20 April, 2016
Ciceley Motorsport’s Dan Zelos hopes his bad luck in 2016 is now firmly behind him after his promising form in the Renault UK Clio Cup was again undone by ill-fortune in the second outing of the campaign at Donington Park.
Zelos had stunned on his debut in the ITV4-televised, Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) support series a fortnight earlier at Brands Hatch, qualifying an outstanding third amongst the 23 high-calibre protagonists behind the wheel of his distinctive, Evergreen Tyres-sponsored Clio – only for incidents to then scupper his challenge in both races.
The talented Norfolk ace travelled to Donington aiming to rapidly rebound and put some solid points on the board in the fiercely-disputed single-make championship, but a misfire during practice left him struggling for speed and on the back foot. Subsequently missing out on a tow in qualifying – essential for a good lap time around the Leicestershire circuit – Zelos lined up uncharacteristically down the order in 20th for race one and 19th for race two.
In the opener, a bright start saw the highly-rated Dereham-based hotshot swiftly gain a handful of places, but approaching the Old Hairpin, he was wrong-footed when the driver directly ahead braked earlier than expected. Forced into evasive action, Zelos clipped the inside kerb and – with his slick tyres still cold and grip consequently at a premium – found himself pitched into the gravel, whereupon his car dug in and flipped dramatically onto its roof.
Happily, the 17-year-old Dereham Sixth Form College A-Level student was able to clamber out unscathed, and following a miracle repair job by the Ciceley Motorsport crew – as the race-winning BTCC outfit drew upon all of its expertise – he rejoined the grid for the second contest later the same day.
Eager to repay his team’s stellar effort, Zelos immediately set about moving through the field once more and courtesy of a string of competitive lap times, he quickly worked his way towards the front of a seven-car scrap over 13th position. Unfortunately, his charge was curtailed shortly after half-distance when his practice misfire reappeared and gearbox gremlins intervened.
“Donington was a hugely frustrating weekend,” the East Anglian teenager reflected. “In the first race, I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and my lack of knowledge regarding slicks in cold conditions caught me out. The Ciceley boys did an incredible job to fix my car and it was such a shame race two didn’t last longer, because I was really beginning to enjoy it and get stuck in and with the pace we had, I felt a top ten finish was on the cards.
“There’s no hiding the fact that it’s been a difficult start to my Renault UK Clio Cup career. It was fantastic to be so high up the grid at Brands Hatch and racing with former champions, but by the same token, it was probably a case of too much, too soon in that it unreasonably raised pressure and expectations in my first season.
“At the end of the day, I’m a rookie in this championship and up against a lot of drivers with much more experience than me – some of them have been racing in Clios for years. The UK Clio Cup is renowned as being one of the toughest motorsport series’ in the country and I have a big learning curve ahead of me, but as long as I make consistent progress, I’ll be on the right track.”
“Dan has certainly received a few knocks over his first couple of weekends in the UK Clio Cup, but he has also demonstrated some extremely exciting potential,” echoed Ciceley Motorsport Team Principal Russell Morgan. “Regardless of the results, he has shown promise in every race so far, from qualifying on the second row and taking the fight to the front-runners at Brands Hatch to his incisive opening laps and burgeoning racecraft at Donington.
“It’s important to remember that Dan is one of the very youngest drivers in the field and an awful lot is new to him this year, so it’s vital that he is given the time to develop. It might not have all come together for him yet, but it will – and when it does, just watch him fly!”