as national hostilities loom
As the 2012 British karting campaign roars rapidly into view, Dan Zelos has thrown down the gauntlet to his rivals – by setting out his stall as a Mini Max front-runner and even tallying his breakthrough victory in his new class only a handful of weeks after making his debut in it.
Having successfully established himself as one of the very best drivers in the country at Comer Cadet level in 2011, Dan has pushed himself beyond his comfort zone this year by graduating to the more powerful and keenly-contested Mini Max category with Tooley Motorsport. He has wasted little time in demonstrating that he will continue to be a force to be reckoned with as his burgeoning career shifts up a gear.
“It’s going really well,” acknowledges the talented young Dereham-based hotshot. “We’ve come into Mini Max and been immediately up at the front and battling with drivers who finished in the top ten nationally last year. I’m actually quite surprised that we’ve settled into it all so quickly. In Cadets, it took me a couple of years to get fully up-to-speed, but in Mini Max, it’s taken only a few weeks.
“It seems to suit my driving style better; there’s a lot more grip, and you need to have strong arms for that, so I’ve really stepped up my fitness programme this year. You’ve generally just got to be much tougher in Mini Max – both physically and mentally.
“I’m really enjoying being with Tooley; they’ve helped to bring me on in terms of my racecraft, and they’ve had a good base set-up for every track we’ve visited so far. I wasn’t sure where I would be in the pecking order to begin with, but having proven that I can race at the front and win at Mini Max level, my confidence now is really high.” That confidence was translated into Dan’s maiden Mini Max triumph at Rowrah, defeating a whole host of local specialists around the demanding Cumbrian circuit on his first appearance there in his new class. Confessing that it was ‘a really good feeling’ to break his duck so early on, the Northgate High School pupil headed after that to Whilton Mill in Northants ready to test his mettle against 30 of his very fiercest adversaries.
“It was a big grid, and most of the drivers I’ll be racing against this year were there – so the opposition was certainly tough,” he muses. “I like Whilton; it’s an undulating circuit with a real variety of corners, and very physical, too, because it has so many bumps – at the end of the races, you can really tell who has been training the hardest!”
A bold last lap manoeuvre and some extremely competitive lap times yielded a 12-place gain as Dan sped to fifth position in his first heat race, before rebounding superbly from an early knock in heat two to charge from 24th to tenth, lapping second-quickest along the way.
“As the heats are so short, you’ve got to get into ‘the zone’ really quickly and just get your head down and go for it,” he reflects. “I didn’t even realise I’d made up so many places, because I was so completely focussed on moving forward. I was really pleased with my progress, and it proved that I’m a good overtaker!”
Allied to those results, a seamless third heat – as the 13-year-old seized the advantage on the opening lap and thereafter never looked back, going on to take the chequered flag more than three seconds clear of any of his pursuers – placed Dan fourth on the grid for the all-important final.
“Five of us broke away at the front, but then exiting the first corner on lap four, the driver ahead of me suddenly slowed, which briefly held me up and someone else was able to get past,” he recalls. “That cost me quite a bit of ground. Once I had regained third position, I caught the top two right at the end – I just needed one more lap!
“It was good to finish on the podium up against such a strong field, though, and our pace was hugely encouraging again. My team-mate was just ahead of me in second, too, so overall it was a really successful weekend for Tooley Motorsport.”
A scant six tenths of a second adrift of the winner when the flag fell and with a better fastest lap to his credit than the two drivers in front of him, the results sheet confirmed that Dan’s claim was no idle boast. With Whilton due to stage the national Super 1 Series curtain-raiser at the end of this month and Rowrah hosting round three on the calendar in June, Norfolk’s resident speed demon is well aware that he will need to display similar form when the serious business gets underway. He is optimistic that will not be a problem.
“It will be really important to get the season off to a positive start,” he concludes. “If you don’t, you’ll be playing catch-up from thereon in, but I know I’m quick around Whilton and so are the team – so we’re aiming high.”
If you are interested in getting involved in life in the fast lane by sponsoring Dan, please contact his dad Andy at: email@example.com