Max Coates took two top six finishes in a positive meeting at Donington Park in the Ginetta Junior Championship. The 17 year old overcame a practice crash and a disappointing qualifying session to take the strong race results and move up to fifth in the drivers' championship.
After a good run in Friday practice, finishing the day third fastest, hopes were high for the MSA Academy driver heading into the weekend. He was topping of the timesheets in Saturday morning warm until a crash halted his progress.
The Pyeroy Ltd backed driver explains what happened: “I sort of lost the back end going into the Old Hairpin and I thought I'd got it corrected halfway through, but it suddenly decided I hadn't. It sort of kicked out on me, I was on the grass and it was going sideways towards the tyres and I just couldn't stop, so ended up head on. It didn't hurt and the car was fine.”
A good job by his Coates Garage team saw the front-end of the car repaired allowed Max to get our for qualifying. However some minor car issues meant he wasn't able to show his true pace, setting times that put him just twelfth on the grid for the two races.
Coates commented: “It wasn't the best session we've ever had, there's a lot in the car I maybe didn't quite find. I just never really got a lap hooked up in the session, which was really the problem. I was getting good sectors and I would have thought I we looked at the sector times, I would have had one good time in each, but I just never managed to get all of them together in one lap.
“But I'm a racing driver so I can come through, we're starting twelfth and in this championship there's no reason that can't be transferred into a win or a podium, so still feeling very optimistic.”
Max was true to his word early on in race one, with a strong charge through the field seeing him up to third, before he eventually slipped back to finish sixth.
The Richmond Sixth Form Student was happy though: “I started twelfth, after the qualifying session that didn't quite go to plan and moved through to third in about three laps, passed a lot of people on the exit to the Fogarty Esses and on the run up the hill after the Old Hairpin. Unfortunately just lost out on three positions after that to drop back to sixth, but all in all it was a good race, to come from twelfth to sixth is a fantastic result .”
Race two, televised live, saw Max make another push through the field. Avoiding all the incidents on track, the Scorton-based driver worked his way through to take fourth place, matching his best result from the opening rounds at Brands Hatch.
Commenting on the race, Max said: “That race was fantastic. I picked off the places, there were a few spinners and I just kind of kept my cool and did the job I needed to do.
“Got up to sixth before the safety car came out and I got someone into the Fogarty Esses, then Finlay Ratcliffe came up the inside of me and span, so I then managed to get through into fifth with a little bit of a gap and pushed on to catch Niall Murray.
“I caught him and passed him out of Redgate on the way down the Craners, then just set about catching the leaders but unfortunately didn't quite have enough time.”
Throughout the weekend, an issue that was raised was the levels of driving standards in the Junior series, with many incidents taking place causing damage to rival's cars. Coates believes this is going to happen in a series of young drivers: “It's difficult to avoid, it's a very close championship and it's what happens with fourteen to seventeen year olds, we all want to win the race and all of us push as hard as we can. A lot of the time that causes one or two incidents and spins.
“It happens and it's hard to keep out of it, you've just got to use your racecraft and race knowledge and race experience to sort of understand what's going to happen next and sometimes be mature and back off in some situations to get through.”
Yorkshireman Max and his Harron Homes sponsored team are now preparing for Rounds five and six of the series at the fastest circuit in the country Thruxton, a meeting Max is looking forward to: “I can't wait to get out next time at Thruxton and hopefully go for a podium there, that's the plan.”
Max, who is set to launch his new website soon, would also like to thank RGPS, Graphics York, Millers Oils and Dimensions Clothing, adding: “I wouldn't be racing without the help of these companies; their support is greatly received and much appreciated.”