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Max Coates Blog: Brands Hatch Report

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Hi everyone, the first round of the Ginetta Junior championship is over and I'm lying 5th in the championship. The weekend didn't go quite according to plan but I think with the limited amount of testing the team and I have had we gave a good account of ourselves.

The weekend started on Friday for us with two sessions of testing. This was my second time out in the 2011 version of the Ginetta G40 junior car after the media day at Silverstone. As such the sessions were about learning the new upgrades and to find the best set-up for qualifying and the two races on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The first session went well, I ended up 8th. I was about 1.2 seconds off but I knew this was due to a fuel surge issue that was costing me a lot of time into the McLaren and Clearways series of corners. The second session however yielded a better result, I couldn't find the pace in the first part of the session but we then had a quick period in the pits in which I was able to think about what I was doing and refocus. Once leaving the pits I put in some quick laps to clinch 4th in the session and be the 5th quickest over the whole day. I was happy with this as I knew I could improve over the weekend's sessions as I gained more confidence in both the car and track and the team developed a feel for the way the new car handled and reacted to the inputs.

Saturday morning started with a 15 minute free practice session and was to end with an all important qualifying session. In the first session we decided to use a brand new set of the Michelin Sport Cup tyres which is the new 2011 dry tyre. These, as we learnt, take a while to start working in the way you would like, it takes a significant amount of time and laps before they start get grip to start pushing hard on. As we finished 8th in the session I was sure that I could find more time in the qualifying session now that the tyres had time and a heat cycle to their benefit. Unfortunately though, however hard I tried I could just not find that extra couple of tenths in qualifying. It was a bad feeling, I was only 5 tenths off pole for the first race and 3.5 tenths off forr the second. I knew that this was the difference between braking a metre later at one point on the track or just getting on the power slightly earlier. I was cross and angry with myself; I knew I had made a lot of hard work for myself in the two races on Sunday.

I was cross and angry with myself after qualifying; I knew I had made a lot of hard work for myself in the two races on Sunday

However I was not worried, I love to overtake, it is what a racing driver thrives on as well as winning. The first race of the year started with a big crash on the run up to Paddock Hill. I made a great launch but was blocked by a sideways Charlie Robertson, I conceded for the inside line but slowed down well in advance to the first corner to avoid the damaged car of Myles Collins that was flying across the track after hitting the barrier. My first start didn't matter in the end because a red flag came out for the medical car and marshals to clean up the scene of the pile up. The second start went smoother, I didn't get the launch off the line that I had done in the first race but managed to move from 8th to 7th on the run to druids. I quickly moved in behind Tom Howard and was battling for 6th place but spun on cold tyres at the end of lap three in the Surtees / McLaren series of corners. This put me back to last, but I battled through back to 9th claiming the second fastest lap along the way.

On reflection I pushed too hard too soon in the first race, I know that I could have been a potential podium contender in the race and because of this I am very disappointed.

However I had to forget this race and move onto the second round of the championship. Again I made a good start and moved into 6th by the end of the first lap. I was locked in a battle with William Foster and Niall Murray. Niall made a move on the exit of clearways and got in front before Will made a move into Druids. There was contact and Niall lost out as a result, I was then sat on the back of Will in 5th place. I tried my best to put pressure on him and force a mistake however Will drove well and I was unable to make a move. Jake Giddings spun at Paddock Hill bend on the final tour and I moved through to 4th which is where I stayed for the remainder of the race. Overall 4th was a good result which provisionally gives me 5th in the championship going into the 3rd and 4th rounds at Donnington Park. I really enjoyed racing at Donnington last year as the flowing nature plays well to my driving style. It's a circuit that is split in two, the first and last corner are all about braking at the latest point possible and getting a good exit where as in the rest of the track a good rhythm is essential.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, I'll put another race report up after Donnington Park and am planning on writing a few other blogs about fitness for a racing driver and what happens in the day-to-day life of me.

Best wishes,


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