Dan Zelos remains unbeaten in qualifying for the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE this season after topping the times for the fourth successive weekend at Oulton Park.

In a session run against the constant threat of potential rain showers – with light drizzle falling more than once – it was the former champion who emerged at the head of the pack thanks to a number of searing laps on his second run in the session.

EXCELR8 team-mate Bradley Gravett had been out front when the drivers had concluded their opening runs with the only lap below the 1m 31s mark, but Zelos would set head back out and set two laps that were quick enough to grab pole – and have a third disallowed for track limits.

It means an extra six points to extend his championship lead heading into race one.

“I came in after the first run happy with the lap and Bradley was above me, so I wanted another shot,” he said. “I was committed, and went for it and the new tyres seemed to make a big difference.

“Qualifying is vital here and the circuit is almost like a mini Monaco when it comes to overtaking as it isn’t the easiest thing to do. The weather is questionable and having clear air if we end up with rain will also be important.”

Despite Zelos going back out to make his bid for pole, Gravett elected to curtail his session at the half-way stage and remain in the pits in a bid to save tyres.

Second place still marked his best qualifying result to date, and will give him the bonus of having fresher rubber to take into the two races.

“A front row is my best-ever qualifying result, although I didn’t think it was going to be that good – I only realised I was on provisional pole when I came into the pits and my old team-mate Max Coates was clapping me!” he said.

“Dan got ahead and I could have gone back out, but we decided to keep fresh tyres as that is going to be a huge advantage going into the races. I’ve been good at my starts this season and this is a series where qualifying is everything.

“Now I’m at the front, I know have the pace to run there and I have better tyres, so I have to try and nail that advantage.”

Having been the man to beat in Friday practice, Joe Tanner was third quickest at the head of the three Hybrid Tune drivers, with Will Orton and Ryan Faulconbridge close behind.

The session wouldn’t be without drama for the team however, with Orton going fourth quickest despite losing the front splitter on his car early on and Faulconbridge losing four laps to track limits before eventually making one count to put himself firmly in the mix at the front.

“I lost the splitter right at the start which was frustrating,” Orton said. “I felt we did the best we could on the second run but we’d lost a lot of the chance of direction and had to use the fronts more to slow the car down, so it was damage limitation.

“It cost us a few tenths of a second but I’m pleased with P4 all things considered.”

Nelson King – fresh from his maiden JCW win at Snetterton – ran in the top three for a chunk of the session before being shuffled down to sixth place by the time the chequered flag dropped, with Jamie Osborne and Thomas Jack Lee rounding out the top eight.

That was a particularly impressive result for Lee, given he had been unable to take part in the two Friday test sessions as a result of exams.

Oliver Meadows and Dominic Wheatley completed the top ten with Lydia Walmsley and Lewis Selby missing out by just 0.036s having set the same time; Walmsley starting from P11 by virtue of setting the lap before her NAPA Racing UK rival.

Josh Porter was only 0.003s further back.