Zelos fires warning shot as Croft victory boosts Mini title driveTuesday 21st September 2021
Brimming with confidence, Davanti-backed Mini Challenge racer Dan Zelos has revealed his gameplan for the final two meetings of the season – go out and win.
Victory in race one last weekend at Croft – his fourth P1 of the season – was captured with a late attack to snatch the chequered flag.
And despite a penalty, which cost him a 30-point deduction and 8-place grid drop next time out, Zelos remains in charge at the top of the driver standings and determined to clinch the Mini Challenge crown.
Behind the wheel of his distinctive Davanti Tyres and CAM Systems-sponsored MINI, the Excelr8 Motorsport British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) Development Driver fought his way to the front row in qualifying, four places ahead of chief championship rival Max Bird.
Zelos swiftly made it clear in race one that he would not be satisfied with second, trying to unseat pole-sitter Jack Davidson while simultaneously fending off the attentions of Lewis Brown behind in a tense three-way tussle for supremacy.
Dan’s relentless pressure paid off at the end of lap seven, as the Dereham-born hotshot spied daylight at the hairpin and needed no second invitation to prise the door fully open. Once released, he immediately posted the fastest lap of the race for six bonus points and went on to take the chequered flag just over a second clear of his pursuers.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras for race two Zelos began the second contest eighth on the partially-reversed grid, but the action was red-flagged early on following a number of incidents that left cars strewn across the track.
The race re-started behind the safety car with less than eight minutes remaining, and despite missing his front splitter due to contact, the 23-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star proceeded to exploit other drivers’ errors to move up to sixth.
A post-race penalty against Bird briefly elevated Zelos to fifth, but he then found himself penalised for a coming-together with Sam Weller at the chicane.
A 30-point deduction from his championship score reduced his advantage at the summit to 38 points with six races remaining. He will also carry an eight-place grid drop into the first of those races at Donington Park.
“It was my first time racing at Croft since 2018, and it was good to go back,” Zelos reflected. “It’s a fast track that calls for a lot of confidence and commitment, and we set the pace right from the start.
“A front row start put us in a good position to go on the attack and I could see I had more pace than Jack in race one. I didn’t want to get drawn into an early battle as that would only have allowed the guys behind to catch up. But when my opportunity arose, I grabbed it.
“I held my hands up for the contact with Weller in race two. I was halfway up the inside and as soon as I realised the move wasn’t going to come off, I backed out of it to try to avoid hitting him, but it was too late and I just clipped his rear wheel, which was enough to put him out of the race. There’s no question that it was my fault, but that didn’t make the penalty any less tough to swallow.
“That said, we still have the championship lead and we still have the pace, so now we need to produce the same form again at Donington Park and Brands Hatch, which I’m very confident we can do. The last two events of the year are at two of my strongest tracks, so let’s go and win this!”