AS the covers were lifted off a brand new Mini JCW Livery at Croft Racing Circuit, race car driver Max Coates dreamed of potential success in his new look motor.

The North Yorkshire driver will be competing in the 2021 MINI Challenge for a second successive year, one of the toughest racing calendars in British Motorsport. Coates will be driving Mini Coopers around various tracks during the summer and into the autumn months.

On a rainy day at Croft Circuit, the 27-year-old took his new look motor out for a spin around the track for the very first time.

"It was good, it was pretty greasy out there. It was sliding all over the place but we're getting there" said Coates. 

"It's good fun, I quite enjoy driving around here in the wet. The cars a bit on edge and it's a proper test for car and driver.

"I love it. Everybody else can have their own opinion but I think it looks smashing.

"It starts to look like what we're racing rather than a bare empty shell so it fills me with excitement as a driver for sure.

"It's just nice to get get going and seeing it looking all pretty.

"It's a full effort to make the car look like it does from a design phase to actually getting the stickers put on by the guys are RGPS who have done a fantastic job of bringing what's on a screen to life.

"It's a really exciting moment. Essentially it's like painting board of the last six months of hard work so it's really cool to see."

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In 2019, Coates came agonisingly close to winning the Renault Clio Cup Championship losing the title in the final race.

Following on from that difficult result, Coates moved to the MINI Challenge with Elite Motorsport after the Clio Cup folded and finished 6th in the standings in his debut campaign. The calendar was significantly reduced in the amount of races due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's been a difficult year for many sportsmen and women in our region and Max Coates is no stranger to that. He lost sponsors and raced in front of no crowds.

Ahead of another ambitious campaign, Coates switched teams to Graves Motorsport and has plenty of support behind him ahead of the season opening races.

"The last year was a bit of a weird one for everybody, none more so than myself."

"Sponsors pulling out was definitely a hurdle in the road.

"I'm just looking at the car now, we've got six new sponsors on board so it's a sign that things are getting good and hopefully this is the start of getting back on track towards achieving what I want to, which is racing and winning in the British Tour Cars."

Coates has made no secret of his desire to race in the elite of British Motorsport and he hopes that success the Mini Challenge can send him on his way to racing alongside the very best in the country.

"We've had one run out in the car and we were pretty much fastest so that bodes well and it's definitely what we want to know.

"There's a definite bit of excitement around it this year.

"Not only because we've got the fans back but there's a new team, a new team mate, new ideas to try and a rejuvenated amount of enthusiasm as we kind of come out of the pandemic.

"That's made it more exciting than just your normal test day."

Croft Circuit is Max's local race track where he's had plenty of success in the past. The provisional calendar of the Mini Challenge means that Coates will head back to Croft in the middle of September.

With races at Donnington Park and Brands Hatch to follow before the close of the season, Coates will be hoping to make home advantage count.

"We're five miles away from Croft so it is proper close" said Coates.

"It just makes it even better when we come here because everybody knows who we are and we're local and it's good fun.

"We start racing on the 11th and 12th of June. We're back here at Croft in September so that's what we're looking forward to really.

"Bring on September and bring on Croft."