Max Coates (Photo Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

Max Coates (Photo Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post so I thought I had better keep you all updated on what's been happening over the last month or so.

To be honest things have quietened down for me, I have been relaxing and preparing for next year.  I have spent a bit of time with some friends and I also have done a talk for some young farmers.  A group from Staindrop came to our workshop for a little look around the car and I delivered a presentation about what I had done in the past and what motorsport is for me.  It was great to have over 30 people turn up and it was as much an experience for me as it was for them.

I have also been selected for the MSA RSF Young Driver of the Year Award and went along to the Pure Tech Racing facility in Surrey with another four drivers.  There was also a panel of judges present including Robert Reid, MSA Performance Director, Ben Anderson from Autosport, Derek Walters from the RSF, David Brabham and Ben Taylor, MSA Communications Director as well as last year's winner Jake Cook.  The day compromised of three sessions on the simulator and a presentation/question and answer session with the judges.  All 10 simulators are connected to each other and each 'cell' moves with the input from the driver.

We started with a free practice session to learn the fictional track that had been created.  I ended up 3rd after leading in the early stages.  The second session was a qualifying run and with 20 minutes on the clock we had plenty of time to get a good lap in.  I got out of the pits and tried to put a banker in so I knew that I could push hard and should anything happen I had a relatively quick lap to fall back on.  That plan didn't really work when another driver spun in front of me and I crashed into him.  I had to pit and lost lots of time.  I came back out with about 6 minutes to go and was about about 20 seconds off the pace having not put a lap in where I had car pointing in the right direction.  I ended up 3rd but was not as fast as I would have liked to have been.

The last session was a 45 minute race.  This was over twice the length I was used to in the Ginetta.  I started poorly because I didn't get the car into gear and fell to the back of the pack, then four cars crashed and I got through to 3rd.  I was getting ready to overtake 2nd place when the simulator stopped suddenly and the race was restarted.  On the second start I got away cleaner and held my position round the first right hand kink.  Next up was a flat out left hand turn and as I turned in the back end became the front, I had been tapped in the left rear and to make matters worse I got beached on a kerb.  The rule is that if you come off, get beached, break the car etc you will be put back to the pit lane and released when the last driver crosses the line.  So I was stone drop last leaving the pits, I had a fairly lonely race after that and circulated 33 times without the site of another car ahead or behind, I did finish fourth and managed to get back onto the lead lap so was quite pleased.

We then moved onto a presentation after lunch.  I was first up and gave my 5 minute speech which was followed by a question and answer session.  I felt that this part of the process had gone well and was pleased.  At the end of the day there could only be one winner and that was Josh Webster.  I was gutted not to have won but was privileged to have been selected for the course and the award.  What I have gained through the MSA Academy has no doubt shaped the person I am today both on and off the track and has benefitted me as an athlete greatly.

In this winter break I have also been planning for next year.  Although I have not decided on a championship for next year and any plans for that I am hoping to be in either the Renault Clio Cup or the Ginetta GT Supercup in a G50.  We are trying to obtain the funds to compete but this is a difficult process.  I hope to be able to confirm everything soon but that could be a month or two months away yet.  Either way I hope to be back on track in a BTCC support class in 2012 and can't wait to get going.  I have been practising my driving on iRacing, an online simulator and racing game which I have been very impressed with.  I have particularly enjoyed being able to challenge myself in new cars on different tracks and this has helped me to learn tracks and cars more quickly.  I am hoping to write a full blog on iRacing and fitness in the New Year.  Fitness also plays a large role in motorsport and I am nearly ready to start a new programme for 2012. I have been running and cycling over the last months to keep fit until the start of my new plan next year.  As well as physical fitness I am also hoping to start a mental training programme which is being created through the MSA Academy's links.  All of these plans, programmes and simulators should help in the car next season and I just want to get going again.

Finally I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year.

Until next time,