McCarthy was headed briefly on the opening lap by Team Pyro team-mate Bradley Burns but quickly moved to the front and from there coolly dealt with a damp, greasy track to reel off the laps and – live on ITV4 – become the fifth different winner this season.
He had to deal with considerable pressure, too, as Epps, having passed Coates for second at mid-distance, started to home in towards the end. Epps eventually took second for his and the Matrix Motorsport’s best result to date.
Coates was third as his closest challenger at the top of the table Paul Rivett took fourth. The other two main protagonists, James Dorlin and Daniel Rowbottom, were back in 12th and 15th after difficult races.
It means Coates leaves Rockingham with a seven-point lead over Rivett. Dorlin and Rowbottom have fallen to 30 and 61 points adrift respectively after each had closed in yesterday when Coates suffered a retirement.
Meanwhile winner McCarthy enthused: “I got my first pole yesterday but couldn’t celebrate it because of the race today but I think we’ll have a party tonight.
“It was a tricky race – a really greasy track surface, managing the tyres and with Max and then Epps right there on my tail. But I always felt in control and think we can be strong at Silverstone and Brands Hatch too.”
Epps said: “That’s more like it. My car had great pace and it would have been interesting to see how things might have worked out if I’d been up with Jack earlier – P2 from P8 on the grid is still a great result though.”
Coates added: “After yesterday’s disappointment it was really important to bounce back and finish ahead of my main rivals. It’s only two more points more than Paul but every point from here on in is going to be crucial.”
Behind Rivett in fifth was his WDE team-mate Dan Zelos after a fine round-the-outside move which forced Burns back to an eventual sixth. WDE’s Sam Osborne, Pyro’s Zak Fulk and MRM pair Jack Young and Brett Lidsey completed the top ten – Young having fought back after over-shooting a corner earlier on.
P11 was Westbourne’s James Colburn ahead of his team-mate Dorlin who had crossed the line in eighth but was later demoted four places to P12 by a time penalty for having jumped the start.
Specialized Motorsport’s Nick Reeve took P13 ahead of a train of six drivers which was headed over the line by Matrix’s Aaron Thompson and Rowbottom who completed the points finishers in P14 and P15. DRM's Rowbottom, yesterday’s race winner, had challenged for a top six early on before various dramas saw him plummet down the order.
The finishers were completed by Matrix’s Andy Wilmot, MRM’s Jade Edwards, JET/WDE’s Nic Hamilton – another to have run higher up early on – and BLG’s Luke Warr.
CLICK HERE for race result.
CLICK HERE for championship positions.