13 August 2015
Dan Zelos gave new partner Edmundson Electrical something to cheer about last weekend, as he stormed to a superb podium finish on home turf at Snetterton to close the gap to the top of the points standings in the fiercely-disputed 2015 Ginetta Junior Championship.
Having endured what he described as the worst weekend of his fledgling car racing career six weeks earlier at Croft – where persistent engine woes and various other dramas had threatened to permanently derail his title bid – Zelos returned to action at Snetterton with a fully rebuilt Ginetta G40 and renewed determination.
After lapping sixth-quickest during practice behind the wheel of his distinctive, Evergreen Tyres-sponsored and JHR Developments-run car, the gifted Norfolk ace improved to fourth-fastest on Saturday morning. Traffic issues in qualifying, however, left him a frustrated seventh on the grid in the ITV4-televised BTCC support series – the UK’s premier championship for aspiring young racers, allowing precociously talented 14-to-17-year-olds to earn their motorsport spurs before they can even legally drive on the road.
Undeterred, Zelos wasted no time at all in gaining ground when the starting lights went out in the opening encounter, before the safety car appeared due to an oil spillage at the hairpin. The lower speeds whilst the race was neutralised unfortunately caused his engine to overheat, forcing him to switch his focus towards staving off his pursuers rather than hunting down the drivers ahead. The fact that he conceded only one spot and still flashed across the finish line less than a second-and-a-half adrift of the rostrum spoke volumes for the highly-rated Dereham-based hotshot’s valiant effort.
The next day, Zelos again made a bright start to leap from seventh up to fifth, and after relieving a rival of fourth on lap four he overtook the championship leader for third on the penultimate tour. Thereafter, the 17-year-old Dereham Sixth Form College AS-Level student hassled his team-mate right the way to the chequered flag, setting fastest lap to secure an extra point and winding up a scant three tenths-of-a-second shy of the runner-up spoils.
The result completed JHR Developments’ maiden podium lock-out and delivered a welcome and thoroughly well-deserved tonic after the disappointment of Croft. What’s more, with his fourth rostrum of the campaign, Zelos advanced from fifth to fourth in the championship table amongst the 28 high-calibre contenders and narrowed his deficit to the top once dropped scores are taken into account. Not a bad weekend, all-in-all.
“Being my home circuit, there’s no denying Snetterton was a big deal for us,” acknowledged the East Anglian teenager. “I was really keen to build upon our good results there last year – especially with so many friends, family and sponsors coming along to support me. It’s a track I enjoy driving too, as it poses a variety of different challenges.
“Over the summer break, we felt confident we had resolved the problems that had plagued us at Croft and we had a very positive test going into the race weekend. We were there-or-thereabouts throughout practice and looked to be in good shape and in the ballpark entering qualifying, but it just didn’t come together properly. We didn’t get ourselves in quite the right position for the tow, which meant we kept hitting traffic and with Snetterton being such a long lap and only a 15-minute session, you don’t get many chances to post a time.
“I got a decent start in race one, but the safety car came out almost straightaway and once it returned to the pits there were only four laps left. To compound matters, my engine also began to overheat, which halted my progress. It subsequently transpired to be a faulty sensor, and whilst seventh place was obviously far from the result we wanted, it made me even more fired-up to perform well in front of the live TV cameras the following day.
“I got another good start in race two to move up to fifth, before being delayed by a collision at the hairpin on the opening lap, which left me more than three seconds behind the drivers ahead. I knew we had some good pace, though, and I concentrated on producing a series of qualifying-style laps. Once I had improved to fourth, I homed in on the battle over second and when one of them out-braked himself, I was able to take advantage and immediately pull away.
“I then tried to put my team-mate under as much pressure as I could and kept looking for opportunities to pass, but at the same time I knew how important it was to bring the car home safely. It was fantastic to be part of JHR’s first one-two-three and I was happy with third position, which was a good way to bounce back from Croft and repay our sponsors’ vital support. It wasn’t the perfect weekend by any means, but it was clearly a step in the right direction.
“This championship isn’t over yet by a long stretch, and the key now will be to maintain our momentum and continue racking up the podiums. There are eight more races to run and almost 300 points left to play for – and we’re firmly in the fight.”