Britain’s biggest race series comes to Croft Circuit again this weekend, with just 15 points separating the top six drivers.
But how does North-East raised Jason Plato, the reigning champion, think the weekend will develop?
JASON PLATO, who was raised in the North-East and attended the King’s School in Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear, is one of the drivers competing in a non-turbo car. He won the 2010 championship in his S2000- Specification Chevrolet Cruze and is competing in a similar vehicle this year.
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“Croft last year was very much our turning point,” said the 43-year old, who now lives in Oxford. “We found a real balance to the car, and took it into the next race meeting at Snetterton as by far and away the best car on the grid.
“That set-up helped me win the championship, and the 2011 car is even better – it’s faster, better to drive and it’s reliable. RML, the team that builds the car, is one of the best, if not the best touring car team out there. They proved it by building me a winning car last year, and they also won the World Touring Car Series with the Chevrolet Cruze. It’s a fine racing car, one of the best I’ve ever driven in my career.
“What’s a little frustrating is the unresolved situation concerning the regulations and the interpretation thereof. As I have often been quoted, parity is key, and I’m hopeful that before Croft we can see some movement on the subject.”
At the start of the season, the BTCC stated that during 2011 and 2012, while new generation turbo engines were in the process of being introduced, the organisers would ensure that the best turbocharged and normally-aspirated cars would be given equal advantage. But Plato feels this hasn’t been adequately achieved.
“The parity ruling was brought in to protect assets,” he added. “Sponsors, manufacturers and race teams invest a lot of money in the car and its development. That’s development you can’t just throw in the bin, so to give us sufficient time to develop a new engine means you have to have a car that remains competitive while you do it, otherwise you risk the sponsors losing interest.
“BTCC fans and drivers alike want cars that go into bends four abreast, rubbing door handles, and it’s all down to driver skill and commitment as to which one of those comes out of the bend first.
“That’s where the thrills come from that make this series the best tin-top racing in the world, and nobody either trackside or in the crowd wants disparity to happen.”
So what does this mean for Plato’s chances at Croft?
“This is Touring Car Racing,” he says. “Anything could happen, and I always come out fighting.”