Subaru’s Jason Plato expects the new compound of Dunlop tyre to prove the largest variable in this years British Touring Car Championship.
The new SportMaxx compound, which is estimated by Dunlop to improve lap times by 0.5 seconds per mile and was developed to bring NGTC machines in line with the faster speeds produced by the latest specification RML control components, will be used at all rounds of the championship other than Thruxton.
Speaking to assembled media including TouringCars.net at the official Season Launch, Plato admitted it was difficult to assess tyre management at this stage due to the contrast in weather conditions between pre-season testing and the opening rounds of the new season.
“The big change we’ve got this year is the tyre and whilst we’ve all done a bit of pre-season testing, we’re not in the same conditions when we start racing – the championship picks up pace towards the end of April into May,” commented Plato.
“The pace will change, and that’s still a bit unknown at the moment. I think that’s going to make it more interesting but I think just the level of competition this year [will be greater].”
The two-time series champion also paid tribute to the strength in depth of the field, admitting he faces a stern test in adding to his tally of championship victories. Plato is also currently five race wins away from completing a century.
“Everybody appears to have raised their game, there are some great drivers on the grid and young, fresh, precocious talent coming through – I think they’re going to be a pain in the arse,
“It’s not an easy thing to win, this championship – I know that more than most,
“The team have done a very good job over the winter, we’ve done a lot of development behind the scenes, a lot of rig testing and simulation and from the bit of testing we’ve done so far that’s translating into what we’re feeling and seeing on the stopwatch. We’ve made some improvements – whether that’s enough, we’ll find out very shortly.”
Plato will line up alongside new team mates Ashley Sutton, Josh Price and the returning James Cole during the only official pre-season test later today, scheduled to start at 13:00 at Donington Park.