Dan Zelos reveals 2023 livery and what goes into preparing for a race weekendThursday 13th April 2023
As the start of the 2023 Mini Challenge season draws nearer, Dan Zelos is preparing for his fifth year with a new ‘back to basics’ approach.
After a troubled 2022 season, Zelos is hoping to regain his confidence and rediscover his love for driving, starting with a brand-new, Davanti-sponsored livery.
The former champion revealed his new livery design is part of his fresh mindset to simply enjoy racing again, without putting any added pressure on himself.
“Last year was tough, and mentally, that affected me quite a lot. We had so many issues with the car and more than our fair share of bad luck, and on top of that, without necessarily realising it, I put a lot of pressure on myself with the goal of trying to impress people in the BTCC and raise the necessary budget to step up to the next level.
“There have been some technical changes over the winter that make me confident we’ll have a more competitive car this year, and I really want to give it another shot and see if we can get back to where we were in 2021. I just want to go out there, enjoy myself and then see what happens. And at the end of the day, if you enjoy what you’re doing, the results tend to come naturally.”
With preparations for the first race at Donington on 22nd April well underway, we caught up with Dan to find out what goes into preparing for a race weekend.
Do you have a ‘home race’ on the calendar?
My home race is Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk, only 18 miles away from my hometown Dereham. It is a circuit which I have great memories of when seeing friends and family trackside supporting me. It’s where my car racing dream began back in 2013 when I entered my first ever car race competing in the Ginetta Junior Winter Series.
How do you prepare in the lead up to a race weekend?
Most importantly, have a good plan for the week. Physically, it’s important to get your body clock right, so no late nights, and early mornings. I get to the circuit every day and ensure I eat well so my body feels good.
When it comes to track preparation, I review onboard footage to ensure I’m dialled in to the circuit we are going to. This is to make sure I know the racing lines, brake zones and also see where the car was most difficult to deal with. I will also review the ITV broadcast to remind myself where the best overtaking places were and how it was on lap one when all cars got off the line. It makes me feel ready for any situation.
Do you have any rituals you practise ahead of a new race?
I’m not one to have any pre-race rituals, I like to think my hard work favours any luck I get.
Unlike the British Touring cars the MINI Challenge goes straight into qualifying on Saturday. How does this affect car preparations?
It makes the first practice session on the Friday even more crucial, it usually has cooler track temperatures and sometimes the track can change kerbs or barriers overnight so you have to be on your toes. We are usually out very early on a Saturday morning. We sometimes have to try and predict the set-up which we don’t always get right straight away, so a pit-stop mid-session can make or break your qualifying depending if your set up tweaks work or not.
What are the biggest challenges of having multiple races across a weekend?
The biggest challenge is the fact that every driver has two chances to improve on their previous result. We are all competitive, we all want to learn and overcome previous mistakes. We have to consider tyre strategy – we get a limited amount of tyres to use across the weekend, so sometimes there’s a race which we have to sacrifice to ensure we have good pace in the others where we have the biggest chance of winning. If you end up in an incident in race 1, that will negatively affect your starting place for the rest of the weekend and this plan can be jeopardised.
The British weather can be very unpredictable. How much does weather affect your car set up across the weekend?
Our car set up can be changed throughout a race weekend. It isn’t like Formula 1 where after qualifying our car is in parc ferme and we can’t change anything. So we can usually get a good wet set up on the car if the heavens open up on race day. The great thing with racing in the UK is the unpredictability, I love the rain as it’s what I did so much of in Karting, the wet weather is where the best drivers usually shine.
Image by Jakob Ebrey
Do you run different tyre compounds on a race weekend?
We only have 2 tyre compounds we can use, Slick Dry Tyres or Treaded Wet Tyres. We can try to wear down a wet tyre in practice so we can create an “intermediate” tyre so if the circuit is drying out we have a better option.
How do you begin preparations for the next race?
As soon as you leave the last circuit, you automatically start to think about the next race, talking about the positives and negatives from the last race and learning from it all in preparation for the next event. Removing any negatives from your head space, locking them in a box in your mind whilst you remember the positives and bring them front of mind to keep your confidence high.
How do you decompress after a race?
I take a couple of days away from the racing world and social media, I really try and relax and enjoy the time I have with family. It’s crucial to reset, not live and breathe it all the time as you can get stuck in the past. Once a few days haved passed, I then gain my motivation back and turn my focus to the next challenge.
Catch Dan Zelos in the first race of the 2023 Mini Challenge at Donington Park. Keep up to date with all of the action from the season here.