Coates targeting victories in front of home Renault UK Clio Cup crowd at Croft

Max Coates reckons race wins are a realistic goal at his home circuit of Croft when it hosts the Renault UK Clio Cup’s latest rounds in just over a week (Sat 18/Sun 19 June).
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Coates is racing for Ciceley Motorsport’s UK Clio Cup team – a spin-off of its race-winning British Touring Car Championship squad.

Both he and Ciceley are new to the championship in 2016 but have taken to it like ducks to water. He leads the Graduates Cup for younger, first-season drivers and was on pole position outright for only his third race in the category, at Donington.

And at Oulton Park last weekend came the breakthrough result he’d been threatening – his first podium result with a third-place finish in the first of two races at the Cheshire circuit.

Now comes Croft and Coates, from nearby Scorton, is raring to go. He will arrive there up to fifth in the current standings of a championship boasting perhaps its most competitive grid in over a decade and seen by many as the stand-out supporting category to the headlining BTCC.

“Croft is always going to be the big one for me,” commented Coates. “I am so excited for it to the point I’ve already ridden my bicycle over there just to take a look at the track! I know we can be quick around there. It was actually always a bit of a bogey circuit for me in my early days but it’s been kinder to me since.

“Perhaps most importantly we’re going there knowing we’re not suddenly trying to make a jump to be near the front. We are already there. I was able to catch and hassle Ant Whorton-Eales at Oulton and really felt, if I’d got past him, I had the pace to go after Mike Bushell for the win there.

"Often we pop up in qualifying which perhaps comes as a surprise as we don’t show so strongly in Friday testing – simply because we don’t have the budget to throw new tyres at the car.

“But going to Croft I know we have the pace to run with the top four. If I can get in among them on the first two rows of the grid then even better. I really feel we have what it takes to win now and I'm not saying that just because it's Croft next. I want that first win."

Coates has undoubtedly been one of the best drivers at moving forwards in races in 2016 – witness Thruxton where 16th and 14th on the two grids became ninth and tenth at the chequered flag.

“The test at Thruxton after the opening rounds at Brands Hatch was the turning point for me,” he added. “Suddenly the car wasn’t driving me any more; I was driving the car. Then we went to Donington and put it on pole. I know qualifying at Thruxton wasn’t so good but we know the reasons – I was blocked on my best qualifying laps and later in the session a brake problem turned into a suspension problem. We were straight back on it at Oulton.”

Coates’s reputation for overtaking cleanly was also evident at Oulton. His dogged persistence enabled him to eventually break clear of JamSport’s Luke Kidsley and then close on and outfox Team Ecomotive with Finesse’s Daniel Rowbottom with arguably the cheekiest passing move of the season so far – in the middle of the Hislops/Knickerbrook chicane.

“It wasn’t necessarily a case of he was slow through there; I just thought I’d try the lunge and then sort it out on the exit and it worked,” continued Coates.

“I really enjoy figuring out the move and then making it happen. I also take a lot of pride in getting the car to the finish without a scratch on it – not always possible in this game but I like to take a leaf out of a driver like Colin Turkington’s book. Be hard but fair and don’t try anything silly and end up looking like a fool. I think if you show others respect you get it back.”