Ginetta JuniorMax Coates Blog

Max Coates Blog: Chasing Podiums

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I arrived at Donignton Park feeling very confident. I had a 4th in the previous race and had the pace to battle for a podium and I had gone well the year before at the circuit. I knew what to do and knew it suited my style. Donington Park is a two part track, part one starts after the craner curves where a high average speed is essential and then part to consists of the final and first corner. These two require heavy breaking efforts and stop start style of driving.

Friday testing was slightly different at Donnington Park, instead of two half hour session we had one three hour session. This was due to the fact that the Ginetta Junior car is the only car that can be run on a quiet day at Donnington Park. The track is only allowed to have three noisy days in a row once each year, this is reserved for the Moto GP and thus testing for the other support classes was on Thursday.

With that in mind we approached the session differently to a normal session. We took it in hour sessions and aimed to have three runs of 15 to 20 minutes. This meant that we could come back to the pits and make the odd change to find those all important tenths. I started off quickly and was up to 9th in the first 20 minutes. As the session progressed we improved the handling and speed of the car but did not go any quicker. In our final run however we found something that pushed us up the time sheet to third. I was happy with this as I knew the lap I had done was not the fastest lap I could do. The reason we found the speed was due to car set-up changes and the fact that I had driven one corner really well and gained time hand over fist. However I missed two apexes and as a result lost time that could have moved me up the timesheet.

Next up on Saturday morning was a warm up session. I started right at the back and pushed hard from the off, I wanted to see how hard I could push and also get into a zone where I could set fast laps every lap. I was doing so and up to lap 5 I was fastest and had overtaken 8-10 people. Then I went into the old hairpin and the rear locked. I thought I had gathered it back up but then half way through the corner I started to slide, when the suspension dug in it spat me off the track and I was sliding across the grass towards the tyres. I tried my best to keep it away but on the wet grass I didn't have a chance and my session ended prematurely with a smash into the tyres.

I lost a lot of confidence going into qualifying, I told myself everything was ok but I just didn't perform. The whole qualifying session went wrong, I never found the right space to get a lap in and when I did there was a yellow flag out so I couldn't overtake other people who had slowed down to find the space. It meant that it was very hard to set a lap at the end of the session and unfortunately that was when I was going to have the most amount of confidence and feel in the car after the off in the morning.

Qualifying 12th wasn't how I wanted to start the weekend but you can't change what has happened, only what and how well you will do in the future. With that in mind I focused solely on the races. In race one I moved from 12th to 3rd in three laps and was very overjoyed. However I had Niall Murray right on my tail, he maid a move down crainer curves and unfortunately this put me into the firing line if Will Foster, George Gamble and Brand Bailey who all passed me when Will made a bold move into MacLeans. I ended up 6th which wasn't bad considering my starting position. This performance gave me the confidence boost I needed after my morning warm up.

I was starting 12th again for the second race of the weekend and once again I was feeling confident and ready for action. I made a good start; I moved past Myles Collins on the run up to Redgate and then passed Struan Moore down craner curves. I passed most cars on the exit to the final chicane, everyone was going so deep into the first part it meant they spun or got a bad exit in the second part. I was able to take three in one go on one lap. I was then lying just behind Patrick McLughan and I passed him on the run into the last corner but Finlay Ractliffe passed me too. He just went in far too hot and clipped the kerb which I launched over to miss him as he spun. I was then just a second or so off Niall Murray and made the same move he had made on me in the first race to move to 4th. I had quite a gap as Niall spun. I then focussed on catching the leading group of three consisting of Seb Morris, William Foster and Tom Howard. I did catch them a lot but not quite enough and I also had Charlie Robertson and George Gamble catching me. Charlie was close enough to make a move at the final corner but I fended him off to take 4th.

Overall I was really happy with the race. Again my qualifying performance let me down, I have the race craft to be able to gain places and push up through the pack, but I now just need to have a decent qualifying to put me in a position to fight for a podium.

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