Photo credit: (Jakob Ebrey Photography) Max Coates in action at Oulton Park
The MINI CHALLENGE returned to Oulton Park at the weekend with Yorkshire’s Max Coates in action. A sunny weekend at the Cheshire venue brought out a huge crowd for Sundays British Touring Car races.
Following on from a victory at Brands Hatch last time out Coates was hoping to continue a run of form and get closer to his championship rivals. He started out in the right way by setting the third fastest time of the practice session on Friday and qualifying looked to be continuing the same way early on. Initially the Primex Plastics sponsored driver set the second fastest time before an early red flag which came as Coates was on another fast lap. Having taken the best out of his tyre Coates couldn’t improve in the second part of the session and therefore dropped to seventh when qualifying finished.
In race one the JiC Transport car looked likely to gain a place on the run to turn one but with a narrow entry to the corner couldn’t make a move stick and instead lost out to 2021 Champion Dan Zelos. Involved in a seven-car battle for 4th Coates couldn’t find a way past his team mate Alex Denning who occupied the position ahead. As they entered the final lap Lewis Brown slowed up in 6th and this caused a chain reaction down the pack. Jack Davidson launched an attack on Coates forcing the BOSS Fabrication backed driver onto the grass and down another place, losing out to team mate Bradley Gravett. With a damaged front right wheel Coates had to bring his car home for a 9th place finish.
The second race started better for Coates, gaining a position back on Gravett at the start. Five laps in he managed to pass Davidson and immediately gapped the battle behind whilst in pursuit of the next position. On lap eleven the rain started to fall but only at a few corners around the lap, Coates relished the challenge closing in on the 4th and 5th placed cars but he couldn’t find a way through. At the chequered flag the three cars crossed the line 0.269 apart with Coates still in 6th place.
Afterwards Coates said, “Unfortunately Qualifying didn’t quite work out as planned, the start of the session was messy with yellow flags around the track and an early stoppage. I felt like everything was coming together on the lap that got red flagged so it’s a shame I couldn’t finish it. Ultimately that meant we were slightly on the back foot going into the races and the results aren’t quite what I had hoped for. I enjoyed the on-track battles and driving at Oulton Park which is always a driver favourite. I’m looking forward to a busy few weeks of racing at Silverstone and Croft before we get back to the MINI CHALLENGE JCW’s at Knockhill next!”
The series now has a small break until its annual trip to the tight and twisty Knockhill in Scotland on the 30th and 31st July. Coates, however, still has plenty of racing to do before then as he continues his British Endurance Championship season with Dragon Sport at Silverstone’s GP circuit this weekend. That will then be followed up by a guest appearance in the MINI CHALLENGE Trophy class at his home circuit of Croft when the British Touring Car Championship arrives in the North East over the weekend of the 25th and 26th June.