As the Mini Challenge season passed the halfway mark Davanti Tyres-backed Dan Zelos stamped his authority on proceedings with a double victory to stretch his championship lead.
At Scotland’s Knockhill Circuit, Zelos was fired up and looking to avenge last week’s outing at Oulton Park – where he was denied a deserved triumph following a red flag stoppage.
This time the Norfolk ace was leaving nothing to chance. Showcasing his outstanding consistency, the Excelr8 Motorsport British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) Development driver produced three laps all good enough for the top spot in qualifying to brilliantly secure his fourth career pole position – elevating him to third on the all-time Mini Challenge list.
In race one Zelos meant business from the green light. A textbook getaway followed by an early battle with Joe Tanner – on his home turf – set the scene before the Dereham ace broke away to lead home effortlessly, from the lights to the chequered flag.
The second contest on Sunday morning would yield a second victory from the front for Zelos.
After a multi-car accident triggered a red flag and a restart, Zelos flew off the line at the second attempt and was already 1.3 seconds up the road when the safety car was summoned for a further incident lower down the order.
Despite losing his advantage, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star immediately reasserted his supremacy and stretched his legs when racing resumed, taking the chequered flag more than two seconds ahead of home hero Jack Davidson. Not only that, but his third win of the campaign was complemented by his fourth fastest lap to ensure a second consecutive maximum score.
From seventh on the partially-reversed grid for the third and final race, in front of a full house of enthusiastic Scottish fans and the live ITV4 BTCC television cameras, Zelos swiftly dispatched Bird for sixth courtesy of a great run onto the start/finish straight.
Unleashing the same scintillating raw speed as in the two previous races, Zelos made further passes on both the inside and outside of the hairpin to climb to fifth place when the safety car re-emerged – an incident which would eventually end the race.
With eight rounds to go and confidence sky-high, Zelos’ lead has extended to 51 points in the Drivers’ Championship.
“That was my best weekend in Minis so far!” said the 23-year-old. “I was a little apprehensive heading to Knockhill as I knew how strong Max Bird had been there last year, but we set the pace at the test day and found a set-up that really seemed to work, and it felt like we had the upper hand right from the word go.
“After missing out on pole position by so little at Oulton Park, I was really determined to get it this time. Once the guys behind began fighting, that gave me a bit of breathing space and it was great to have an uninterrupted run, with no safety car interventions. It was just a dream start to the weekend.
“Race two was obviously more disjointed, with the red flag and safety car, but I was always confident we had everything under control and even though I knew Davidson behind me was quick, I never felt under too much pressure. The Excelr8 team did an incredible job to give me a fantastic car again and, like on Saturday, that win was for them.
“It hasn’t been easy to get to this stage, but it feels like we’ve got some really positive momentum going now and there are some tracks coming up that I’m optimistic should suit us well. I’m super excited for the second half of the season!”
There’s a short break before the next round at Croft on September 18/19, but you can stay up to date with Dan’s progress at www.davanti-tyres.com/makeithappen and their social channels – search for Davanti Tyres on facebook or visit @davanti_tyres on instagram and twitter.