Dan Zelos will make a guest appearance in the MINI CHALLENGE at Brands Hatch Indy this coming weekend (25/26 August), as the gifted Norfolk ace takes advantage of a break in the Renault UK Clio Cup schedule to ‘broaden his experience’ and further accelerate his burgeoning motor racing career.
Competing for WDE Motorsport with support from Evergreen Tyres, Zelos has been a consistent top five contender this season in the fiercely-disputed UK Clio Cup – the leading support series to the ITV4 live-televised British Touring Car Championship – and with no Knockhill on the calendar this weekend, the highly-rated Dereham-based hotshot jumped at the chance to instead make his debut in the MINI CHALLENGE.
The single-make and model series boasts an impressive pedigree in terms of nurturing young talent. The BTCC’s newest race-winner, Chris Smiley, clinched the crown in 2013, while Brett Smith lifted the laurels last year and is now a front-runner in the UK’s premier motorsport championship.
The MINI CHALLENGE is even currently led by an ex-BTCC racer in the shape of Ant Whorton-Eales, while both three-time British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal and 15-time race-winner Rob Collard have previously guested in the series, meaning Zelos will be following in some illustrious footsteps indeed.
The 20-year-old will take to the wheel of a Dunlop-sponsored and liveried car in the headlining JCW class, and he had his first taste of the 265bhp MINI – equipped with Dunlop slick tyres and a Quaife sequential gearbox mated to a two-litre TwinPower engine – during a positive test day at Brands Hatch at the end of last week.
Zelos will return to the Kent circuit this weekend for the eagerly-anticipated MINI Festival – the penultimate round of the 2018 CHALLENGE campaign. With three no-holds-barred races in prospect – the finale, like in the BTCC, a reversed grid affair – he is fired-up to show what he can do.
“As the UK Clio Cup isn’t at Knockhill this year, I had a free weekend and it’s always good to broaden your experience by trying out different series and different cars,” explained the Norwich University of Arts Graphic Design undergraduate and former Dereham Sixth Form College student.
“I want to thank MINI UK for their help and support at the test and obviously Dunlop for giving me this opportunity in the first place – I’m really looking forward to showing off the company’s colours and to soaking up the whole MINI Festival atmosphere in celebration of such an iconic British brand.
“The test last week went well, and it didn’t take me long to get to grips with the car and get onto the pace. Jordan Collard was there too; he’s sitting second in the championship so he was an excellent benchmark, and we pretty much matched him for speed all day.
“In many respects, the MINI felt very similar to the Mercedes BTCC car I tried out a couple of years ago in the way it handles and rides the kerbs; it’s not as quick round the corners as my Clio, but it is very fast in a straight line. It has a looser rear end, but like the Michelins I’m used to running on, the Dunlop tyres generate outstanding grip so you always feel in control.
“My aim is to finish somewhere inside the top five. I’ve kept a close eye on the championship to get a feel for the opposition, and it’s certainly not going to be a walk in the park. Like me, these are up-and-coming drivers with very solid BTCC ambitions – and some, like Whorton-Eales, even have BTCC experience.
“Collard is a proven race-winner, my team-mate Rob Smith is now a MINI veteran and has one of the best track records of anybody around Brands Hatch and I raced against Nathan Harrison last season in Clios, so I know just how tough a competitor he is, too. It’ll be fun to cross swords with some of them again…”