He might be just 14, but Dan Zelos has been acclaimed as ‘a star in the making’ with ‘a bright future’ ahead of him after impressing with his maturity, composure, lap times and skill during the course of his maiden car racing test behind the wheel of a Ginetta Junior G40 at Bedford Autodrome.
Zelos is presently competing for Tooley Motorsport at Mini Max level in the fiercely-contested British Super 1 karting series, and with two rounds remaining – at PF International later this month and Shenington in October – the talented Norfolk speed demon sits eighth in the title standings out of the 39 competitors, and best-placed class rookie.
With one eye on his current programme, however, and another on the future, the highly-rated Dereham-based hotshot jumped at the opportunity to try out Ginetta’s G40 – a car that features prominently on the support package for the hugely popular, ITV4 live-televised Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
“By way of preparation, I tried driving my nan’s car,” he revealed, “but it doesn’t have that much power and as we were at an old airfield, I was only really able to go round in circles. It was more aimed at getting used to the gears than anything else, and it did help to reduce my nerves…well, a little bit anyway!
“When the day itself arrived, I was really excited and also slightly anxious – I was conscious of not wanting to make a fool out of myself – but then when I saw the car in the flesh, I couldn’t wait to get out on-track in it!”
Steadily acclimatising to both the G40’s handling and gears as well as to the damp conditions in the first session, Zelos consistently picked up tips from the expert tuition of the instructors who took it in turns to sit alongside him in the cockpit, and his progress was clear to see. Handling the higher speeds compared to karting calmly in his stride, the Northgate High School pupil mused that maybe, just maybe, his first tentative step into the world of car racing had given him a taste of things to come.
“There’s definitely a lot more to have to think about in a car than in a kart, in terms of how long it takes to get the tyres up to temperature, the clutch, the gears and so on,” he acknowledged. “It was all a very new experience for me, but I loved every second of it!
“I had a lot of fun driving the Ginetta, and I learned so much from my instructors Tom Ingram and Mike Simpson. It was a big step-up for me from my Mini Max kart, but hopefully it was also a step in the right direction towards what I want to do in the future…”
Both Ingram and Simpson, indeed, were effusive about the potential Zelos had displayed, and having forged successful careers of their own in the world of motorsport, they agreed that their promising young protégé possesses all the credentials necessary to follow in their wheeltracks.
“Dan showed encouraging speed in the car over the time I spent with him, and it was good to work with him,” reflected Ingram, a former Ginetta Junior and Ginetta G50 Champion, and now a race-winner and title-challenger in the Ginetta GT Supercup. “He made improvements each time he went out and was keen to learn, which is always great. He got quicker and quicker with every run, and I’m sure with a little bit of testing and some time to get used to the car more, he would be well on the front-running pace in the Ginetta Junior Championship.”
“Dan is a star in the making,” concurred experienced Ginetta instructor and ex-British Karting Champion Simpson. “He showed fantastic pace in his first car racing test and conducted himself very professionally. I am sure he has a bright future.”