Dan Zelos left lost for words after brilliant breakthrough British success
04.04.2011: Having entered the weekend as a championship rookie, Dan Zelos has got his 2011 Super 1 Series campaign off to the best possible start with his breakthrough victory on the national karting scene at PF International – and now he is aiming to go all the way
Having entered the weekend as a championship rookie, Dan Zelos has got his 2011 Super 1 Series campaign off to the best possible start with his breakthrough victory on the national karting scene at PF International – and now he is aiming to go all the way and clinch the coveted British crown.
With two years’ experience under his belt in fellow national competition Formula Kart Stars (FKS) – yielding a best individual finish of tenth and a best championship placing of 19th – Dan has come on in veritable leaps-and-bounds since joining Prima Racing last spring and, most encouragingly of all, he is continuing to progress all the time.
“In the beginning, we were just on our own, and although we tried running with a couple of teams, we couldn’t find the right environment,” explained the Dereham-based hotshot. “Since we’ve been with Prima, though, my racecraft has really come on.
“They’ve helped me so much, and particular thanks should go to Paul Munn, Prima’s Cadet team manager. My racing lines have improved and now I’m better at understanding when I should make moves, when I need to push and when I need to hang back. It’s the driving side, the mental side, the technical side, the physical side, everything – I just feel I’ve improved all-round.”
A fan of the challenge posed by Lincolnshire circuit PF, Dan was well aware that the calibre of the opposition he would face in the 33-strong Super 1 Comer Cadet class would be every bit as fierce as he had been used to in FKS, and he modestly reserved his ambitions to a solid points-scoring debut.
“I knew it wouldn’t be an easy ride at all, but I just tried my hardest like I always do,” he reflected. “I had fairly high hopes, but I know there are about ten drivers who can win in Comer Cadet this year, which means there can be as many as ten in the lead pack! There are no ‘quiet’ points during the race – you really need to be on it all the time. Bearing that in mind, my aim was to have a good qualifying and a couple of good heats to secure a decent starting position for the finals – and I thought to get into the top three would be brilliant.”
He would go on to do rather better than that, of course, and the 12-year-old laid the foundations for his triumphant weekend in qualifying, by lapping an excellent fourth-quickest in his group, a scant five hundredths of a second shy of the benchmark.
His two heat races subsequently yielded a seventh place and a third, having had the opportunity to attack for the lead in the second of them when the two drivers ahead of him got tangled up on the last lap, but wisely assessing the risk of getting involved and – with no points being awarded for the heats – revealing a very mature head indeed upon such young shoulders by sagely adjudging discretion to be the better part of valour. And from there, he went on to begin the first of the two all-important finals from fifth.
“Going into the first hairpin on the opening lap, I got a huge shunt from behind, which sent me spinning onto the grass,” Dan recounted. “That left me right down at the tail end of the field, and I spent the rest of the race gaining positions back again. It was frustrating, obviously, but the adrenaline just kicks in and I was determined to fight my way as far up the order as I could. The engine was really good and the set-up on the kart was brilliant, so I just got my head down and started moving through the pack.
“Going onto the last lap there were three drivers directly ahead, and I got all three of them! When I came across the finish line I counted the number of karts in front of me, and I couldn’t believe I was fifth after getting taken out at the start. I was really pleased with that, and it gave me a lot of confidence going into the second final because I knew then that I could beat most of the other drivers on the grid.”
From P5 once more in the second final, the Northgate High School pupil enjoyed a much cleaner run of things and wasted little time in advancing to third, before going on to work with two of his rivals as they intelligently distanced themselves from their pursuers to turn it into a three-horse race for glory. And then, as is so often the case in Cadets, it all came down to a last lap showdown. Dan takes up the story...
“Into the Esses, the leader slid slightly off-track and went sideways a bit,” he recalled. “The driver in second tried to get past him, but the leader closed the door. That slowed them both down and left a small gap on the inside so I stuck my nose into it, and I went side-by-side with the leader down the straight before taking the inside line for the next corner and making sure he couldn’t get the cutback on me on the exit. It was such a tense last lap and I was really nervous, especially after I got into the lead because I didn’t know exactly where they were behind me – I was just waiting for something to happen!
“When the chequered flag came down and I was the first person to receive it, I was just so happy. I hadn’t even won a club meeting at PF before, so it felt absolutely brilliant! When I got out of my kart afterwards, I had everybody coming up to me to shake my hand – I just couldn’t believe I had won... It was such an amazing feeling – I can’t really put it into words.”
Dan’s maiden national success and indubitably the greatest of his burgeoning career thus far, the result confirmed the outstanding progress he has made over the last twelve months with Prima, with team manager Jamie Croxford – a former racer himself – describing it as ‘an absolutely fantastic achievement’, ‘a long time coming’ and ‘a massive confidence boost for him’.
“For the last six months, Dan has been there or thereabouts and was just lacking a little bit in terms of confidence and racecraft, but it all fell into place nicely for him at PF,” Croxford mused. “Hopefully this win will be the first of many for him this year.”
“We know the team is good, the kart is good thanks to Paul and the engine is good,” concurred Norfolk’s resident speed demon, his tail palpably up as he looks ahead. “Everything’s in-place so the rest of it is up to us, and I needed to get a good points haul at PF to prove to other people and to myself that I can do it. I’m racing against the best in the country and I’m right up at the front – every time I go across the line in the lead, it just gives me so much confidence. I’m out to win the championship now!”
If you are interested in getting involved in life in the fast lane by sponsoring Dan, please contact his dad Andy at: email@example.com
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