Yorkshireman Max Coates is seeing his title hopes slip away after enduring a frustrating weekend during Rounds Seven and Eight of the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship at Oulton Park, with a big accident in race one followed by a battling seventh place in race two.
Coates headed into the weekend in positive mood, after taking his two stunning podiums last time out at Thruxton and a strong run at the Cheshire circuit in 2010, when he took two ninth place finishes. However he was to have a disappointing start to the weekend, with the privateer off the pace in Friday practice.
Coates said: “Last year we found the track really good, we were quick and in the top ten, so I was hoping we would come into it this year and be right at the front, but that really wasn't the case. We were quite a long way off the pace at first on Friday, I just struggled to find the pace that the others had.”
The 16 year old enjoyed some improvement in qualifying though, as he explains: “Qualifying went slightly better than the two practice sessions and morning warm up, we ended up seventh and eighth. I got four tenths on the last lap, so that really promoted us from like tenth up to seventh, a real last ditch lap. I usually seem to race better than I qualify. It's not something I'm particularly proud of as I want to be able to qualify well too.”
Max headed into the weekend's first race hoping that his racecraft and experience would help him make his way up the field. It didn't go to plan for the Richmond based driver though, as he found it difficult to get past rivals who were defending well. The race took a turn for the worse on the final lap, when contact from behind sent him spinning off into the barriers, though he was able to get back on circuit and crawl home in seventeenth at the finish.
Coates reflected: “For race one, I got a bad start but stayed in seventh. I just tried to pick people off, but it wasn't really to be as Brad Bailey made his car really wide and I couldn't get through until the last lap.
“I made a really good move at the first corner and was pretty sideways up the inside of him, but got through with no contact. Then halfway down the next straight, I suddenly had a whack on the passenger side and was facing backwards heading towards the Armco. I spun round and fortunately just glanced off and got back onto track. I ended up just finishing for points, which is better than a DNF.”
The accident caused some damage to the front left of his Ginetta G40 Junior car, but a superb effort by the Coates Racing team saw the car repaired for the weekend's second race.
Coates explains: “We cracked on with the repair in the morning, working from about seven and got it finished about two, so we had an hour of two to spare to decide on set up. We had to change the lower wishbone and the trackrod end, plus there was quite a bit of cosmetic damage to the bonnet to fix too.”
Sunday's race, in tricky wet conditions, saw the MSA Elite Athlete challenging for a podium early on, before getting caught out in the midfield battle and dropping down the pack. He eventually fought his way to take seventh place for a few more vital championship points.
He commented: “I made a really good start, made up a place to seventh, before passing another two through Cascades. I made another place up soon after, so was up to fourth and I was right behind Will Foster. I had Mikey Day behind, so was trying to defend while also attacking Will and it just never happened.
“Unfortunately that meant I got caught up in the battles with everybody else and that was not really very beneficial to me. Mikey got up the inside, there was slight contact but nothing intentional, and I dropped four places as a result. I was back down in eighth and went to push through. I got back up to sixth but Charlie Robertson pulled a good move on me, so finished seventh.”
Oulton Park turned out not to be the weekend Max had hoped for, but the Pyreroy and Welcome to Yorkshire backed driver is taking the positives as he heads to his home circuit Croft this weekend for Rounds Nine and Ten, with big hopes for the meeting.
He concluded: “After Thruxton, two podiums there was fantastic and we were hoping to capatalise on that as much as we could. Its just not gone my way though, but we'll take the positives out the weekend, I finished today and improved on where I started, which is good and we're just learning all the time.
“Croft's up next, our local round, hopefully we'll have a lot of sponsors coming, which might mean we'll be able to continue for the rest of the season. Hoping for two wins at Croft, that's what we need to get back in the championship and I don't see any reason why we can't do it.”