17 February, 2016
Dan Zelos will graduate to the Renault UK Clio Cup in 2016 after signing up to contest the single-make, ITV4-televised British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) feeder series with Ciceley Motorsport – describing it as an opportunity that was ‘far too good to turn down’.
Since making his car racing debut at the end of 2013, Zelos has spent the past two seasons competing for JHR Developments in the Ginetta Junior Championship, placing fourth in the final standings on both occasions and tallying a brace of victories and no fewer than 16 podium finishes along the way up against the crème de la crème of young British driving talent.
Those stellar performances brought the 17-year-old Dereham Sixth Form College A-Level student to the attention of Ciceley, the front-running operation behind the WIX Racing and Laser Tools Racing BTCC efforts and one that is now poised to join the UK Clio Cup grid.
Zelos tried out the potent and sophisticated Renault UK Clio Cup race car – based on the road-going Clio Renaultsport 220 Trophy – during a taster day at Brands Hatch late last year and subsequently tested for his new team at Donington Park. Although he was only able to cover a handful of laps due to time restrictions, he was instantly smitten.
“I fell in love with the Clio straightaway!” confessed the highly-rated East Anglian teenager. “It’s like a mini touring car and it was really smooth and easy to drive – I felt like I ‘clicked’ with it pretty quickly. It has more power than I’ve been accustomed to before and I’ve got to get used to front wheel-drive and slick tyres for the first time so there’s definitely a learning curve ahead of me, but it feels like a very natural progression and I can’t wait to get going!
“It was good to spend some time with the Ciceley boys at Donington and get to know them a bit, and I’ve been up to the workshop on a couple of occasions too. They’re ultra-professional and committed and they evidently want to win, and I immediately felt at home with them. They’ve made it clear that they’re not going to put me under any pressure during my rookie year, which is just what I need as I settle into the championship and get to grips with the car.
“It was a difficult decision to leave JHR because I established a really strong relationship with them over the past two seasons, but it’s always beneficial to see how other people work and experience new environments – and ultimately, the Ciceley opportunity was far too good to turn down.
“I owe a massive ‘thank you’ to my loyal partner Evergreen Tyres, who will remain with me on this exciting new journey. I’ve aspired to race in the BTCC ever since I was little, and with Ciceley’s calibre and expertise in the championship, this takes me one step nearer towards that goal.”
Ciceley Motorsport Team Principal Russell Morgan revealed that he has high hopes for the squad’s newest protégé, who will be coached throughout the campaign by multiple BTCC race-winner Adam Morgan. Both are confident it will not take Zelos long to adapt to the cut-and-thrust nature of the fiercely-disputed UK Clio Cup, commonly regarded as the most popular and entertaining package on the TOCA support bill and one that has catapulted countless drivers into the world’s premier tin-top series.
“We might be a comparatively small, family-run outfit, but we have big ambitions and we are building this team for the years to come,” explained Russell. “Like everybody in the BTCC, we keep close tabs on the other categories to look out for stars of the future, and we have had our eye on Dan for some time.
“To achieve the results he did in Ginetta Juniors straight out of karting was nothing short of exceptional, and whilst he has only had limited running in the Clio so far, he is clearly ready to move up the ladder and we are all very much looking forward to seeing what he can do in 2016.”
“It’s very rewarding for me to be taking on a mentoring role with Ciceley’s new UK Clio Cup team and to be able to impart my knowledge and advice to the next generation,” opined Adam. “We recognised Dan’s potential in Ginettas, and that potential was confirmed when he drove our car at Donington back in December. He has fought at the front in every championship he has entered, and he will undoubtedly be one to watch over the coming seasons.”
Zelos’ first full test with Ciceley Motorsport will take place at Thruxton in Hampshire on 18 February. The 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup begins at the world-famous Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent on 2/3 April, followed by eight further race weekends throughout the country. All BTCC events attract huge trackside crowds – averaging almost 40,000 in 2015 – and are broadcast live free-to-air in the UK to a captive audience.