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Motorsport round-up: Young Norfolk racers put their faith in Minis

PUBLISHED: 08:03 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:03 27 March 2019

Dan Zelos at the wheel of his Mini Challenge race car run by local team EXCELR8 Motorsport in which the Dereham youngster aims to secure the title Picture: Richard Styles

Dan Zelos at the wheel of his Mini Challenge race car run by local team EXCELR8 Motorsport in which the Dereham youngster aims to secure the title Picture: Richard Styles

Richard Styles

Two young Norfolk racing drivers are targeting success in the Mini Challenge during the coming season, with Dereham’s Dan Zelos aiming for the JCW title while James Hillery, from Shipdham, has targeted the Cooper Pro-Class title.

Dereham’'s Dan Zelos with his JCW Mini Challenge car at a recent test session at Snetterton Picture: Richard StylesDereham’'s Dan Zelos with his JCW Mini Challenge car at a recent test session at Snetterton Picture: Richard Styles

Zelos will be swapping over to the high-powered JCW (John Cooper Works) Championship, which supports the British GT/British Formula Three Championships, after three years contesting the Renault UK Clio Cup.

“As a series, there’s no question that the Mini Challenge is growing in profile,” Zelos said. “The recent announcement that it will join the BTCC support package in 2020 means even more eyes will be on it this year, so it’s the perfect time to make the jump.”

The Norwich University of Arts Graphic Design undergraduate has already tasted success in the Mini Challenge after a one-off outing at Brands Hatch last year in which the local racer stood on the podium in two out of the three races.

The 20-year-old Zelos will race for the MINI UK VIP team, run by the locally-based EXCELR8 Motorsport team, with his former UK Clio Cup mechanic Dan Cusick also making the switch to work on his car for the season, which will continue to be supported by Evergreen Tyres and, new for this year, CAM Systems.

Dan Zelos from Dereham relaxing during testing of his 2019 Mini Challenge racer car at Snetterton Picture: Richard StylesDan Zelos from Dereham relaxing during testing of his 2019 Mini Challenge racer car at Snetterton Picture: Richard Styles

“It looks like being a full grid, which is sure to produce some great racing and I’m enjoying the car – it reminds me of the short BTCC test I had a few years ago” said Zelos.

“We have been there or thereabouts in both wet and dry conditions during testing, which is obviously encouraging, and I’m feeling more comfortable and confident in the Mini every time I take to the track.

“Outright pace is not actually the biggest challenge. I don’t think we’ve got too much to worry about in that department. It’s getting up to speed quickly that is going to take a little more time, since the tyre characteristics are very different to what I’ve been used to in the past.”

“We really enjoyed working with Dan when he made a guest appearance for the MINI UK team in the Mini Challenge in 2018, so to now have the opportunity to work with him in 2019 for a full-season championship assault is doubly exciting,” said Justina Williams, EXCELR8 Motorsport’s owner.

James Hillery testing his new mount for the 2019 season at Snetterton when he will be aiming to challenge of the MINI Cooper Pro title with the King's Lynn-based AReeve motorsport team Picture: James Roberts PhotoJames Hillery testing his new mount for the 2019 season at Snetterton when he will be aiming to challenge of the MINI Cooper Pro title with the King's Lynn-based AReeve motorsport team Picture: James Roberts Photo

“What really impresses with Dan is his methodical approach to the race weekend and his understanding that to win there needs to be a focus on the finest details. We look forward to him being on the podium numerous times this year.”

The 17-year-old Hillery has a successful karting carer behind him, plus a pair of seasons racing in the Ford Fiesta Junior Championship in which he was a leading runner in 2017 securing third place in the series.

For the coming season the mid-Norfolk racer has teamed up with AReeve Motorsport, based at King’s Lynn, to race in the Cooper Pro category.

“I have always kept an eye on the Mini Challenge while I was competing in the Fiesta Junior Championship and wanted to carry on with a one-make series as I enter my first season in senior racing,” said Hillery.

Shipdham racer James Hillery who will be aiming to secure the MINI Cooper Pro title this year with the King's Lynn-based AReeve race team Picture: James Roberts PhotoShipdham racer James Hillery who will be aiming to secure the MINI Cooper Pro title this year with the King's Lynn-based AReeve race team Picture: James Roberts Photo

“The Mini Challenge now allows a fantastic opportunity to climb from the Pro Class Series up to the JCW British Touring Car support package and it’s a ladder I’m looking forward to climbing.

“Joining AReeve Motorsport has given me a fantastic opportunity to push for the title. Their many years of experience in the Mini Challenge has seen them win many championships and with team boss Arron Reeve behind me I see no reason why we can’t bring the MINI Pro Championship home to Norfolk.”

Hillery will be supported by Outlook Publishing, LA Custom Coatings and Colts Cabs plus new for this year Norwich Stoves and Home Improvements.

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