MATT JAMES’ PERFECT 10 OF THE ’10S: THE NEXT GENERATION EMERGE
Today btcc.net continues with Motorsport News Editor Matt James’ top ten memories from the last ten years of the British Touring Car Championship. James today discusses the ‘next generation’ of drivers which entered the championship between 2015 and 2019, including the unwitting role Jason Plato has played in their careers.
Where: All over the UK
While the British Touring Car Championship has always enjoyed a host of household names – think of Matt Neal, Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan – there is always a hunger to find the next generation.
The latter part of the decade saw the emergence of several, but there are arguably two stand-out talents that will be mainstays in the BTCC for many years to come.
Plato probably regrets it now, but he launched Tom Ingram into the successful BTCC driver that he is today.
Plato, with backing from Tesco’s energy drinks brand KX, had a war chest to go and find the next generation of talent through an academy scheme, and the two-time BTCC champion took his role very seriously. It was a scheme which would provide off-track education and support as well as on-track budget.
He gathered together a panel of judges to assess the initial applications, and I was fortunate enough to be among them. Ingram’s application stood out: the then Ginetta Junior racer had started on his career but was always battling a lack of funding. Plato gave him the leg-up he needed and, after claiming three titles in the Ginetta nursery slopes, he finally made the step up to the BTCC in 2014. It was the start of a fruitful relationship with Speedworks which took the cusp of the crown in 2018 and he is now a fully-fledged works driver in the Team Toyota GB Corolla.
Plato is also intrinsically linked to the career of Ash Sutton too. The 2015 Renault UK Clio Cup winner graduated to the BTCC with MG in 2016 and was a winner immediately, but he really hit his stride when partnered with Plato at the Team BMR Subaru squad in 2017. He made a disastrous start with a crash in testing at Pembrey and another at Brands Hatch during the opening event of the season. His engineers had told him he had to avoid getting the nickname “CrAshley Sutton”…
He left Kent following the opening weekend with zero points on the board. But then he really turned it on and six wins propelled him to the crown in just his second year in the top flight. His star had truly begun to shine, and seven wins since then has cemented him as a BTCC fan favourite.