Zelos keeps the pressure on with popular podium on home soilMonday 26th October 2020
Davanti Tyres driver Dan Zelos turned up the heat on his Mini Challenge title rivals Nathan Harrison and Ant Whorton-Eales as temperatures plummeted at Snetterton, with a popular podium finish on home soil keeping his championship ambitions alive heading into the season finale.
In his sophomore campaign, talented young Norfolk ace Zelos has been a leading protagonist from the outset, but a non-score at Silverstone last time out – after being turfed out of second position towards the end of the race by a teammate – put a sizeable dent in his bid to clinch the coveted crown.
He knew he needed to fight back at Snetterton and that is precisely what the Dereham-born hotshot did. Third-quickest in the opening free practice session amongst the 28 high-calibre contenders, he set the pace for the majority of FP2 on a drying track before lining up third on the grid for race one in his distinctive Davanti Tyres and CAM Systems-sponsored Mini.
When the lights went out Zelos immediately cleared Jason Lockwood to slot into second, after which he set about hunting down Excelr8 Motorsport stablemate and three-time championship runner-up Harrison in the lead. Indisputably the class of the JCW field, the pair engaged in a cat-and-mouse duel as they pulled well away from the chasing pack, with the reigning Rookie Cup champion Zelos getting the gap down to less than three-quarters-of-a-second at mid-distance.
But towards the end Zelos’ car began to fade so he consolidated second spot – and his fifth Graduate Cup victory of the season.
In front of the live ITV4 television cameras the following day – with the Mini Challenge featuring on the high-profile British Touring Car Championship support package – the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star went on the attack from ninth on the partially-reversed grid. Within just four laps, he was up to fifth and closing rapidly on the leading quartet, but two safety car interventions – one of them lengthy – would dash his hopes of making further forward progress.
Nonetheless, with Whorton-Eales retiring due to contact and Harrison picking up a penalty for gaining an unfair advantage, Zelos’ Snetterton results mean he will travel to Brands Hatch for the season finale on 14/15 November sitting 38 points off the overall championship lead and 11 shy of second place, with 118 remaining up for grabs. In the Graduate Cup, he extended his advantage to 29 points.
“It was a good weekend on the whole,” reflected the Excelr8 Motorsport BTCC Development Driver. “I always enjoy racing at Snetterton, even if it was sad not to have any fans on-site this time.
“It was much later in the year than we usually go there, which meant conditions were far colder and the track a lot ‘greener’ than I’m used to. That in turn makes the car react differently, so it took a while to get everything dialled in properly and it felt like we were chasing the set-up for most of the weekend.
“Nathan had been in a bit of a league of his own in qualifying, but for the first two-thirds of race one we had a lot of pace and were able to really push him.
“Unfortunately, the car faded over the last third – it suddenly felt unsettled at the rear and that dropped us away slightly. I seem to have made a bit of a habit of finishing second this year – always so close yet so far – but it was still a strong result and good points towards the championship.
“Race two was disappointing – if it hadn’t been for the two safety car interruptions, it could have been a different outcome. I stayed out of trouble, pulled off some moves and took advantage of a few other drivers’ mistakes, and we definitely had the pace to finish further up than fifth – but we just didn’t get the chance with losing so many laps.
“Looking ahead to Brands, I really want to score that elusive win. Given I’m playing catch-up after Silverstone, the reduced schedule of only two rather than three races at each of the final two weekends has really hurt my title challenge, but I’m not far behind Ant on dropped scores now. At the end of the day, we’re talking about Brands Hatch Indy in November – anything can still happen!”