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Jason Plato rules out championship credentials

Jason Plato refused to entertain the idea that he remains in championship contention, despite qualifying on pole for round 28 of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch in difficult conditions.

In the final qualifying session of the campaign, Plato set a blistering pace with his final lap to steal the top spot from his teammate Sam Tordoff, shortly before a red flag was flown after Dave Newsham beached his Ford Focus in the gravel trap, curtailing the session two minutes short of it’s half-hour distance.

The MG driver’s late effort came in a session of changeable conditions, which was blessed with blue skies but took place on a wet track, with every driver starting on wets and only a small window at the end of the session to experiment with dry tyres.

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And having taken that decision, Plato was thrilled to have seen it pay off, and admitted that he reveled in the conditions and the onus they place on the driver.

“Those sorts of conditions I love,” Plato told TouringCars.Net. “If I think back to all the times that we’ve had qualifying when it’s required slicks on a greasy track, I believe I’ve been on pole every time and for me those conditions are not about the car, they’re not about front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, they’re not about the setup, they’re about the bloke in the car.

“It’s lovely to be on pole by nine-tenths-of-a-second and it’s one of those situations where every corner is different to how it was the lap before and you have to look and feel how the circuit is evolving and throw caution to the wind.

“Instead of going in at say 90 miles per hour to a corner the lap before, you’re going in at 100 [mph] and you say ‘right, whatever it throws at me, I’ll sort it out’. It’s a bit scary, it’s a bit spooky, you take big risks – I had a massive moment at Hawthorn where I bit off too much, I went in a bit too quick and had to sort it all out in the middle but it’s ace when you get a pole like that because it’s just you, the bloke in the car, against the conditions.

“It’s very satisfying, and it’s great that Sam’s up there – we’ve got a manufacturers’ championship to win tomorrow.”

The result marked Plato’s fourth pole position of the season, and edges him one point closer to Colin Turkington at front of the championship, with the 46-year-old needing to make up 49 points from the 66 on offer tomorrow.

But the double champion insisted that he had no thoughts of winning the title, applauding the job that Turkington and his West Surrey Racing team had performed, and instead was focused on trying to add more victories to his tally for the season.

“No, there’s not,” affirmed Plato, when asked if he thought there was any chance that he could win the championship. “It’s not down to me; I can win three races and it’s still not enough. It’s too far – I’m sure the media don’t want to hear me say that but I’m a 46-year-old bloke, I know what two and two is.

“I think we’ve got the fastest car in the wet – definitely – I think we’ve got the fastest car in greasy conditions, do I think we’ve got the fastest car in the dry? No, I don’t, I think Colin’s the fastest in the dry as was shown this morning.

“My mind-set is that I want to be winning some races tomorrow. If I’m ahead of Colin, I’m not even going to be concerned about where he is because my job is to win some races. If he gets ahead of me, then he’s enemy number one. Not because he’s ahead of me in the championship but because he’s getting in the way of me winning races.

“It’s Colin’s championship; it would take me to win three races and him to have two absolute disasters [for me to win] and I don’t wish that on him, I don’t want that to happen because I don’t want to win a championship like that and actually with the package they’ve got, Colin and WSR [West Surrey Racing] have done a brilliant job, and the advantage that rear-wheel drive [cars] have this year, they should win it, and they deserve to win it – and actually if they didn’t win it, that would be a great shame.”

Despite his praise, Plato’s response nevertheless raised the rear-wheel drive/front-wheel drive debate that has dominated much of the season’s news, and he admitted that he hoped there would be changes over the close-season.

“My plans depend on what happens,” he said. “I want them [TOCA] to equalise the advantage that the rear-wheel drive cars have got. That’s it. They’ve got an advantage off the start, they’ve got an advantage on tyre degradation, they’ve got an advantage in weight distribution, they’ve got an advantage in that they can use their rear brakes more than we can – all of those things need to be thought about and calculated.

“I’m confident TOCA will look at the championship on a whole from this year, they’ve got data from each race and they’ll make some changes. They need to put weight on their cars – and I’m talking about a lot of weight, which needs to be right at the front to equalise the distribution out – in an ideal world they’ll allow us to make some changes; we want to change our power-steering system to one that works.

“If it was me, I would say ‘rear-wheel  drive cars always gain two places at the start; so what we’ll do is, wherever you qualify in a rear-wheel drive car, we’ll put you back two places, so then after the start, you’re back to where you should be’.

“It’s those sort of things, but this is me speaking, and I’m not TOCA – they’ve got all of the information and I have every trust in them that they will look at it and they will make changes, I’ve actually got every trust that one thing they won’t do, is not make changes, because we cannot, from a scientific and factual perspective say that there is no advantage.”

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