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Zelos Overcomes Ill-Fortune for Home Soil Podium at Snetterton

Dan Zelos had to summon all of the skill that made him MINI CHALLENGE Champion in 2021 to reach the rostrum on home soil at Snetterton last weekend (13/14 August), as the talented young Norfolk ace’s title defence was once more hampered by misfortune.

Zelos headed into the event buoyed by a positive test day, and behind the wheel of his distinctive, Davanti Tyres and CAM Systems-sponsored MINI, he duly set the pace in the opening free practice session amongst the 28 high-calibre contenders in the fiercely-disputed single-make series.

Unfortunately, an undiagnosed engine issue in qualifying restricted the EXCELR8 Motorsport British Touring Car Championship Reserve Driver to a frustrated seventh on the grid, and with the problem persisting into race one, he could manage no better than eighth at the chequered flag.

Sunday got off to a brighter start, as – with his engine now firing on all cylinders – Zelos took the fight to the drivers ahead in the second bout, relieving ex-BTCC racer Max Coates of seventh on lap two and advancing to sixth when Lewis Brown slowed due to accident damage.

After stealing fifth from championship leader Sam Weller, the 24-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star’s next target was Jack Mitchell, but no sooner had he latched onto the tail of his fourth-placed rival than braking gremlins caused him to fall away again, obliging him to turn his attentions to fending off Weller to the flag.

Characteristic of his luck in 2022, Zelos missed out on pole position for the reversed grid finale by just one spot, but undeterred and in front of the live ITV4 television cameras and capacity trackside crowd, he immediately went on the offensive, picking off team-mate Ronan Pearson and earlier double winner Alex Denning in swift succession to climb to third.

The highly-rated Dereham-born hotshot was subsequently shuffled back down to fifth when his braking issues returned to haunt him, but he reclaimed fourth from Pearson midway through before zeroing in on Denning. He had reduced the deficit to barely a third-of-a-second heading onto the final lap and was primed to launch a late attack when one of the wheels suddenly parted company with Denning’s car, cutting the battle short and securing Zelos a third podium finish of the campaign.

“At least we came away with a trophy, so we didn’t leave completely empty-handed,” mused the former Norwich University of Arts and Dereham Sixth Form College student, “but we had clearly been hoping for a lot more than that. We just can’t seem to catch a break at the moment and yet again, we ran into niggling issues that held us back.

“Snetterton is always my favourite event of the year, being my home track and with so many of my family, friends and sponsors coming along to support me, so it was hugely disappointing for it to be spoiled by circumstances outside of our control.

“I think what was most frustrating was that we had been right on the money in testing and came out-of-the-box in FP1 comfortably quickest, but that was the coolest session of the weekend and as it got hotter, we started to encounter problems.

“We didn’t know what was wrong until I was running in traffic in race one, when it became apparent something was amiss with the engine; whenever I got close to another car, it began producing less boost than normal and I just got mugged.

“I was battling with Mitchell for fourth in race two when the brakes started playing up, which dropped me away from him and back towards Weller. If we had got the reversed grid pole for race three and been in clean air, I really think we would have had the pace to drive away; as it was, I managed to get into third within the first couple of laps before the braking issue reoccurred, which cost me all the ground I had gained.

“Alex [Denning] drove a really good race and didn’t deserve for it to end like that, but we’ve had a lot of misfortune this season so we’ll definitely take the good luck when it comes and it’s always nice to be on the podium at ‘home’.

“Overall, I feel I drove the best I possibly could and took no prisoners, and we came away with no damage to the car and having finished all three races when a number of my rivals didn’t, which helped a bit in the championship. It obviously hasn’t been our year for a number of reasons, but there are still two weekends to go and we never give up. We’ll keep on pushing!”