Silverstone podium bittersweet for title-hungry ZelosMonday 28th September 2020
A podium, a demotion and a non-finish – Silverstone was a real rollercoaster ride for Mini Challenge UK title-contender Dan Zelos.
But after a weekend of pride and pain, the Davanti Tyres-backed Dereham hot-shot declared: ‘the fightback begins now!’
Zelos entered the Silverstone weekend just two points shy of the summit of the standings with Excelr8 Motorsport and immediately served signal of his intent by setting the pace throughout free practice before just missing out on pole position in qualifying to teammate Nathan Harrison.
He held his nerve – and his position – to finish second in race one and take the lead in the British Touring Car Championship support series for the first time this season.
In race two Excelr8 Motorsport BTCC Development Driver Zelos proceeded to out-drag pole-sitter Harrison when the lights went out, only for a slight twitch through Copse Corner to allow Ant Whorton-Eales to sneak past. Rapidly regaining his composure, Zelos wasted no time at all in latching onto the former BTCC driver’s tail, applying intense pressure in a breathless 13-car scrap for the lead.
Zelos looked set to secure another bumper points haul in second place when he was tagged into a slide at Luffield with just two laps to go. The contact punctured Zelos’ tyre and left him to limp dejectedly back to the pits, where he recorded his first non-finish of the season.
From 22nd on the grid in the final race, a meteoric opening lap saw the the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star improve a staggering 10 positions. Matching the speed of the leaders – indeed, frequently outpacing them – Zelos went on to take the chequered flag ninth, only to be demoted to 11th by a five-second track limits penalty.
His double dose of misfortune meant Zelos left Silverstone third in the title standings with his home race of Snetterton to come on October 24/25. He will go into that race 27 points adrift of the championship lead with just under 350 still to play for.
“That was a weekend of two halves!” said Zelos. “We had the pace throughout but the contact in race two turned everything on its head.
“I felt like I had a bit more pace than Nathan in race one, but with your finishing position in that race determining your starting position for race two, it was too early in the weekend to take any unnecessary risks and there wasn’t quite enough of a difference for me to be confident of making a completely clean move. Second place and fastest lap was sufficient to give me the championship lead, which rounded out a very positive day.
“Unfortunately, on Sunday, everything that could go wrong pretty much did. Despite having to simultaneously attack and defend again, I felt very comfortable running second in race two. I tried to unsettle Ant but he has a lot of experience and knows what he’s doing. It was a bit like a kart race in that if I’d strayed even slightly off the racing line, I knew they would all come streaming past.
“Everybody was just sitting there waiting for somebody else to make the first move, but unfortunately, it was me that was on the receiving end of that move!
“I got a cracking start in race three to gain a lot of places on the first lap, but it becomes much more difficult to make progress once you reach the quicker guys further up the order. I was a bit shocked to find out about the track limits penalty, because I didn’t receive any prior warning. I would have been pretty happy to finish ninth from 22nd, so to be demoted to 11th felt like the final kick in the teeth.
“We obviously lost ground in the championship overall at Silverstone, but it could have been worse and we’ll definitely come back stronger. It’s my home track next, and I can think of nowhere better to reignite my title bid. I’ve got no other option but to go for it at Snetterton – maximum attack. We can’t afford to play the percentages anymore, and we go there gunning for race wins. The fightback begins now!”