Max Coates hopes his impressive showing on his Porsche Carrera Cup GB debut at Donington Park last weekend, an opportunity he described as a ‘career lifeline’, can lead to more outings on the TOCA package this season.
Coates was selected by Porsche UK to drive the championship’s guest car with Parr Motorsport for the weekend, bringing the 20 year old back to competitive action for the first time in ten months. His last outing was a one-off, podium finishing appearance in the Ginetta GT Supercup at Croft last season.
Despite the break, there was no signs of rustiness from the Yorkshireman, who got his first run in the car in Friday practice. Producing top six pace from the off in the first session, Coates tells TCF he felt instantly at home in the new-for-2014 type 991 GT3 Cup car.
“They are fantastic cars to drive, very different to anything I’ve ever experienced before,” said Coates. “I adapted to it well, and felt comfortable by the time we got into qualifying, which gave me a good shot of being close to the front row.
“I think having had the one-off in the Ginetta at Croft really helped me get an insight and understand how a one-off drive works, so I knew it was all about getting comfortable and once I was, I’d be away.”
After finishing fifth in the combined practice times, 0.686 seconds off the top, Coates continued his positive momentum into qualifying, taking a pair of fourth place grid starts, ahead of a host of far more experienced Porsche racers.
While happy with the result, Coates admits he could have been higher were it not for a slight mistake.
“I can’t argue with the pace I showed really,” he commented. “To be two tenths off Josh [Webster] and half a second off a double champion in Michael [Meadows] was a great achievement.
“I wasn’t happy with my second new tyre run, I had a small lock up at Coppice and that cost me a chance for P2, and I think had I got that right I wouldn’t have been a million miles away from Michael.”
There was to be disappointment for Coates at the start of race one, with a slow getaway off the line dropping him all the way to the back of the twelve car field at the end of the first lap. He fought back superbly though, showing great racecraft as he climbed his way up to finish in sixth place.
Coates had a podium finish in his sights heading into Sunday’s live-televised encounter, however a dose of wet weather mid-race was to thwart his aspirations. Running on slicks in the increasingly worsening conditions, Coates survived a couple of off-track moments to secure fifth place at the flag.
While luck wasn’t on his side over the course of the two races, Coates is happy with the pace and potential he showed.
“I’m happy that I’m close with my one lap pace, and now it’s just about getting the races right. Unfortunately this weekend, a bit of inexperience at the start caught me out in race one, and it was very, very tough conditions in race two,” Coates reflected.
“I’d never driven this Porsche in the dry before the weekend, let alone the wet, so to be in the wet on slicks in race conditions was always going to be a tough challenge. I was happy to bring it back in one piece.
“I’ve learnt so much working with Parr Motorsport, they’ve done a great job, and a major thanks to Porsche for the opportunity, which I see as a career lifeline. After ten months out the seat, I needed to be back and while I didn’t get the race results, to show the pace was an incredible feeling.”
Coates’ attentions are now turning towards capitalising on this career lifeline and making more on-track appearances this season, but as has been the case for the last three years, the MSA Academy member is facing an uphill battle to secure the budget.
After showing front-running pace in the Carrera Cup, the previously Ginetta-focused racer admits his preference would be to make a return to the championship and aid his development as a driver in the process.
“I’d love to be out in the TOCA paddock again, but we’ve got to find that budget,” he concluded. “I was quite keen to make sure I’m not just known for racing Ginetta’s, I want to be a much more rounded driver, and I think driving the Porsche and being successful this weekend has proved that I can be.
“I love the Ginetta’s, they’re great cars to drive and the series gets a great amount of track time, but I’ve also loved the Porsche’s, I get along with the car very well and I don’t see why I couldn’t be out in the Porsche Carrera Cup again soon.”
*You can get more of Max’s views on his racing through his blog on The Checkered Flag, in which he gives an insight into his career. Read it at: http://www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk/category/tcf-blogs/max-coates-blog/”