He may have had to wait longer than he would have liked, but when Dan Zelos ascended the Mini Max class rostrum in the 2012 finale of the fiercely-contested British Super 1 Series at Shenington, he did so in considerable style – with a magnificent charge right the way through the field from 21st to second.
Having evinced glimpses of real potential – including setting fastest lap in the pre-final – en route to a brace of very solid top seven finishes in the preceding outing at PF International, Zelos travelled to high-speed Oxfordshire circuit Shenington sitting ninth in the Super 1 points table in his rookie Mini Max campaign and feeling ‘quietly confident’ about his chances after conquering the top ten there at Comer Cadet level in 2011.
“I was aiming for two good, consistent top eight finishes to try to cement my position in the championship and make sure I got a single digit to carry into 2013,” affirmed the gifted Norfolk speed demon. “I will admit that in the back of my mind, I was secretly hoping for a podium – we’ve been getting closer with every meeting – but equally, I was under absolutely no illusions about just how tough that would be.
“It was quite a battle to get a clear lap in during qualifying, and I was disappointed to end up only 15th. The times were tight and I definitely had more pace than I was able to show – I reckon the top six would have been on with the perfect run.”
Up against the indisputable crème de la crème of young British driving talent at Mini Max level, Zelos was a leading protagonist in two distinctly lively heat races. He emerged eighth from a tremendous multi-kart tussle in the first of them – albeit with the second-fastest lap time to his credit, quicker even than the winner – whilst a competitive sixth position in heat two subsequently secured the highly-rated Dereham-based ace ninth on the grid for the pre-final, an encounter that would swiftly go awry…
“Going into a tight hairpin on lap one, I was shunted pretty heftily from behind,” he recounted. “That sent me into the tyre barriers, and I had to climb out and extricate my kart before being able to continue. That was so frustrating, as it left me almost 11 seconds behind the rest of the pack, and worst of all, it was a huge blow to my target of maintaining my position in the championship. I was determined not to let that slip away, though, so I put the disappointment out of my mind and got on with it.
“I focussed on pushing as hard as I could and consistently putting in qualifying lap after qualifying lap. When I saw I was gaining on the drivers ahead, that gave me even more motivation and momentum, and I picked a few of them off before the chequered flag. I was still gutted to finish only 21st, because it clearly wasn’t what we wanted or needed – but it just made me even more fired-up to achieve a good result in the grand final.”
Second-quickest once again, Zelos might have completed the opening lap a gaping 17.4 seconds adrift of the leader, but such was his outstanding raw pace that the indefatigable Tooley Motorsport hotshot had more than halved that deficit by the time the flag fell. His rivals would soon discover that it was a signal of intent.
“I got a decent start in the grand final and then concentrated on fighting my way through, making moves wherever I could,” he explained. “I was into the top ten by lap five, and six laps later, I was second – although three seconds behind my team-mate Daniel McAuley in the lead. I had pulled out a big gap over third place, though, so I just got my head down and kept on pushing.
“I closed right onto the back of Daniel towards the end, but I didn’t want to do anything that would have risked ruining either of our races. If it hadn’t been my team-mate ahead, I would probably have had a go, but he needed a good result to clinch a top ten championship position, too, and I knew that staying put would be more than enough for me to seal ninth in the standings. It was a team effort, and I was happy to settle for second – especially after starting outside the top 20! It was an awesome result.”
Justifiably proud of his accomplishment, Zelos’ sensational performance was indeed sufficient to capture ninth spot in the title chase out of the 40 Super 1 Mini Max contenders, despite having been contentiously excluded from the opening round over a technical issue. What’s more, with eight top ten finishes from 12 finals this year, the 14-year-old Northgate High School pupil has well-and-truly laid down a potent marker for 2013.
“Before the grand final, I had agreed a deal with my dad that if I made it into the top five, I would get a new race suit, but if I’m honest, I thought even that would be a tall order,” he conceded. “I could never have imagined I would finish second – that was completely overwhelming. To get a one-two was the perfect end to the season for Tooley Motorsport – just amazing – and they do say that your last result is the one everybody always remembers…”
If you are interested in getting involved in life in the fast lane by sponsoring Dan, please contact his dad Andy at: firstname.lastname@example.org