Davanti’s dynamic Dan Zelos edged into second in Mini Challenge title finaleMonday 16th November 2020
Dan Zelos saved his best until last as he took his Davanti Tyres car to the brink in the 2020 Mini Challenge decider at Brands Hatch.
Two hard-fought podiums elevated the talented Norfolk ace to second in the final championship standings, earning him the Graduate Cup crown.
He led the Ecxelr8 team charge in qualifying and in tough, wet conditions he undercut on Paddock Hill Bend on lap two as he worked through the field.
Zelos – in his first year with Davanti Tyres – and teammate Nathan Harrison set about hunting down Max Bird. As the rain intensified over the second half of the race, the pair increasingly ramped up the pressure and the top three were tied together in the closing stages, separated by just 0.8s when the chequered flag fell.
A third-place finish for Zelos narrowed the gap to Ant Whorton-Eales in the battle for the runner-up spot going into the second race on day two.
Starting down in eighth on the partially-reversed grid and in a shortened race due to earlier delays on the BTCC support card, British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star Zelos put on a masterclass.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras Zelos boldly kept his foot in around the outside of the first corner to gain ground, before running wide through Druids and slipping to seventh.
Immediately fighting back, the Dereham hotshot opportunistically took advantage of a tussle ahead to snatch three places before unleashing a flurry of fastest laps to chase down Callum Newsham in third, overhauling him with a well-calculated slingshot out of the final corner.
His charge was cut short by a lengthy safety car interruption, but with just two laps remaining at the re-start, Zelos executed a superb pass through Surtees on the penultimate lap to secure second position in both the race and the championship.
His tally of seven podiums from 13 starts was unequalled, and he successfully added the Graduate Cup title to the Rookie Cup laurels he clinched last year.
“What a fantastic way to end the season!” Zelos enthused. “It was the first properly wet race weekend I’ve had in the Mini Challenge.
“The overall championship was a little bit out of my reach after race one, but second position was still up for grabs going into Sunday. Starting down in eighth – behind Ant – we obviously had quite a lot of work to do, and the last thing we wanted was a shortened race!
“I managed to clear him around the outside of the first corner, but I knew I still needed to put several other cars in-between us if I was to get the job done.
“It was really important to jump on other drivers’ mistakes, although I was a little too brave myself going into Druids on the opening lap – which thankfully I caught just in time! As it dried up, the track got greasier and greasier, which made for pretty tricky conditions, and since I couldn’t see where Ant was in my rear-view mirror due to the spray, I kept trying to look for his pit board to work out what position he was in.
“Without the shorter duration and safety car, I think a win would definitely have been on the cards as we clearly had the speed.
“Big thanks to all the guys and girls at Excelr8 for giving me a car that has been flawless all year – we haven’t had a single technical failure, which is huge tribute to everybody involved.”