Dan Zelos produced another storming run in qualifying at Snetterton to maintain his run of pole positions in the 2023 Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE.

The EXCELR8 driver had set the quickest time at both Donington Park and Brands Hatch, and was eager to make home knowledge count in a bid to grab the six bonus points on offer and close the gap to points leader Will Orton.

Joe Tanner had been the first driver to set a representative quick time in the session when he broke the 2:03s marker, but his lap would soon be bettered by Bradley Gravett, Zelos and then Dominic Wheatley; the latter on the first lap of his second qualifying run.

At this stage, Orton had failed to set a representative lap after a moment at turn one whilst following team-mate Sam Weller saw him go off into the tyres – resulting in a lengthy stop in the pits before he rejoined the action.

Once back on track, Orton managed to get close to the qualifying lap record to move into provisional pole before he returned to the pits, where he would then stay until the finish.

As Orton came in, Zelos was heading out for his second run in the session and an astonishing lap saw him smash Alex Denning’s lap record and become the first driver to break into the 2:01s bracket, before doing it again immediately the next time around – albeit a fraction of a second slower.

An even quicker lap was then lost to track limits, but Zelos would still end up on top of the pile to make it three pole positions from three.

“I think I pulled my finger out for the second part of that!” Zelos said afterwards. “We made a few tweaks to the car and once I got the car dialled in, I managed to get the lap in – and there were a few tenths still in it as it’s tough to get a lap round here.

“It’s nice to get pole but it’s the race that matters and being at the front is the best place to be.”

Despite the disrupted nature of his qualifying session, Orton was able to grab second on the grid, maintaining his own record of improving his starting position each weekend and earning a place on the front row of the grid for the first time.

The points leader edged out Hybrid Tune partner Joe Tanner by just 0.013s to leave the Directors Cup leader in P3, with top Graduate runner Dominic Wheatley grabbing fourth – by far his best qualifying result in the series so far.

“I had a moment on my first push lap and we hit the wall at turn one,” Orton reflected. “We came in and I had one lap and grabbed P2, so it could have been a lot worse than it was.”

On his one-off return to action, defending champion Weller would end up with the fifth best time, with Oliver Meadows taking sixth and Nelson King in seventh having waited until the final lap to set his best time.

Bradley Gravett, Jamie Osborne and Steven Lake then completed the top ten.