Graves end 2021 MINI CHALLENGE season in winning ways

25 Oct 2021

Graves Motorsport MINI CHALLENGE JCW driver Max Coates wins the final MINI CHALLENGE UK race of the 2021 season.

As the MINI Challenge UK season drew to a close at the iconic Brands Hatch GP circuit, the Graves Motorsport JCW team of Max Coates and Bradley Gravett were out with a point to prove.

Whilst Primex Plastic backed Coates still had a mathematical chance of winning the championship outright he and the team had their eyes firmly fixed on 3rd overall and winning the graduate championship.  Gravett, who has been improving all season, had the aim of a top 10 finish to curtail his first JCW class campaign.

Following the team’s first pole position at Donington Park last time out, Coates looked on for another timesheet topping session.  Lewis Brown pipped him to the post midway through but Coates wasn’t done yet.  He set the fastest first two sectors but caught traffic in the latter stages of his lap which meant he would line up alongside Brown on the front row of the grid.  Gravett, in the Liqui Moly car, ran inside the top fifteen for most of the session but dropped down to 21st at the flag.

Gravett’s first race matched his best performance of the year so far.  He rose by six places on the opening lap and despite two safety car periods continued his progression to a 12th position finish.  Coates made the best start at the front of the grid and initially lead on the way into the Druids Hairpin.  He had to take avoiding action at turn two as others clashed which dropped him to 11th.  Whilst he climbed back to 9th quickly he had to wait until the final lap to get to 7th place with a double overtake around the outside at turn one and two.

Over the first two laps of race two Coates gained two places putting him into 5th place and another race long battle, this time with champion elect, Dan Zelos.  He couldn’t pass and finished 5th.  Gravett’s race took a turn for the worse as he received a ten second penalty for an out of position start.  He did however gain a place on the first lap from his 12th position starting place, but lost out as the race progressed.  His race-long battle though was with cars from 12th position.  Ultimately the penalty dropped him from 17th to 20th.

The final race of the season didn’t disappoint, probably going down as the best race of the 2021 season.  Coates started 3rd on the grid and immediately began his charge to the front.  It wasn’t simple for the North Yorkshireman who was in an eight-car battle for the lead, he was twice relegated to 4th and 5th in the race when challenging for the lead.  With three laps to go he hit the front and showed his pace, stretching out to a 1.932 second winning margin at the flag.  Gravett’s final race was equally as exciting, embroiled in various battles he gained four positions before his driveshaft snapped on the seventh lap resulting in a non-finish.

The result landed Coates 5th in the 2021 MINI CHALLENGE UK Championship as well as the Graduate championship for drivers in their second year of competing in the series.  Coates said “What a race to finish the year, that was so tough with cars in front and behind.  It’s great to reward the efforts of the Graves Motorsport team with this race win and also pay thanks to my sponsors who help me to continue with my racing career.  This result is a clear statement of intent for what we can achieve next season which I am really looking forward to.”

Gravett secured 16th in the final points standings as well as 3rd in the rookie cup, for drivers in their first season.  He said, “I have really enjoyed driving on the Brands Hatch GP circuit for the first time, it's simply superb.  To match my best result of the year in race one was the highlight, especially having gained so many places.  Whilst races two and three didn't go to plan I feel like I have made real progress again and I am starting to show pace to fight for top ten results next season.  The team at Graves Motorsport have helped to develop my driving all year so I'd like to pay thanks to them and also Liqui Moly for giving me the opportunity to race at this level.”

A pleased David Graves, team manager at Graves Motorsport said, “Winning the final race of the season is the perfect end to the year for us.  We have learned a lot during our first season in the MINI CHALLENGE JCW class and this result, as well as the pole position at Donington and front row start this weekend shows that.  We are pleased to retain Max’s services next season and hope to work with him towards the overall title.  Bradley has impressed again this weekend, like us he has made strong progress throughout the year and it’s now all starting to click for him.  I am sure that next year he will get his first top ten and progress further up the order.”

The Colchester based Graves Motorsport team has already confirmed Max Coates for a second season in the MINI CHALLENGE UK JCW Championship and has another two drivers signed for the 2022 season who will be announced in due course.  With the option to run a six car team next year the race winning outfit is open to enquiries from interested parties.

Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography