Evergreen Tyres-backed Dan Zelos maintained his momentum in the 2019 Mini Challenge title stakes at the home of British motor racing – Silverstone – in typically British weather!
A brace of feisty performances at the weekend yielded another podium finish to keep him firmly in contention for both the Rookie Cup and the overall Mini Challenge crown.
The everyday exceptional Norfolk star has already established himself as one of the fiercest competitors in the Mini series’ headlining JCW class, repeatedly turning heads with his scintillating raw speed and accomplished racecraft.
Having never previously driven the full Silverstone GP circuit and with testing taking place in monsoon-like conditions, Zelos headed into qualifying with no prior experience of the demanding 3.66-mile layout in the dry, but he did not let that hold him back.
Despite having to essentially ‘guess’ which set-up to run on his Evergreen Tyres and CAM Systems-sponsored car, he grabbed the 265bhp ‘pocket rocket’ by the scruff of its neck and hauled it to an excellent third on the 30-strong grid, less than two 10ths-of-a-second shy of pole position.
The highly-rated Dereham hotshot held his nerve on the outside line to steal second at the start of race one, but a foiled attempt to snatch the lead from championship leader James ‘Jiggy’ Gornall saw Zelos’ MINI UK VIP machine bounced across the grass and down to fourth.
Regaining his composure, Zelos set about chasing down the leading trio and was right on their tail by the chequered flag, flashing past the finish line in fourth, less than a second-and-a-half behind the winner as the top four proved to be comfortably the class of the field.
From third on the partially reversed grid for race two, the 21-year-old benefited from an off-piste excursion by the leader on the opening lap to advance to second. He was sizing up a move for the top spot later when he found himself tagged from behind by an over-ambitious rival, shuffling him down to fifth.
After swiftly zeroing back in on the top three, Zelos’ progress was halted somewhat by Gornall – the ultra-experienced ex-British GT champion knowing just where to put his car to frustrate his pursuer’s efforts to find a way past – until the leader suddenly slowed with three laps to go. That elevated Zelos to third – with team-mate Nathan Harrison breathing down his neck.
The pair quickly caught Tom Rawlings, but when Zelos was baulked by the second-placed man at the end of the Hangar Straight, Harrison swept around the outside – before they both succeeded in leapfrogging the erstwhile leader a handful of corners later. Just 1.5 seconds from victory again, the result extended the East Anglian ace’s record of standing on the podium at every event so far in his Mini Challenge career and kept his hoipes of double silverware alive.
“It was another very rewarding weekend,” he reflected. “The conditions in testing were just about the worst I’ve ever encountered on a racetrack, but I was still able to put a lot of laps on the board – even if that ultimately didn’t mean very much with the following two days being dry.
“I must admit, to get to drive the full Silverstone GP circuit was pretty special – the only previous experience I had was on the F1 game! It’s an amazing track and you’re on-the-edge for a lot of the lap, with the high-speed corners certainly favouring the brave. You really need to feel confident to push to the limit.
“I got a great start in race one and closed right onto the back of Jiggy on the first lap. For a split-second, I thought I could be a hero by sending it around the outside going through Maggotts and Becketts, but the rear just stepped out on me. I managed to correct a big slide, but it put me briefly onto the grass and with dirt on my tyres, I lost momentum through the next sequence of corners and had to get my elbows out a bit to avoid conceding too many positions.
“The damage to the splitter affected our straight-line speed a little from that point on, but I don’t regret trying the move – if you think you have a chance, you have to give it a go and we still came away with a top four finish.
“In race two, I genuinely believe we would have won had I not been sent sideways on the opening lap. The contact knocked my tracking out again, and whilst the driver that hit me later apologised and it obviously wasn’t intentional, it did cost us a real shot at victory.
“I’m feeling very much at one with the car at the moment, and we’re continuing to regularly rack up the points when some of our main rivals are more up-and-down. We’re right there in the championship hunt, and the single dropped score rule in the Mini Challenge also means none of the others can really afford to slip up again. We’re definitely contenders.”
Evergreen Tyres has supported Dan Zelos since 2013 through Ginetta Juniors, Renault Clio Cup and into the Mini Challenge. #EverydayExceptional
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