The Graves Motorsport team headed to Brands Hatch for the second event of the 2021 MINI CHALLENGE season. After a mixed debut round at Snetterton the Colchester based team bounced back in style taking their first podium finish and win in the series, in only their second event.
The MINI JCW team is partnered by Liqui Moly and Omologato, with drivers, Bradley Gravett, son of 1990 British Touring Car Champion, Robb, and Max Coates, a front runner in the MINI series last year.
North Yorkshire-man Coates ran in 2nd for much of the qualifying session but as the flag dropped it confirmed a 4th place start. Gravett, from Berkshire, qualified his Liqui Moly sponsored car in 21st position, significantly though, just half a second off a top five starting position.
In the first of three races that weekend Coates, in his Primex Plastics backed car, made a fantastic start, climbing to second at turn one. He fell back to 3rd on lap three where he remained until the finish despite a prolonged attack from the championship leader in the second half of the race. That marked the teams first podium finish in the series. Gravett battled hard in the early stages of the race, but damage sustained in close quarters racing meant he dropped back to a 27th place finish.
Unfortunately, Gravett’s race two ended as soon as it started, as he pulled 2nd gear his driveshaft snapped and caused him to retire. Coates kept his 3rd place at the start and tried to break-away with the leading pair. His race became quite lonely as he couldn’t keep with the race leaders, but held onto his 3rd position until the final lap. As Dan Zelos closed onto his back bumper, the two drivers at the head of the field clashed, one failing to finish and ending the race in the gravel. Coates crossed the line in 2nd, but was promoted 1st post-race taking the team’s first race win.
The reverse grid race was always set to be exciting, and the fireworks went off at the start. Coates had another fantastic launch, contenting with the leaders at turn one from 6th on the grid. Nothing fell his way though, he had to avoid spinning and crashing cars at each of the first three turns. Gravett meanwhile had a fantastic start claiming 4 positions in the first lap. He then enjoyed a race long battle with Jack Mitchell, who was in contention to win race two, for the remainder. As well as keeping Mitchell behind, Bradley managed to gain more places to get back to a 21st place finish.
Coates was in the thick of the battle for the podium spots, after dropping to 7th on lap one he got back up to 5th where he stayed for the majority of the race. The final three laps proved challenging, despite falling back to 7th he secured a 5th place finish to round out his most successful weekend in his MINI CHALLENGE career so far.
Following the weekend Max Coates, driver of car 71, said, “What a way to bounce back. I’m so happy to get the team’s first podium and win this weekend. Graves Motorsport and my loyal sponsors have been so supportive since the opening round so to repay them with that performance feels so good. As a team we are making improvements and learning all the time, so having such a positive weekend this early in the season is fantastic and I’m sure it will only get better.”
Bradley Gravett, driver of car 10, said, “Being just our second outing in the JCW, I'm happy with our performance. I took a knock in the first race which put the set up out of line, in race two I had a driveshaft issue before things really got going. My mechanics at Graves Motorsport did a fantastic job turning it around and transformed the car for the final race of the weekend. As a team, with Max, Graves and myself, I am incredibly privileged and proud to be a part of this exciting movement. I am so pleased that Max and Graves Motorsport got their first MINI Challenge race win last weekend - here's to many more; hopefully, next time, with me at the helm, although I'll have to get past Mr Coates first!”
Dave Graves, team manager at Graves Motorsport, said, “As a team we are really happy to be coming away from Brands Hatch with five trophies. Having our first JCW podium and then first overall win in only our 2nd race weekend shows we are heading in the right direction.
It was unfortunate Brad suffered a drive shaft failure at the start of race 2 as we had made some significant changes to his car, however his race 3 performance showed us that they worked for him. The mechanics did a great job to get his car out for the final race of the weekend and he did a sterling job to get through the pack.”
The third event of the 2021 MINI CHALLENGE UK season will be held at Oulton Park on 31st July – 1st August where it is hoped that fans will be allowed back to watch in full capacity.