Dan Zelos proves progress with podium-challenging pace in Brands GP finale

Dan Zelos proves progress with podium-challenging pace in Brands GP finale

01.10.2018: • Talented Norfolk racer pushes for podium as 2018 campaign draws to a close • Evergreen Tyres-sponsored star shines again in fiercely

•    Talented Norfolk racer pushes for podium as 2018 campaign draws to a close


•    Evergreen Tyres-sponsored star shines again in fiercely-disputed BTCC support series


•    WDE Motorsport ace rues ill-fortune that cost him higher championship finish



Dan Zelos unleashed a scintillating turn-of-speed in last weekend’s Renault UK Clio Cup season finale at Brands Hatch (28-30 September), but as has so often been the case in 2018, luck was not on his side and the talented young Norfolk ace was left to rue a podium result snatched from his grasp.
 


Having vied for the lead in both contests at Silverstone a fortnight earlier behind the wheel of his distinctive, Evergreen Tyres-sponsored Clio, Zelos arrived at Brands Hatch eager to fulfil his potential and boasting an excellent record around the iconic Kent venue’s demanding, 2.43-mile GP Circuit – home to Formula 1’s British Grand Prix on 12 occasions between 1964 and 1986.
 


He duly topped the timesheets amongst the 21 high-calibre contenders in the opening free practice session on old tyres, before continuing to feature firmly up at the sharp end in FP2, spearheading the WDE Motorsport charge as he increased his day’s tally to 38 laps.
 


A subsequent set-up change unfortunately backfired, restricting the 20-year-old East Anglian to a disappointed tenth on the grid for both races, but that nonetheless cemented his position as the fifth-best average qualifier across the campaign in Europe’s premier single-model saloon car championship – the headlining feeder series to the high-profile BTCC, in which nine of the 17 race-winners this season progressed through the UK Clio Cup.
 


Zelos fairly launched the #45 car off the line at the beginning of race one, and he was level with the driver in fifth when a nudge from behind into Druids obliged him to slot into seventh – still a three-place gain.



Almost immediately, there was a lengthy safety car period for a collision further down the field, but once the action resumed, the highly-rated Dereham-based hotshot advanced to sixth. He was sizing up championship leader Max Coates for fifth when the red flags flew for another accident, leading to the result being declared after only three racing laps.
 


Nailing the start again in race two the following day, Zelos vaulted up to seventh and assertively latched onto the tail of the top six, but with team-mate and WDE Team Manager Paul Rivett directly ahead still fighting for the championship, he knew he couldn’t take any major risks.
 


In front of the live ITV4 television cameras, he swiftly settled into an absorbing eight-car scrap, taking advantage of a shuffle through Druids and Graham Hill Bend with three laps remaining to opportunistically grab fourth and proceeding to close down a 0.8s gap to the second-placed duel within the space of just two corners.
 


On-course to finish at least fourth, he found himself unceremoniously shoved off-track on the last lap, dropping him to eighth which would later become seventh when his assailant was penalised for the contact.



The incident in many ways summarised Zelos’ season, with a run of ill-fortune denying him the kind of results his raw pace and racecraft have palpably merited. The Norwich University of Arts Graphic Design undergraduate and former Dereham Sixth Form College student ultimately wound up equal-ninth out of 24 in the title table.
 


“It was another eventful weekend,” he mused. “We arrived at Brands GP in confident spirits after two runner-up finishes there last year, and it’s a track that I love – a classic, old-school challenge. We had nothing to lose championship-wise, and I was looking forward to converting our speed after the disappointment of Silverstone.
 


“FP1 was the perfect way to begin – right where we wanted to be – but we didn’t find as much time as the others seemed to in FP2, which is probably a legacy of having not been able to do as much testing as they have on new rubber. We made some changes for qualifying in an effort to rectify that, but if anything they sent us even further in the wrong direction, which was reflected in the grid positions and left us on the back foot going into the races.
 


“After the trouble we had earlier in the season, I’ve developed my own technique for the starts and it’s working really well. I was already up to sixth by the first corner of race one, but there was no opportunity to gain any more ground with the delays and eventual stoppage. I had a really fast car underneath me and just wanted to get on with it and go on the attack, but safety must come first.
 


“The next day, I got boxed in slightly away from the line which limited my progress a little, but I was still able to make up places and I tucked in behind Paul into Druids. Again, we had mega pace – and all credit goes to the WDE boys for that – but I was mindful of Paul’s title challenge so I needed to be careful.



I managed to snatch fourth later on and immediately caught the two guys battling over second, and we were on for a really strong result when I received a big hit from behind going into Surtees on the last lap which sent me off the track.
 



“That was so frustrating, because it almost certainly cost us a podium with the way things played out, and it kind of summed up our season in a nutshell – all ifs, buts and maybes. We’ve been quick pretty much everywhere, but we’ve rarely had the luck to go with it – and ultimately, that is what has cost us the chance to fight for a much stronger championship finish...”



 

Russell Atkins - photos Ebrey

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/dan-zelos-renault-clio-uk-brands-finale---181427.html

01.10.2018 / MaP

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