THE Mini Challenge headed to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent at the weekend for the second event of the season, with Yorkshireman Max Coates hoping to get back to form after a difficult opening round of the year – and he emerged victorious.

The Primex Plastics and JiC Transport-sponsored driver from Scorton qualified in fourth place and in the race, made a great start, moving up to second on the opening lap. Coates struggled to keep pace with the front running car and ultimately lost a spot after the first few laps to go down to third. Despite a late-race charge from his rivals in the closing stages Coates managed to make his Graves Motorsport Mini wide enough to take the team’s first podium finish in the series.

Race two started equally well, with Coates challenging the front two drivers but was unable to get past on the first lap. As the race developed, Coates was hunted down in the closing stages but he held onto the position, which netted him the race win as the two ahead tangled on the final lap.

The final race of the weekend utilised a reverse grid format with the top six swapping places. From sixth place, Coates made a great start and was immediately on the charge, but had to avoid an errant car at turn one which put him on the outside for the second corner hairpin. As the pack bunched inside, Coates again had to take avoiding action, dropping down to the lower end of the top ten. He started to climb through the pack and was embroiled in the battle for the final podium slot, but ultimately the gaps never opened, and he crossed the line in fifth position after an eventful race.

Coates 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 as the year goes on.”

Local women chase motorsport dream

TWO local women have been given the opportunity to make their name in the competitive world of motorsport thanks to an initiative to encourage females to take up the sport.

Helen Blake, from North Stainley, near Ripon, and Alice Hughes, from Thirsk have both applied to take part in the Formula Women concept which is set to unearth female talent whereby a prize drive in a McLaren GT4 in 2022 awaits the lucky winners.

Originally conceived back in 2004, the latest challenge has seen thousands of women enter, whereby they all go through an on-line tutorial and theory assessment, prior to being offered the chance of further on-track assessments later this year.

Sixteen finalists will then be selected over winter for the final "shoot out" and the six winners of the competition will be trained and coached between February and April 2022 in fully-sponsored Formula Woman McLaren GT4 race cars, prior to a season in the UK GT Cup Championship in 2022.

The competition is strictly limited to drivers who have had little competitive experience and although both Helen and Alice are successful Autograss racers, they qualify as neither have experience on racetracks.