DAN ZELOS WINS SWELTERING SECOND RACE AT BRANDS HATCH

Dan Zelos secured his second win of the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE season in sweltering conditions at Brands Hatch, whilst the fight for honours in JCW Sport would go right to the wire.

There was drama before the lights even went out after race one winner Max Hall was forced to pull off on the green flag lap with a driveshaft issue, putting him out of contention for a second victory.

Jamie Osborne would lead the field away after the top six were reversed but his advantage lasted only to Druids before NAPA Racing UK team-mate Lewis Selby managed to find his way through into top spot.

Further down the order, Nathan Edwards was slow away from the line having stalled his car when the lights went out – dropping down outside the top ten but luckily avoiding being collected by anyone behind.

Dominic Wheatley had started from third and held station through lap one before making a move on Osborne going into Druids on lap two, with contact between the pair seeing the pack shuffled behind as Zelos suddenly found himself up in second spot ahead of Marlo Cordell, with Osborne slipping to fourth and Wheatley dropping back into fifth.

A lap later however, Osborne’s race came to an end when he ran wide out of Paddock Hill Bend with a front left puncture before pulling off at Druids.

The drama at Druids had handed Selby a big lead out at the front but that lead was eradicated on lap five when Bradley Gravett clipped the kerb going into Paddock Hill Bend hard enough to unsettle his car and put him into a spin.

Tom Ovenden clipped Gravett’s car as he attempted to avoid his EXCELR8 team-mate and was able to continue, but Matt Hammond would end up joining Gravett in being stuck in the gravel – resulting in the safety car being called out for the two cars to be recovered.

Selby maintained the lead on the restart but on lap 14, Zelos saw his chance to make a move at Clearways and slipped up the inside to hit the front – edging away from Selby to take the victory.

“I don’t think we’d have won that one without the safety car as we lacked a little bit of pace compared to what we expected,” Zelos said. “It helped us close up and I made a move he wasn’t expected, and those are the kind of wins we have to take when the opportunity is there. I wouldn’t have expected to be on the top step if you’d asked me before the start.”

Second for Selby saw him secure another overall podium finish, with Cordell replicating his earlier result as he once again took third in his JamSport-run car.

The fight for fourth place would rage after the caution period, with Nelson King holding the position from Lydia Walmsley – who had inherited fifth spot when Wheatley spun heading into Clearways.

It was a recovering Edwards however who was the man on a charge, moving into top six when he passed Josh Porter at Clearways before chasing down Walmsley and grabbing fifth at Paddock Hill Bend. A similar move on King at the same corner two laps later put him into fourth and he closed the gap on Cordell ahead before taking the flag as top rookie.

“I was panicking a bit when I stalled but then when I realised Max had retired, I know there was a chance to go for the class win,” he said. “We worked so hard overnight to find more pace from the car as our race pace wasn’t good yesterday but we turned it around and got the car working really well. We’ve got to push now to try and go for the win in race three.”

Edwards was chased home by King but a time penalty for track limits dropped him back down to eighth in result, with Porter, Ovenden and Walmsley all ahead in the results.

Behind them came top JCW Sport driver Dylan Hotchin, although that didn’t tell the true story of a dramatic race for the new category.

Hotchin had been late to the grid when his car refused to fire up in the paddock, and was then slow away off the line as Chris MacKenzie held the lead from Ben Crossley and Cameron Richardson through the early stages.

MacKenzie continued to lead the way after the safety car period as the battle for second intensified behind, with Richardson putting pressure on Crossley before the pair clashed on the exit of Druids on lap 13 – allowing Hotchin through into second.

Whilst Crossley continued in third place, Richardson would be forced to pit to have his damaged car looked at and would drop a lap as a result.

Hotchin set about chasing down Mackenzie at the front when the pair running together on the closing laps as the current points leader tried to find a way ahead, with MacKenzie able to keep his rival at bay until the final lap.

Then, Going through the final corner, MacKenzie drifted wide and dipped a wheel in the gravel which allowed Hotchin through to take the lead and secure the win.

“It was a miracle that we won that one,” he said. “Chris just ran a bit wide and dropped a wheel in the gravel and I was able to get up the inside and win it. The car wouldn’t even start in the paddock and I wasn’t sure we’d even get out, so to come away with a win is amazing.”

MacKenzie would take second from Crossley, with Scott Lear’s Invitational entry in fourth and Richardson following behind.

Post race however, Crossley was handed a penalty for the earlier incident and dropped behind Richardson in the result.