Max Coates took a strong sixth place in the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship after a mixed campaign for the popular teenager, which saw him take three podiums, but miss out on a much desired race win. The Checkered Flag spoke with Max at the final rounds of the 2011 season at Silverstone to discuss his season
Coates headed into his second year in the championship hoping to use his experience to challenge for wins and the overall championship title. Unfortunately for the Yorkshireman, the season didn't quite go as plan, with Coates not quite able to match the pace of the championship frontrunners on a regular occasion, which he believes boils down to a lack of budget restricting his testing opportunities.
Coates said: “Similar to last year, budget constraints has really held us back. In motorsport, you need a certain budget to be able to win and ultimately I haven't had that. That can go down to me, I haven't done well enough in getting sponsorship but the sponsors that I have gained, their support is very well appreciated.
“Budget's restricted me from testing and time in the seat at the sort of age I'm at makes a huge difference. I think that's part of the reason people like Seb [Morris] have had such big winning margins, as they've done the testing mileage and credit to them, they've driven brilliantly. I think that's all restricted me and I think apart from that, there's not much I can say. Maybe I've not quite been up to it but that's part of not having the time in the seat.”
Despite the lack of testing, Coates has been able to take three great podiums finishes in the ultra-competitive championship to end the year a strong sixth place in the championship standings. The Harron-Homes driver showed his consistent pace throughout, finishing half the races in the top six, meaning he headed into the final meeting of the year challenging for a top four championship finish.
Coates commented: “I've got to look at what I've done and be happy. As the only privateer team on the grid and one of only two single car teams on the grid, we've finished sixth in the championship. We've beaten teams like Tollbar in the championship and had races where we've beaten the likes of TJ Motorsport and Hillspeed, so it's great to have done that and taken it too the bigger teams.
“We've had a lot of fourth and fifth places too, which is worth remembering too, there not quite podiums but they're as close as you can get. The thing that's really hampered me this year has been my qualifying. I don't think anybody can question that I can race, I've proven that, but my one lap speed hasn't been good enough and again I think that's down to a lack of time in the seat.”
As the 2011 season drew to a close, it brought to an end Max's two year spell in the Ginetta Junior Championship. The Scorton-based driver has loved every second, reflecting: “It's all been highlights over the last two years and I've loved every minute of it. Podiums at Thruxton and Brands Hatch were fantastic times, but I've enjoyed every race I've been in and it's been a great opportunity to drive in this championship. It's an ultra-competitive championship, it's so close and everybody is right on the limit.”
The last two years has seen Coates competing in the series with his family-run privateer outfit, the little underdog team taking on and beating far more established, well-funded teams. Coates admits that while it's much harder work to run the car themselves, it means so much more to him to enjoy success with his family around him.
An emotional Coates commented: “I think doing it with family makes the highs higher, as when we get on the podium it's amazing. Like Alan Hyde said when he saw me celebrating at Brands, it was like I'd just won the championship and that's how it feels for us. It's great to be able to reward the team, the sponsors and myself for all our hard work like that.
“I've loved doing it, even though it's been hard, as we don't do this 24/7. We live, eat, sleep, breath it, but ultimately we all have jobs and college, so the work that everyone else does during the day, we do that after we get home, after 6 o'clock at night. Nine times out of ten its gone midnight by the time we've finished working on the car, working on the truck, working on sponsorship and things like that. Running with a family team has been so enjoyable and even though it's hard, it's been a fantastic experience.”
Coates is now turning his attentions towards 2012 and taking the next step up the motorsport ladder. Before the Lightwater Valley-supported driver can make that step, he has the tough task of raising the budget required, which he admits could be almost impossible to do.
Coates concluded: “Ideally we're looking at either staying in the Ginetta family, in the G50's or G55's, or move across to Renault and the Clio Cup. At the moment I can't afford to race next year, so there's no point thinking about which one. The crash damage we got today might have just answered our thoughts about next year, as it will cost a lot of money to repair, so that might just put us out of next year, but we'll try and see what happens. I'd love to come back and do it again; it's been fantastic to be in this paddock.”