SO near, and yet so far. Max Coates went into the final weekend of the Renault UK Clio Cup season needing to produce some Brands Hatch brilliance to overhaul series leader Jack Young, but while he briefly threatened to seize the title after a bout of wet-weather drama, a second-place finish in the closing round meant he fell an agonising five points short of top spot.

Red flags, safety cars and a series of heavy downpours blighted the final weekend, leaving the Scorton driver to reflect on what might have been. Motor racing is a sport that is often decided by the smallest of margins, and they don’t come much finer than the ones that settled the outcome of the Clio Cup championship at the weekend.

“It was one of those weekends where we just ended up on the wrong side of everything,” said Coates. “It was raining at the start of qualifying, but by two or three laps, it was drying up and we needed to be on slicks. I spun coming out of the pits, so that ate into the time, but I was over a second clear of where I needed to be on pole on my last flying lap, only for a crash to mean the session was red flagged literally as I was heading into the final turn.

“That left me fourth and tenth on the grid for the two races, which obviously wasn’t ideal, but I finished third in race one and when my title rival got a 30-second penalty, that put me back to the top of the standings.

“The problem is that I was starting seven places back from Jack in race two, and there were two safety car periods that worked against me. I made it from tenth to second, but in the end, that wasn’t quite enough.”

With the Clio Cup coming to an end this season, Coates walks away from the series having competed in 72 races over the course of four years. More than 50 per cent of his races have finished with him on the podium, and he has claimed 14 race victories, giving him a win ratio of just under 20 per cent.

“I’ve had a great time in the series,” he said. “The whole thing started with a conversation about trying to get a race car, and four years on, I’ve been able to compete in the sport I love, achieving a fair amount of success.

“Even this season, while I might be disappointed about missing out on the title, I’ve had some great moments. There was the double win on the first weekend, and then the double win at Croft, which was obviously extremely special. That’s something I’ll never forget.”

The challenge now is to secure a spot in next year’s British Touring Car Championship. Coates has come close to securing a drive in the BTCC before, and is determined to step up to British motorsport’s most popular series ahead of the start of next season.

“I want to be in the BTCC,” he said. “I think I’m driving at a level now where that’s where I want to be, and that’s where I need to be. There’ll be some talks over the winter, and hopefully things will fall into place.

“I’ve never hidden the fact that my ambitions lie in the BTCC, and even if the Clio Cup had been continuing, I would have been looking to step up.

“I’ve proved what I can do over a number of years now. It would have been nice to finish the season as champion, but in the end, events out of my control conspired against me. Sadly, that’s racing.”