Coates confident for Donington Park but says Graduates Cup is 'wide open'

Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates says he fancies his chances of building on his Graduates Cup lead at Donington Park this weekend after coming away from the Renault UK Clio Cup’s opening rounds at Brands the “surprise” leader of the class.
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Coates was the highest-placed Graduate in both races at Brands for two maximum scores in the class which is open to drivers aged 23 or under and in their first full UK Clio Cup season.

His win in race one was as per the order across the line – he finished it in sixth ahead of nearest class rival, Team Pyro's Josh Price, in seventh. In race two he inherited the victory with an eighth place result after Price, who finished ahead of him in seventh, was relegated by a time penalty to 13th overall and fourth in class.

The order heading to Brands is Coates on 64 points, Price on 50 and Ciceley's Ollie Pidgley on 48. 20Ten Racing's Sam Watkins is also close behind, fourth on 47.

Coates said: “I think it was a surprise to some people that I came in with Ciceley who are also new to the championship and do that first time out – particularly given how little pre-season testing I’d had compared to the others.

“To come out ahead of Josh at Brands is possibly down to my greater experience in cars. He was right behind me in race one at Brands but I was able to keep him behind. But it’s going to require more than just experience at Donington – there are far more opportunities for people to try an overtaking move there.

“But I’m full of confidence I’ll being stronger at Donington than I was at Brands. We’ve hit the ground running and I’m gelling more with the car every time I go out in it. And we were very strong when everyone was on wet tyres on a damp track in the Thruxton test last week – the car was on a bit of a knife edge and I came away feeling a lot more comfortable with how it moves about at the limit.”

Coates, however, believes the Graduates Cup title battle is far more than a two-horse race in 2016.

He added: “My own team-mates Dan Zelos and Ollie Pidgley had serious pace at Brands and Senna Proctor who is with Josh at Pyro… OK, Brands didn’t go his way but you’d be mad to discount him. Sam Watkins also looks capable of getting in the act. I don’t think you’d be far wrong if you said at least five drivers could win it.”