Deep into this morning’s half-hour qualifying session, Coates had been bumped down to P5 but recovered well to set the best fastest lap and best second fastest lap of anyone and take top spot on the first two grids of the season.
Coates was clearly at the limit, though, as a brief scare which caused following team-mates Hammerton and Jade Edwards to scatter proved.
His pole margins to Young were miniscule: just 0.043s and then 0.006s. Indeed times were tight across the board with little more than half a second covering the top ten positions…
On fastest laps, which decide the starting grid for this afternoon’s opening round, the top three rows read: Coates, Young, Hammerton, Lidsey, Ben Davis and Ben Colburn. The race will get under way at 16: 25.
For round two’s grid (decided by second best laps) the order was almost the same except Lidsey this time edged out Hammerton for P3.
Team HARD driver Coates said: “That was tough work – there was light drizzle which made the conditions greasy to begin with and the others seemed to find something on our second tyre runs so I had had to dig deep.
“The result is what we wanted though and it’s a great start to our season but I expect two very close races.”
MRM’s Young reflected: “I’d have loved pole and we had it for a while, but really there’s nothing to choose between us so the front row will do fine.”
Hammerton said: “The front two rows were my target and so that’s job done as far as I’m concerned. It’s the races where it really counts so the starts will be very important.”
Lidsey added: “It’s nice to be so close to the front in terms of outright pace and I feel comfortable going into the two races – tyre choice could be tricky though if it stays like this.”
Leading grid positions, Round 1, Brands Hatch Indy:
1. Max Coates (Team HARD), 52.366s (83.04mph)
2. Jack Young (MRM), +0.043s
3. Ethan Hammerton (Team HARD), +0.100s
4. Brett Lidsey (MRM), +0.133s
5. Ben Davis (MRM), +0.214s
6. Ben Colburn (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.241s
7. Aaron Thompson (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.388s
8. Anton Spires (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.511s
9. Jade Edwards (Team HARD), +0.534s
10. Finlay Robinson (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.724s
11. Luke Warr (Specialized Motorsport), +2.123s
Leading grid positions, Round 2, Brands Hatch Indy:
1. Max Coates (Team HARD), 52.433s
2. Jack Young (MRM), +0.006s
3. Brett Lidsey (MRM), +0.133s
4. Ethan Hammerton (Team HARD), +0.184s
5. Ben Davis (MRM), +0.207s
6. Ben Colburn (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.263s
7. Aaron Thompson (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.335s
8. Anton Spires (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.487s
9. Jade Edwards (Team HARD), +0.587s
10. Finlay Robinson (Westbourne Motorsport), +0.825s
11. Luke Warr (Specialized Motorsport), +2.094s