Coates targeting qualifying to keep up pressure on leaders

Max Coates believes improving his qualifying form will give him and his Ciceley Motorsport team their best chance of putting the pressure on the men ahead of them in this year’s Renault UK Clio Cup title race.
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Coates and Ciceley go into this weekend’s two races at Snetterton, Norfolk (Sat 30/Sun 31 July) aiming for a repeat of their first race win in the championship together last time out at Croft.

The North Yorkshireman’s win plus a second place in the first of Croft’s two races have thrust him up to fourth in the championship standings, just a point behind third-placed Paul Rivett. Both, though, have more than 50 points to make up to current runaway leaders Ant Whorton-Eales and Mike Bushell.

Coates said: “For me the area we need to find a bit more is qualifying. Our race pace is terrific and I honestly don’t think we need to work too much on it.

“We had a pole position at Donington, but if we want to make up the gap in the championship then we need to be on the front row of the grid a lot more. A lot of that is down to getting more heat into the rear tyres for the banzai qualifying laps.”

Coates openly acknowledges that closing in on seasoned pros Whorton-Eales and Bushell will be tough but remains open-minded.

He added: “It will be a challenge to take something like 12 points in each of the last four events out of those two but that’s what we sort of made up on Ant at Croft – on saying that Croft was below-par by his standards.

“All I can do is keep getting on the podium – I’ve been on it in three of the last four races – and I don’t think we’d be a million miles away at the end of the season.”

He also says he relishes the prospect of a proper on-track scrap with either Whorton-Eales or three-times Champion Rivett.

“My win at Croft obviously came after Paul hit trouble while he was in front,” continued Coates. “I was really looking forward to see if I could get onto him and put him under pressure but it never happened of course.

“I’ve already got Bushell ticked off – at Donington and Croft. I really would like to come up against either Ant or Paul and see.”

Coates says his and Ciceley’s results to date have come quicker than anticipated and that puts them in a relaxed frame of mind for the season’s half.

He concluded: “None of us thought we’d be quite this high in the points at this stage. We are over delivering – we thought we could be on podium by mid-season, but didn’t expect to have won a race by this stage.

“It is quite a big gap to the top two so a good couple of events at Snetterton and Rockingham are going to be key. But I’ve got nothing to lose – I can put a lot on the line to win whereas they might start to think twice about a move with the championship in mind.”