Plato predicts Honda battle
We recently caught up with a relaxed and buoyant Jason Plato as the double champion looked ahead to the remainder of the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Having taken more wins that anyone else in the season so far it’s likely to be the ‘other’ results that will determine Plato’s championship challenge. Victories aplenty in the MG over the last three years were mixed with indifferent days and results, which ultimately proved his unfortunate undoing in a bid for a third BTCC title.
Glancing over the results for the first half of this campaign and you’ll find some similarities – he’s taken two more wins than championship leader Gordon Shedden for example – but the man himself is quick to stress this is a very different situation.
“It’s fair to say we’re in the ballpark at every circuit we’ve been to, which is obviously very important,” he said. “We’ve been quick everywhere – there are some issues we’re still working on but it’s different to the MG. There we had days where it just wouldn’t work but I believe this is a better all round package. It’s a better car in my opinion and therefore we have a better chance to win it.”
JASON PLATO BY NUMBERS
Two non-scores at Brands Hatch due to a race two puncture and another strategic sacrifice in the opener at Croft are the only blemishes on Plato’s 15-race Team BMR copybook, but it’s Shedden’s run of ten successive top six finishes that has pushed the Scotsman to the standings summit at the midway stage.
“As the season evolves I think Honda is where the competition will really come from,” he continued. “Like us, they seem to have been pretty competitive everywhere. We’ll be quick at Snetterton next time out for example but I believe they will be too.”
On the subject of Snetterton, technical woes meant Plato clocked considerably less mileage than his rivals in the recent Dunlop tyre test, but the VW pilot saw enough to keep his confidence high.
“We didn’t get to do a really quick run on new boots but we’re there or thereabouts,” he noted. “There’s more to come in the car for sure and I think we’ll be in the 1m56s come qualifying. We ran the car as per our ballast in the championship, so we were heavy throughout. Despite the issues, which were out of our control, it was a good day.”
If there are any unknowns in terms of the pace and performance of Team BMR’s impressive fleet of VWs then Plato believes that may come at the two events following Snetterton. He’s quick to point out, however, that his squad should still be ultra competitive but may be just not as dominant as they’ve been elsewhere.
“Well it’s BMW world up at Knockhill, but at least it’s not Honda world,” he commented. “Knockhill might be a slight Achilles heel for us but I’m not too worried and I still think we’ll be in the shout to score good points.
“Rockingham will be an interesting one. The MG was quick there but we couldn’t quite make the tyres work as well as we wanted to, but I think we should be able to so again we’ll be OK there.”
If those events can be regarded as a slight unknown chink in the armour then Plato was merely saving his biggest warning for the final two weekends of the season.
He’s traditionally gone very well at Silverstone and Brands Hatch and the most successful ever BTCC driver believes the package underneath him could lead to a perfect synergy at arguably Britain’s two most famous venues.
“I think it’s fair to say we should be rapid at Silverstone,” he enthuses. “Then by the time we get to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, well I believe that’ll be like Oulton Park for me, so I expect to go well there too. If we’re where we need to be in the championship going into that event then I’ll be extremely happy and confident.
“Overall we’re in very good shape and over the long haul I think it will be between us and possibly Honda.”
Plato’s last comment is delivered in a way that suggests he’s both comfortable and confident in his new surroundings at Team BMR. He’s seemingly convinced of his championship challenging credentials, but a man of his undoubted talent and experience is also well aware that there are others on the grid aiming for exactly the same thing!
PLATO SPEAKS TO ITV SPORT AT CROFT