When the British Touring Car Championship and its support championships roll into Brands Hatch this weekend for the opening rounds of the 2013 season, one driver who will be missing from the action will be Max Coates.
The Yorkshireman has been part of the BTCC bill for the past three seasons, becoming one of the most popular drivers on the support package as he campaigned in the Ginetta Junior Championship for two seasons, before stepping up to the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup last year.
After taking four wins in the first nine races in the G50 class last season, Coates was forced to take a break from the series due to budgetary constraints, with just a winning re-appearance in the G50 at his home round of Croft and a promising G55 debut in the final rounds at Brands Hatch to follow.
Coates hoped to return to the G55 category for the 2013 season, but as he explained in an exclusive interview with TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk, despite a lot of hard work over the winter months, he hasn’t been able to get a drive together.
“Having got the taste of the G55 at the end of last season, that’s what we wanted to do this year. We initially had some interest to run with Century Motorsport and theplayer.co.uk again, but that didn’t work out, so we looked to run the car ourselves. We had the running costs sorted but we just couldn’t find the budget to lease the car from Ginetta, which is a shame.
“The really frustrating thing is we’ve been close to getting title sponsorship a number of times with various companies but haven’t been able to secure it. Over the past few months, other than doing some part time work, all my effort has gone into getting sponsorship, more or less four or five days a week.”
Coates was in a similar situation with budget at the beginning of last year, when he decided to take the plunge in the G50’s with the hope of attracting sponsors as the season went on. He admits he considered that option for this season, but that it couldn’t be arranged.
“It was tempting to try and sort a part-time deal out, but really the money we had was dependent on us getting the rest, people would only put the money forward if I was out for the full year, so it was really all or nothing.”
Having worked so hard over the winter months to try and bring a deal together for the new season, Coates is understandably saddened about the current situation, particularly as it could be the first year since he began his career in karts over a decade ago that he doesn’t compete.
“There’s a lot of emotion at the moment, I’m gutted, disappointed, frustrated and even slightly annoyed that it’s not come together, but it’s certainly not for the want of trying. I’m not the only one disappointed too, my mum, dad and brother have all put a lot of effort into my racing and they miss it just as much as I do.
“I will be around some of the BTCC meetings this year though. I find it more difficult sitting at home watching it on the telly than I do being at the track, but then again being around when everyone else is racing and I’m not is frustrating.”
Despite not having a drive at the moment, Coates has continued to receive support, recently being announced as a motorsport ambassador for watchmaker and designer David Mason London. Coates hopes to use the backing like this to get him out on track at some point this season, ahead of a planned return to the TOCA package in 2014.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do this year, but I don’t want to sit the full year out and I plan on trying to race something, whether it be some kart meets or something like Mazda MX5’s or the new BARC Clio Series. I need to get out in a car and keep my hand in, you can’t just disappear for a year in this sport.”
All Photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography