The MINI CHALLENGE UK championship headed North of the border to the Knockhill circuit in Scotland for their fourth round of the season at the weekend with Colchester’s Graves Motorsport team hoping for more strong results.
On the Monday of race week, a number of drivers tested at the track to aid in their preparations including both of the teams drivers, Bradley Gravett and Max Coates. The majority of the day saw wet running with Coates posting promising times and strong race runs and Bradley getting to grips with the Knockhill Circuit on his first visit. Testing continued on Friday in which the first session saw a number of red flags for issues on circuit with the team electing to run old tires to keep their best for the race weekend.
As the venue’s gates opened to the thousands of excited race weekend fans the drivers lined up for Qualifying. Coates posted a late pair of fast laps to qualify 6th with Gravett down in 23rd after an early session spin prevented him from continuing.
Coates had a few battles in the first race dropping to 7th early on before Sam Weller got past near the end of the race. Max eventually crossed the line in 8th place. Gravett was making his way through the field when he was pitched into a spin at turn one and collected by another car which ultimately stopped both cars from continuing.
The second race of the weekend came on Sunday morning, this time in front of an even bigger crowd at the popular Scottish venue. The MINI CHALLENGE UK supports the British Touring Car Championship whose annual Scottish trip is always a popular affair. After a good start Coates made it passed Callum Newsham but was later passed by former team mate Ethan Hammerton at the hairpin. Gravett had a great race making up ten places to cross the line 18th at the finish.
Coates was drawn out for pole position for the live TV race held in front of a capacity crowd trackside. He led at the start but by the end of the first lap the safety car was brought out, Coates managed a good restart though and again led away. It wasn’t until lap 10 when local driver Jack Davidson found a gap on the inside of Coates exiting the final hairpin corner. They ran wheel to wheel through the first few corners before Coates engine momentarily cut out behind the leader, losing him another place to 3rd. He was then out dragged to the first corner on what would be the penultimate lap of the race, falling to 4th and just one position of another podium finish. Gravett was again making moves throughout the race and was in a battle with Keenan Dole. As the car in front ran wide at the hairpin Gravett seized the opportunity to slip through but Dole came back and collided with the Liqui Moly car’s front left wheel, ripping the tyre off the rim and causing a puncture. Unfortunately, that meant Gravett had to pit and cruise home to a 25th place finish.
Team manager David Graves said, "We have enjoyed our first visit to Knockhill with the JCW cars this weekend, the track's unique nature makes it a difficult one for both engineer and driver. Max had prior experience at the track and it was a shame he couldn't convert his race three pole position into a win or podium, but it wasn't for lack of trying. There's no other track harder to learn, so Bradley really had it against him. He improved every time he stepped into the car but was unfortunate with a few incidents over the weekend. As a team we're looking forward to Max's home round at Croft, it's sure to be a good weekend."
The next round of the championship takes place at Croft on the 18th / 19th September, Coates home round and the first time the MINI CHALLENGE UK has visited the circuit. Coates will be hoping to claim another win in front of a large home crowd.