CONTROLLED DRIVE EARNS DAN ZELOS SIXTH WIN
Dan Zelos made it six wins for the season with victory in the opening Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE race of the weekend at Oulton Park.
The EXCELR8 driver had maintained his 100 per cent pole record in qualifying and held onto the lead when the lights went out at the start ahead of Joe Tanner, with the Scot jumping Bradley Gravett off the line.
An early safety car period called after Thomas Jack Lee ground to a halt with a suspension issue backed up the field, but Zelos nailed the restart to establish a small gap over Tanner behind.
That would prove to be the key moment of the race given the close nature of the lap times amongst the leading pack, with Zelos managing the gap to Tanner throughout the remainder of the race to grab a win that extends his advantage in the standings.
The former champion also grabbed the six bonus points for scoring fastest lap.
“The safety car restart was crucial as I got the cushion and then just had to manage the gap, as it’s easy to push too hard and make a mistake here,” he said.
“It will be hard from P6 but anything can happen at Oulton Park in these cars, as we’ve seen. I’d prefer the rain that has been predicted to arrive as I’m quick in those conditions, and I’d fancy our chances.”
Tanner would secure second place for the fourth successive race in the first of the Hybrid Tune cars, with his start being the critical part of proceedings.
The Scot rocketed off the line whilst Gravett slightly bogged down as the lights went out, with Tanner nipping ahead before the pair got to Old Hall.
He didn’t however have the pace to push ahead of Zelos for the win.
“There is nothing between us and it just stays the same the whole time – I can’t find a chink in his armour,” he said. “Had I started second then maybe I could have had a chance at the start, but I’m still happy with a podium.”
In a race largely devoid of overtaking towards the front, Will Orton enjoyed a trouble-free run to fourth place, despite the best efforts of Jamie Osborne early on.
Osborne made up two spot on the opening lap and kept Orton honest after the safety car until he came under pressure from Nelson King, who made a move stick on the run to Cascades on lap ten.
That left Osborne to take the flag in sixth spot, ahead of Dominic Wheatley – who was at the centre of the most controversial moment of the race.
The Graves Motorsport driver had been running eighth behind Ryan Faulconbridge in the opening half of the race but contact between the pair going into the Island hairpin on lap eleven saw Faulconbridge suffer a spin that dropped him down to twelfth.
Wheatley would later be hit with a five place penalty for the clash that dropped him back behind his rival in the results, promoting Oliver Meadows to seventh, with Lydia Walmsley, Josh Porter and Lewis Selby rounding out the top ten-ten.
Aside from Lee, Jamie Petters parked up with a suspected engine issue on the second lap, with elder brother Dan unable to compete after gearbox and diff trouble that couldn’t be sorted in time for the start.