Dan Zelos talks to Davanti about his Mini Challenge 2023 pre-season preparationsTuesday 21st March 2023
The Mini Challenge Championship is soon to return for 2023, and Dan Zelos is back fighting. Ahead of the first race at Donington Park, we caught up with Dan to get an insight into his pre-season preparations.
Q: Are you excited for the 2023 season?
I am very excited, after last year’s misfortunes I feel like I have to prove my worth to any of the doubters. I am very thankful for Davanti’s continued belief in me and I’m ready to get back to where we belong, at the front of the pack.
Q: How are your preparations going for the 2023 season?
Very well, although the decision to return to the championship was later than usual, we have planned a brilliant pre-season plan and I have been working hard in the background to ensure me and the team are ready for the battle come April for Round 1.
Q: Are there any car specification changes for this year?
There has been a new power calibration regulation inputted to the championship for 2023, meaning we will hopefully see even closer and exciting racing, as well as changes to certain parts to ensure maximum reliability throughout the season.
Q: Being a single make series, does this make things easier or harder during pre-season preparations?
I think it makes it harder. There are many brilliant teams in the championship, which are all testing the cars to their limits throughout pre-season. This means that it is very hard to find an edge on your competitors as we are all in the same machinery. Anything you can find can really move the scale in your favour. I’m confident that with Excelr8 Motorsport we can have the best package going into the season opener.
Q: This will be your 4th Season in the MINI Challenge cup, how do you feel this affects your preparations? What is your biggest takeaway from last season that you are channelling in 2023?
You always learn something, even after 4 years in the same championship I am still improving my knowledge and testing new limits in my abilities and the car’s. The challenging season in 2022 was very tough to digest, but I have been here before in previous championships and I always come back stronger. Remembering the success of 2021 and keeping the belief in myself is key.
Q: What do you focus on most during pre-season testing? (Car set-up, reliability, performance or everything?).
It’s everything – set-up, reliability and performance is obviously very important. But it is also ensuring I gel with the team, ensuring we have the right staff in the right places and that there is a good relationship between teammates so that we are ready for anything that is thrown our way. Last year our reliability was concerning, so we are pressure testing the car at some of the toughest circuits we go to, to really push the car to its limits and see how it copes.
Q: Is there anything you work on outside of the car itself to help you prepare for the season?
I use a racing sim, which I use more to get my head in the game for the next circuit I am visiting. I kart every Tuesday to keep my reactions up and keep a competitive edge. I will also review video and data from the past to remind myself and the team where we were strong but also where we were weakest, to ensure we learn from our rights and wrongs.
Q: The MINI Challenge is a super competitive series. What’s your take on that?
It’s one of the most competitive single-make series in the country and with the 2023 rule changes it could be even tighter, which for me is exactly where I want to be.
Q: Which is your favourite track on the race calendar?
It has to be Knockhill, although it is the furthest track away for me, it reminds me of my karting days with how tight and twisty the layout is. You spend most of the lap with a few wheels in the air, sometimes all 4! It requires confidence and risk taking, and I believe this is where I can thrive. I have always had great success here, last year was a blip with 2 mechanical failures but we were the fastest car on track throughout the weekend.
Q: Which do you think is the most challenging track on the race calendar?
This is a tough question, if your car is set up perfectly for the track and conditions, it can really change your thoughts on what circuit is the hardest. The tracks where you feel like you struggle with outright pace is always the most challenging, so I’d say for me it would be my home track Snetterton, as it’s a track I’ve never won at and I arguably want to win at the most because I’m in front of all my friends and family.