WDE Motorsport’s Dan Zelos had set the pace in the opening session (FP1) held early on Friday morning with a best lap of one minute, 38.930 seconds.
But by the time FP2 came around just after lunch, track conditions had improved significantly and all 21 drivers were now able to set their best lap times of the day.
At the end of the session, Team Pyro’s Coates was top of the timesheets with an impressive lap in 1m38.042s. That is more than a second better than his race lap record and some three tenths of a second inside Mike Bushell’s qualifying record – both set last year.
Right behind, just 0.044s adrift, was his team-mate Bradley Burns – the 17-year-old on a real high after his two wins at Silverstone a fortnight ago.
Then came a gap of almost three tenths to the next fastest driver, MRM’s impressive 16-year-old Jack Young in third. Another Pyro driver, Jack McCarthy, Westbourne Motorsport’s Dorlin and Zelos completed the top six.
Dorlin is one of three drivers who can beat Coates to the title at Brands Hatch. The others, WDE’s Rivett and DRM’s Rowbottom, ended the day seventh and 11th fastest respectively.
Coates said: “That’s exactly how we wanted our weekend to start. The times are maybe even better than we’d expected because the ‘track limits’ here have been tightened up a bit more, but the temperature was good and there was also probably a little bit more performance from the new Michelin tyre we’re all running this year.
“Hopefully we can carry on like this. At the end of the day, if I drive round faster than anyone else then we’ll be looking good…”
Coates goes into the weekend with a six-point lead over second-placed Rivett in the championship with Dorlin just one point further back in third. A maximum of 56 points is up for grabs in the two races, making fourth-placed Rowbottom – 49 off the top – the real outsider.
The first of those two races – round 17 of the season – takes place at 16:00 tomorrow and ITV Sport has confirmed it will live-stream the race LIVE straight after its coverage of qualifying for the final rounds of the 2018 British Touring Car Championship season.
The coverage – available across all devices – starts at 15:10 and can be viewed by clicking on THIS LINK.
The race follows morning qualifying (10:55-11:25) which will decide the starting grids for both final rounds. Round 18, the season finale, takes place on Sunday at 13:30 and will be broadcast live on national free-to-air TV (ITV4) and also on-line…
Leading times, Free Practice 1&2 Combined, Brands Hatch GP, Fri 28 Sept 2018
1. Max Coates (Team Pyro), 1m38.042s / 89.34mph
2. Bradley Burns (Team Pyro), +0.044s
3. Jack Young (MRM), +0.320s
4. Jack McCarthy (Team Pyro), +0.415s
5. James Dorlin (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.448s
6. Dan Zelos (WDE Motorsport), +0.576s
7. Paul Rivett (WDE Motorsport), +0.645s
8. Michael Epps (Matrix Motorsport), +0.714s
9. Nick Reeve (Specialized Motorsport), +0.751s
10. Brett Lidsey (MRM), +0.785s
11. Daniel Rowbottom (DRM), +1.053s
12. James Colburn (Westbourne Motorsport), +1.106s
CLICK HERE for full times.