Our latest Q&A is with Team HARD Renault Clio Cup driver, Max Coates. Currently 3rd in the standings and looking to win the final Clio Cup championship this year with a view to a BTCC move. Here we look at his career to date, the racing options available and his thoughts on some of the issues of the day.
Part 1 – Racing to date
Q1. You started off in go karts at the age of 8 and raced karts in different formulas for eight years. What made you start racing in the first place and what were the key skills you learned for your move to cars?
My Dad used to do rallycross and I got a kart when I was 4 or 5. We started at an indoor track, then moved outside, then got a race kart and a licence sort of by mistake. It’s grown a bit since then.
Q2. In 2010 you moved into Ginetta Juniors. What preparation did you have for the move to cars and how did the first season compare to your expectations? The racing in Juniors is usually action packed!
It more than met my expectations and was one of the best years racing I have ever had. I loved it. We got a BMW road car to learn gears, clutch suspension etc and just played in that anywhere we could.
Q3. You moved to the Ginetta G55 and Supercup which at the time was the logical step for a number of Juniors. How did you adapt to the more powerful cars, longer races and racing style?
It was quite a natural progression, the power took a day or two to get used to and feel comfortable with and then it was what I knew. The racing was a bit different but you could still overtake if you planned it well enough and the longer races were a physical challenge I enjoyed.
Q4. Whilst in Ginetta’s you were also studying at Leeds Beckett University in sports marketing. From your website and your interviews it is clear you are media savvy whereas other drivers come across as shy on camera and do not express themselves in answers. What did you learn at university that has helped you in your racing career and would you recommend young drivers continue their studies or at least have a plan B if the racing doesn’t work out?
I went to university because normal 18 / 19 year olds don’t get trusted with £100K plus in sponsorship, I had to do something to prove I knew what I was on about. I learnt loads that stands me in good stead but you can’t beat experience, it counts for so much. I think the media / interviews side is more personality than technique although some coaching from Louise Goodman definitely helped. You’ve got to have a plan B, and for me plan B helps plan A!
Q5. In 2014 you were one of a number of drivers who had a guest outing in the Porsche Carrera Cup with Parr Motorsport. Was there pressure to match the other guests drivers and is racing the Porsche like racing nothing else as some drivers say?
A little bit, I naturally compared myself to the others. I think I performed well if not better than others without prior Porsche experience so I was very happy. The power was insane and the racing at the front was very competitive.
Q6. In 2016 you started your Renault Clio Cup career. How do these compare to the other cars you have raced and do you see it as a touring car proving ground?
Yes, it’s definitely the place to learn for the BTCC and other touring car series. They’re easy to over drive so you have to be very relaxed and refined, they’re difficult little things to get the most out of so it takes a bit of thought. The racing is awesome and that’s the best thing!
Q7. Is having someone like Paul Rivett in the championship a help to sell yourself as he is a good yardstick to compare young drivers to? Discuss.
Yes, but so was Mike Bushell and Ant-Whorton Eales. A benchmark is always a good thing to have. I beat Paul in my first season so I hope that showed the level I was / am at. We had a minimal budget in comparison to just about everyone that year so 3rd was unexpected and a massive achievement.
Q8. You are racing in the final season of Renault Clio’s in 2019. Can we expect a season to remember for the Clio’s send off with big grids and close racing?
I don’t think we will see big grids but competitive ones, there are good drivers in the field and quality is sometimes more important than quantity.
Part 2 – Racing options
For any would be touring car or sportscar driver in the UK, there are numerous series to race in. Where do you see the following in the market place and options for you:
1. Mazda MX5 Supercup. As a support series for TCR UK it gets TV coverage, big grids, not too expensive and the racing is close with some good drivers in it. Not on the TOCA bill though so the live crowd is much smaller.
A good ‘cheap’ championship to get some experience in.
2. TCR UK. You have already raced the TCR Cupra and with common rules in TCR, TCR UK gives you experience for WTCR or to enter TCR Europe like Ollie Taylor has done. Not huge grids in its debut year but surely only a matter of time.
Priced inbetween Clio Cup and BTCC, a great concept but needs the commercial side to step up to make it better for sponsorship drivers like myself.
3. Porsche Carrera Cup. Longer races and on the TOCA package but not a huge number of top line drivers at the front and, bar Cammish, probably more of a sportscar toe in the water. Option for the Supercup though.
A great championship with a lot of prestige, motorsport people really look at this championship regardless. The cost is a stumbling block for many.
