Max Coates’ dominant display at Croft last weekend proved once again that he has what it takes to win the last Renault UK Clio Cup Championship.
Coates was in epic form over the weekend at Croft, qualifying on pole position and setting a new qualifying lap record in the process. His best time of 1m30.107s was enough to beat title rival, Jack Young by 0.027s.
In difficult wet conditions for race one, Coates led from start to finish winning by an incredible margin of 22 seconds. This gap would have been impressive enough had the race ran the full distance, however it was shortened to eight laps after delays earlier in the afternoon.
Rain is usually a performance leveller, and whilst Young was running right with Coates until lap five, Young made a mistake and went off the track, losing him around 20 seconds.
These two drivers have been a cut above the rest of the field so far and this race proved exactly why. Although Young made a mistake, he didn’t lose a position because the pair were so far ahead of the rest of the field.
Coates, however, made no mistake and drove the perfect race on his way to the chequered flag. He knows when to push and when to hold back and he briefly discussed this after the win with Renault Sport.
“You had to concentrate every inch not to lose it on the puddles and the car was aquaplaning a lot.” commented Coates.
“When I saw Jack had gone missing in my mirrors I just backed right off and stroked it home. Maximum points are just what I needed for the title race and we start from pole again in tomorrow’s race.”
Although race two didn’t go the way Coates had planned at the start, his intelligent thinking still won him the race.
Young passed Coates early on but received a ten second time penalty for “creeping” at the start. Coates knew that he didn’t need to risk an overtake on his rival and remained tight to the MRM car, crossing the line in second.
“I knew as long as I kept second on the road and stayed within ten seconds of Jack then the win was coming my way.” said Coates.
As a result, the Team HARD driver took his second win in as many races and got himself back in the title hunt after a difficult round at Donington.
This performance will no doubt give Coates the motivation to prove he can win the title. He has been so close to winning the championship in previous years, missing out on the title in the final rounds last year but this time round it could be different.
He has a strong title rival in Young and although Young won the Clio Cup World Final in 2018, this is the first time he has been in the title fight for the UK Clio Championship.
Pressure is bound to catch up with him at some point and this is where Coates could have the advantage. Coates has been there before, he knows what it takes and he has a car capable of winning.
These ingredients could just be the winning combination.
It is too early to tell who is going to win the championship, after all, there are 12 rounds still to go. However, the early season form suggests it is going to be an out and out battle between Coates and Young with Brett Lindsay waiting in the wings as an outsider.
Not everything will Coates’ way as evidenced by his results in Donington but the same can be said for Young.
One thing is for sure though, if Coates isn’t leading the championship by the time they reach Rounds 17 & 18 at Brands Hatch in October, he won’t be far away.
This is a title fight not to be missed and one that will be a great send off for the UK Clio Cup.