The clichÃ© 'a game of two halves' could be used to describe Max Coates' weekend in the Ginetta Junior Championship at Rockingham, the Coates Garage-run driver fighting through the field to a great fourth place finish in Round Fifteen, before threatening to the same again in Round Sixteen when he was pushed off circuit.
After a positive weekend at Rockingham in 2010 and an encouraging showing in Friday practice, the Harron Homes-backed driver was in confident mood heading into qualifying, though the session ended up not going as planned.
Max explained: “Ultimately my time was good in qualifying, but the way I went about it wasn't quite right. I went searching for a tow, which makes all the difference around a track like this, but this meant I didn't quite get the amount of fast laps in that I maybe could have done and that maybe hampered me, so we ended up eleventh and tenth, which wasn't quite where I wanted to be.”
With the Ginetta Junior’s being infamous for close, frenetic racing, Max knew a strong finish was not out of question despite starting eleventh and so it proved. A great run saw Coates pick his way through to fourth place, narrowly missing out on a coveted podium finish.
Scorton-based Coates commented: “The first race went really well, my start wasn't too bad and I went from eleventh to eighth in the first lap. Then it was just a case of trying to clamber up through from eighth, picking them off here, there and everywhere and I passed people at all different places of the track. It was a really good race.”
The Lightwater Valley-supported driver hoped to replicate the performance in the weekend's live televised race and showed early signs of doing so, fighting around the bottom of the top ten when he was taken out by a rival.
A frustrated Coates recalled: “I knew I could do the same as race one in race two. I did not have the best start again, but was doing well and had just set the fastest lap of the race when it all went wrong. It was clear I was right on it and in my point of view I was still going for a podium even though there were four of five laps left, when I had a coming together with Struan [Moore]. He tapped my rear quarter and spun me round.”
Although Moore did receive a reprimand for his part of the incident, it was scant consolation for Coates who saw a promising race ruined, leaving him settling for a lowly fourteenth. Despite this though, the cheery Yorkshireman was in positive mood leaving Rockingham and heads into the final four races confident of adding to his two podium finishes from Thruxton earlier in the year.
Coates concluded: “I want to win a race by the end of the year and get some more podiums, that's what I'm bothered about, so in that respect, another fourth was as close as you can get to a podium and we were really close, so despite the second race, I'm happy overall in a sense because we had such a good first one.”