4. Ginetta Supercup. More of a training ground for a GT4 etc?
A fantastic car, one that really inspires confidence and makes you smile.
5. Club racing and having a guest ride in say the BMW Compact Cup on off weekends. A chance to use skills of learning a new circuit like Anglesey, a new car and general adaptability. Worth doing or diluting focus/funding for the main programme?
For me, unless it’s a free or paid for drive it’s not something I am looking to expand my racing in to, mainly because I would rather save funds for my main racing programme.
6. VW Cup. Probably a cheaper option but not on the TOCA package. It has produced the odd BTCC driver though.
Fine, just not on the TOCA package getting the coverage. I don’t know much about the championship, seems to be a lot of different cars.
7. BTCC. There are apparently few paid drivers in the BTCC. Is it better to wait for a good ride and continue in a lower formula or go whenever you get the chance?
Difficult question which there is no right answer to, I’d love to race in the BTCC but would want to do so if I actually stood a chance of being competitive.
8. WTCR. There are not many Brits in this but it is largely filled with drivers with decent CV’s. Is this a target or do you see this as something you need to add titles to your CV first before considering?
Yes, this is somewhere you can make a career but you need to have some sterling CV titles before making the move, and they cost money!
Part 3 – racing practicalities
Q1. These days we hear drivers getting points on their license for various incidents. Talk us through what you can get points for, can you appeal and what are the ramifications of getting points.
Much like a road licence, 12 points and your out for 12 months. Points come off after 12 months. You can get points for any infringement of the driving / sporting regulations.
Q2. As the holder of a racing license, what happens each year in terms of new driving or safety rules, are there any periodic reviews of your skills, do you have to have an annual eye test and do you have to re-do the test when you hit a certain age?
No skills testing but depending on the licence you must have a medical. Should all be available via Motorsport UK website.
Q3. Over in America, James Hinchcliffe talked about Indycar drivers should have more say with a version of F1’s GPDA and how some drivers race with no insurance. For any driver racing in a UK series, what insurance do they have to have, what can they have and what are the implications of not having cover?
You don’t have to have any insurance. I have a personal insurance policy through Grove and Dean which covers me for personal injury when I am on track in a car, driving or coaching. For the car, it’s up to you and I’ve done years where I have insured and not insured. It’s all to do with the balance of risk, cost of premium and value of the car.
Q4. When you are looking for a new drive, what is the sequence of events during negotiations? (ie do you go to the team first, do the team come to you, do you get sponsorship first and then look for a team etc.)
It all sort of happens together, you speak to teams first really and then look for the sponsorship but you get a general sense of the costs and opportunities available by just being around the paddock.
Q5. You have a portfolio of sponsors. For a driver starting, what would your advice be on how they should approach/target firms?
First of all, get racing in something you can afford, get some media coverage so people know who you are. Start local and build up and look to match their interests with what your doing, local championship, local business, national championship, national business. Do some research and offer them some value.
Part 4 – Thoughts on…
Track limits is a hot topic and something probably needed to be done – Copse at Silverstone, and turn 1 at the Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim spring to mind. Has it gone too far and is the MSV system better or worse?
For me the kerbs are a challenge on how to push the limits and a massive fun factor for those driving. The MSV pads are great because it makes it the same for everyone and leaves little ambiguity, which is the problem with human error. They do have a problem in time delays it takes to reset so you can run behind another car and not get caught, which is wrong. The MSV testing time bans are ridiculous in my view however, that’s not going to change anything.
Kerbs, markers and tyres to stop corner cutting.
Anything that won’t damage cars, if it will damage a car, driver, marshal, spectator then bad, very bad!
Success ballast. For or against.
All for it.
Gravel traps or endless tarmac run off.
Really, it depends on the corner. I’d rather stop in the gravel than hit a wall, but I’d rather have grip and loose a bit of time.
When the ruling is there is seems to be to my disadvantage and when it doesn’t it isn’t. If you have a lot of races in a championship I don’t think it is needed but with less than 20 races it’s a good thing.
We end the Q&A with some quick fire questions;
The best UK track to race on: Knockhill
The best international track you have raced on: Paul Ricard
The track you would love to race on: Bathurst
The series or car you would love to race: V8 Supercars
The Max bucket list is: racing all the time!
The best drivers you have raced against: Mike Bushell, Tom Ingram or Jake Hill.
The best driver you have raced against who should have gone further: In recent years, Mike Bushell!