Dan Zelos will seek to become the first driver to successfully defend the JCW title after confirming he will return to the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE for the 2022 season.

Having won both the Rookie Cup and Graduate Cup titles in his first two seasons in the series, Zelos saw off the challenge of team-mate Max Bird to secure the overall crown last year following a season-long battle that went right down to the final race.

Confirmation that Zelos will once again lead the EXCELR8 Motorsport challenge as the team chases a third title in a row means eight of the top ten in the standings last year will feature on the grid again in 2022.

“Winning the MINI CHALLENGE last season was the highlight of my career so far, but the competition looks set to be stronger than ever in 2022,” Zelos said. “That means retaining the title will be an extremely tough task – but that’s 100 per cent my goal and I’ll be giving it everything I’ve got to achieve it.”

Alongside his championship push, Zelos will also take up the role of official Reserve Driver for EXCELR8’s BTCC programme, meaning he will be given the first opportunity to join the line-up should any of the four regular drivers be forced to miss an event this year.

In his new role, Zelos will spend time with the BTCC squad on race weekends and will be given the chance to test the team’s Hyundai i30 Fastback N twice during the campaign.

“EXCELR8 feels a bit like my motorsport ‘family’ now,” he continued. “I’ve been with them since 2019, and over the past couple of seasons, I’ve gained invaluable insight and experience from the time I’ve been able to spend with the team’s BTCC drivers and engineers.

“I’m really looking forward to strengthening that relationship this year as EXCELR8’s official BTCC Reserve Driver, and to putting all my newly-acquired knowledge to good use when I finally climb into the cockpit of the Hyundai i30 Fastback N.
“It’s no secret that the BTCC is where I ultimately want to be, and I feel very privileged to get to play an even bigger role in the championship now as it enters its hugely exciting hybrid era.

“Being made Reserve Driver is a further significant step in the right direction, and I fully intend to grab the opportunity with both hands. Hopefully I can use it as a springboard to show what I’m capable of.”

EXCELR8 team owner Justina Williams said she was delighted to welcome Zelos into his new role, and backed him for further success in his bid to defend the MINI CHALLENGE title.

“We’re delighted to reward Dan for his outstanding title-winning campaign in the MINI CHALLENGE by promoting him to the role of EXCELR8 Motorsport BTCC Reserve Driver in 2022,” she said. “He is a very gifted and skilful racer who is right on the verge now of breaking into the BTCC and totally committed to forging a successful career in the championship.
“I think Dan’s performances last year – particularly his four dominant wins and the way he handled the pressure in his stride in the Brands Hatch finale – proved that he has all the qualities required to shine at the highest level, so we look forward to seeing how he gets on in the Hyundai during his two test days and how he stacks up against our regular drivers.
“Dan has benefitted a great deal from his increasing interaction with EXCELR8’s BTCC team, and it has been an absolute pleasure and tremendously rewarding to watch him grow in confidence and stature in the process. That has unquestionably played a part in his results over the past couple of seasons – and I have no doubt that he will be a real force to be reckoned with in the MINI CHALLENGE once again this year.”