After two weekends and four rounds so far, the 2018 Renault UK Clio Cup is certainly throwing up its usual high drama and exciting racing that you tend to see in this one-make series.
Currently heading the drivers standings is Team Pyro’s Max Coates who took the lead of the championship following his sixth placed finish in race one at Donington Park.
The Checkered Flag caught up with Max to get his thoughts about how the season is going so far and to look ahead to the next round at Thruxton later this month.
The Checkered Flag – Did you expect to be leading the championship at this point of the season?
Max Coates – “Sounds a bit big-headed to say yes haha.”
TCF – You’re putting the good results in to be able to say it!
MC – “Yeah, I did. I felt confident coming into the season. To be honest I was quite disappointed with how we went at Donington, qualifying wasn’t the best. Partly down to me not getting enough from the car when it was greasy. But, we/I didn’t make the right call on the time to switch to slick tyres. That hampered us massively.”
TCF – It had to be the perfect moment to get the change right and only a few people got it right
MC – “We were two or three laps too late. It takes a couple of laps to bring some rear tyres in when you’ve got perfect conditions, never mind when half the track’s wet and half of it is dry. I just couldn’t bring the tyres in as quickly as what I needed to.
“But had it rained for a little bit longer or rained a bit harder when we went back out, they wouldn’t have gone quicker on the slicks and we’d have been top of the pile. It’s just one of them things that happens.
“To be honest with you, after Brands. I expected to be further ahead than what we are. But, to be leading the championship is great, I don’t think we are on dropped scores which obviously what counts at the end of the year. But for a lot of the other drivers at the front, they already have a score they need to take as their drop where my worst result up to now is sixth which isn’t too bad.
“I’ve kind of got it in the bag now that I can take some risks and I’ve got something I can fall back on whereas others around me in the championship don’t have that. They can’t afford to take the risks because if it doesn’t go right, what they’ll lose is a lot more than I will. So that stands in good stead at this point.”
TCF – Who have been your toughest competitors so far?
MC – “Paul Rivett was obviously strong at round one and he’s never going to be far away. He’s been in the championship for so many years and he’s going to be pretty quick everywhere.
“I think James Dorlin will be strong, he didn’t have the best of rounds at Brands Hatch.”
TCF – He certainly bounced back at Donington.
MC – “Yeah definitely, I think he’ll be quick most of the time to be honest.
“I don’t think you’ll look too far away from any of the guys in my team at Pyro. All four are capable of winning I think any of them wouldn’t be too far away.
“Bradley Burns is very very fast, he’ll be one to challenge for wins later this year, Dan’s [Rowbottom] obviously done it for a long time and has been a regular podium finisher he’s never going to be far away. Jack McCarthy’s a fast lad and slightly mad haha, so he’s more than happy to take risks. Zak [Fulk] is a very quick driver and he’s very committed to it and willing to learn. He had a fifth in Donington and I can see him progressing more towards podiums and race wins by the end of the year.”
TCF – Any race that has stood out for you so far this season? I imagine you’re going to say Brands Hatch race two.
MC – “Yeah. But, probably more so race one. Race two was good but I just got away and it was fairly easy from then, all I had to do was stay on the track. I built a three second gap up in a couple laps without really pushing too hard and then I didn’t have to take any risks. After that, it was relatively plain sailing and if I needed to push and go half a second a lap faster then I could have done, it wouldn’t have been a problem.
“Race one was probably even better for me as a driver because I felt so comfortable in second. In probably for half of the first race I wasn’t really trying to push, Paul [Rivett] wasn’t getting away and there was a point where I went ‘right if you wanna win this you’ve gotta start a push’ and as soon as I did that, I caught back up to Paul and unfortunately we had a coming together which was my fault and we didn’t do it.
“But, what I think was more important for me was that I proved to myself that what I expected of me was there. I feel like I’m the fastest driver in the championship and when I want to turn that on I can.”
TCF – Finally, what are your thoughts on Thruxton? The circuit next up on the calendar.
MC – “It’s not been the best of tracks for us the last two years, but in saying that I love driving around there I really enjoy it. The races have been good just the qualifying hasn’t.
“The Pyro team are very confident they feel they have a very good setup that really works for them. Mike Bushell has been the man around there since I started racing in Clios, so we’ve got his data, got his setup and I’ve got his onboards to be able to watch and learn from.
“I think the test day, we were sixth or eighth or something like that and once you’ve corrected everyone’s times and put in the chicane and stuff I don’t think we were a million miles away. We didn’t have a tow and there a couple things I can tidy up easily around the lap.
“I’m pretty confident we are going to be in the battle for the podium if not the win and that’s where we need to be.”