The Graves Motorsport MINI CHALLENGE UK team of Max Coates and Bradley Gravett made the trip to Oulton Park for the third round of their season supporting the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). For the first time in two years the UK’s premier motorsport series took to the track with a full capacity crowd.
Prior to the race meeting at the Cheshire venue Coates and Gravett tested allowing the team to develop the cars set-up ahead of the round. It proved pivotal as testing on the official test day held on the Friday was limited due to a number of red flags.
Primex Plastics sponsored Max qualified in 5th position with Bradley in 18th, critically though the Liqui Moly backed car was only a matter of tenths off a top ten position.
Coates consolidated his position at the start of the race but was set to gain a position as the third placed driver received a 10-second false start penalty. Coates was in the podium position battle throughout the race but dropped back towards the end crossing the finish line in 5th, but taking 4th after the penalty was applied. Gravett stuck with the battle for a top 15 position crossing the line in 18th.
Race two got underway on Sunday afternoon, albeit a little late following a number of race stoppages at the BTCC event. Coates would start 4th with Gravett 18th for the reverse grid race, shown live on ITV4. Gravett had gained three places as he began his charge through the field but on lap two Jim Loukes ran wide at turn one eventually hitting the armco barrier at turn three and barrel rolling six times causing a red flag and race stoppage. Coates remained 4th at the start this time as the leaders clashed at turn one. The 2nd and 3rd place cars touched exiting turn two, one hitting the armco barrier and immediately being flung into the air. The car rolled into the oncoming pack, fortunately being missed by all the oncoming cars.
The race was red flagged again to allow medical access to the driver that rolled and also fix the damaged safety barriers. Whilst Coates then ran in second the result was declared as of the first red flag, when Coates was in 4th position and Gravett 15th.
After Coates said, “I’m pleased with the progress we are making this year, I feel like our pace is improving every weekend and we are closer to battling for the win. Saturday’s race was good fun and I pushed hard mid-race but couldn’t find space to pass for the podium. The atmosphere on Sunday was certainly mixed, it was great to have a crowd trackside but following the passing of volunteer marshal, Robert Foote, at Brands Hatch, it was a difficult day for the whole motorsport community. I’d hoped for a podium in race two but it wasn’t quite to be.”
The championship now heads north of the border to Knockhill in Scotland for the fourth event of the season on the 14th / 15th August. Coates showed strong pace there last season and will hope to take his second win in the 2021 MINI CHALLENGE UK.