Norfolk hot-shot Dan Zelos is loving life in the fast lane ahead of Renault UK Clio Cup test
- Credit: Archant
One of Norfolk's most gifted young stars has taken his next step up the racing ladder, writes Russell Atkins.
Dan Zelos, 17, has enhanced his British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) credentials by graduating to the Renault UK Clio Cup ahead of the forthcoming season.
He will debut in the ITV4-televised BTCC feeder series with Ciceley Motorsport and describes the move as an opportunity that was far too good to turn down.
The Dereham Sixth Form College A-level student, who will be coached throughout the campaign by multiple BTCC race-winner Adam Morgan said: 'I fell in love with the Clio straightaway. 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.'
Since making his car racing debut at the end of 2013, former karting sensation 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.
Zelos' first full test with Ciceley Motorsport will take place at Thruxton in Hampshire tomorrow. 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 at events which will attract huge trackside crowds, averaging almost 40,000 last year.
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'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,' Zelos added.
'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 protege.
He said: '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. 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.'