifth from team-mate and three-time champion Paul Rivett.

Immediately narrowing the gap to former British Touring Car Championship driver Michael Epps, the 20-year-old was zeroing in on the battle for a podium place when Ash Hand tagged him sideways through Oggies. Zelos went on to flash across the finish line barely three seconds adrift of victory in what was a breathless contest. Finishing in sixth, Zelos was promoted to fifth after officials penalised Hand for the tap.

On wet tyres for race two, Zelos snatched fourth on lap one before chasing down and piling the pressure upon WDE stablemate Lee Pattison. Mastering the conditions, the East Anglian ace ran confidently and comfortably inside the lead quintet as he pushed for the podium, only to be nudged wide by Zak Fulk on the last lap. Again race officials didn’t like what they saw from his opponent and Zelos was reinstated to fourth.

“I was itching to get back into the car after the long summer break,” Zelos acknowledged. “We did spend a lot of time preparing for Snetterton away from the track – including a big focus on fitness with my personal trainer, Paul Suggitt – and we headed there with high hopes. I can think of no better place to kick-start the second half of the season than my home circuit.

“It’s always special to race in front of friends and family, and it was great to see so many fans out on Sunday in spite of the weather! It was the biggest weekend of the year for Evergreen as well, and fantastic to be able to celebrate together.

“Without Evergreen’s support, my journey would have ended in karting – that’s how big a part they have played in my career and I feel very lucky and privileged to have them with me. We’ve worked hard to develop and progress together, and within the TOCA paddock, it’s a brand that people now genuinely recognise, which is immensely rewarding. I think the new livery really stood out, too, both on the track and on TV, and after such a great reception, we’ll probably keep it for the remaining rounds.

“Two top five starts was very solid in qualifying and demonstrated that we can be quick now wherever we go. The team hadn’t done any wet-weather running at Snetterton for a long time, but they did a fantastic job with the set-up and gave me a great car.

“After Croft, I needed to prove I can get my elbows out and that I’m not going to be pushed around – and I think I did that in what were two pretty intense races at Snetterton. It was probably the most enjoyable day I’ve had yet in the Clio Cup. I really feel like I’ve got the car underneath me now to be able to fight, and I think we’ll be in very strong shape at Rockingham. I can’t wait!”