NORTH YORKSHIRE driver Max Coates made a flying start to life in the Mini Challenge as he claimed a race win on the opening weekend of the series at Donington Park.

Scorton-based Coates switched to the Mini Challenge when it was confirmed the Renault UK Clio Cup would not take place this season, and has spent the last few months getting to grips with his new Elite Motorsport car.

The start of the season was delayed because of coronavirus, but the action finally got underway at the weekend and three strong performances left Coates in third position in the championship standings.

Having overcome some issues during pre-qualifying testing, Coates finished sixth in the first race at Donington, gradually moving through the field after a relatively sluggish start.

Race two saw him finish fifth after a last-lap battle with Tom Rawlings, but it was the televised third race of the afternoon that saw his racing experience really come to the fore.

Starting in sixth position on the grid, a strong start saw him gain a place at the very first corner before another successful overtaking move saw him complete the opening lap in fourth position.

A pounce up the inside of James Macintyre took him into the top three, and set up a scuffle for the lead that would last for the remainder of the race.

A mistake from the front two created a gap that Coates exploited, and despite late pressure from Kyle Reid, who was closing in second, the North Yorkshireman held out for his maiden Mini Challenge win at only his third attempt in the series.

“That was a bit hairy at times,” admitted Coates, who retains long-term ambitions of moving into the British Touring Car Championship. “I had to make up ground in the first two laps and I took some risks. Fortunately, they paid off.

“We made a set-up change for the last race and it seemed to work.

“We’ve been learning with the car and race distances all weekend and I think we went some way to cracking the secrets of the car in the final race, so I’m now chuffed to bits.”

The Mini Challenge series moves on to Knockhill in Scotland on the weekend of August 29-30, with further races scheduled at Silverstone and Snetterton before a series-ending finale at Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit on November 14-15.