Rejuvenated Plato questioned BTCC future in lockdown

Jason Plato has admitted he questioned his own future in the British Touring Car Championship during lockdown before committing to a much anticipated return this year.

Rejuvenated Plato questioned BTCC future in lockdown

The two-time BTCC champion found himself watching the championship from the sidelines after his Power Maxed Racing squad elected to withdraw its two full-time entries and roll over the budgets to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Vauxhall team fielded a single car for various drivers in six of the nine rounds last year, Plato was absent from the BTCC grid for the first time since 2003.

The 53-year-old revealed the time away from the track allowed him to reassess his career and contemplate perhaps calling time on his glittering BTCC career, but says he quickly swatted away thoughts of retirement.

“I’ve been in this series for a long time and before a year is done you are already planning for the next, so you never really get an opportunity to sit and reflect and even ask a simple question like ‘Am I still enjoying this?,’” Plato, the winner of a record 97 BTCC races since he made his debut in 1997, told Autosport.

PLUS: Why a BTCC legend remains defiant at '97 not out'

“When you are in the moment you never really get the chance to ask yourself that. If you do ask it after a bad week you always immediately have this knee-jerk reaction saying ‘of course I am’. You never really get a chance to analyse it.

“The whole lockdown thing gave me a chance to sit back and think about it. I was pleasantly surprised because I didn’t know where that thought process was going to end up to be honest.

“It was a really useful exercise to have been given the opportunity to sit and think about things in the cold light of day without being on the motor racing hamster wheel where you are pedalling all the time. I sat and thought ‘Do I want to do this?’ and actually I never doubted it and the answer was ‘Yes’ so that is great.

“Consequently batteries have been recharged and I’m ready, and I can’t wait to get going.”

Having navigated through that thought process, Plato is as determined as ever to succeed on the track as he chases down a remarkable milestone of 100 race wins and a third BTCC title.

“It is very simple to me. If I’m wanted by teams and I still want to get up in the morning and go do it and I still enjoy it and I’m competitive, and I can get all the commercial side of things right, I’ll do it until I’ve had enough,” he added.

“At the minute this 'having enough thing’ is just not in my vocabulary.”

Jason Plato, British Touring Car Championship, Silverstone 2021

Jason Plato, British Touring Car Championship, Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

BTCC title battle is the toughest ever

Looking ahead to his BTCC return, Plato believes he can challenge for another title to add to his 2001 and 2010 crowns.

To achieve this he will face a grid full of contenders, including four-time champion Colin Turkington (WSR BMW), the returning three-time champion Gordon Shedden (Team Dynamics), last year’s now double winner Ash Sutton (Laser Tools Racing), and Tom Ingram and Rory Butcher, following their off-season moves to Exclr8 Motorsport and Speedworks Motorsport respectively.

PLUS: How a returning champion is feeling at home again in the BTCC

Considering the talent on the grid and how competitive the championship is these days, he believes the task of winning the title is arguably the toughest it’s ever been.

“On paper you could argue it is the toughest one [championship] ever and there are lots of reasons for that,” said Plato, who was fifth fastest in last month’s official pre-season test at Silverstone.

“One reason is, and this has only really happened in the last few years when they went to the bigger tyre, but tyre management isn’t really important anymore.

“Back in the old days you really had to be really good at managing your tyres. They are pretty easy to manage now. I think they are too good and too robust.

“Also all the engineers have moved around to different teams over the last eight or nine years, so all the intel has been passed from team to team, so pretty much every car is pretty sorted. If you can’t sort it, the delta between a good guy and really good guy is probably about a couple of tenths so it’s really competitive.

“Then you have the BTCC success ballast and reverse grids, so it is really getting harder and harder each year. Every single round counts and you can’t afford to have one bad event. It is a really tough thing to win, it really is.”

Jason Plato, British Touring Car Championship, Silverstone 2021

Jason Plato, British Touring Car Championship, Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

shares
comments
Cammish secures BTCC return with BTC Racing

Previous article

Cammish secures BTCC return with BTC Racing

Next article

The giantkilling 'dad and lad' operation taking on the BTCC's best

The giantkilling 'dad and lad' operation taking on the BTCC's best
Load comments
The making of the BTCC's newest superstar Plus

The making of the BTCC's newest superstar

Ash Sutton is on the verge of being crowned a three-time British Touring Car Champion; he seems to have it all. But life hasn't always been straightforward for this superstar of touring cars, as Marcus Simmons has been finding out

BTCC
Oct 21, 2021
The green light shining for the BTCC's hybrid future Plus

The green light shining for the BTCC's hybrid future

The Cosworth Electronics-developed BTCC hybrid system made its public debut in the most recent round at Silverstone. It's simple, but could significantly change the series' technical challenges for both the drivers and the teams

BTCC
Oct 9, 2021
The restored BSCC battler back in its family's hands after 50 years Plus

The restored BSCC battler back in its family's hands after 50 years

The Imps of George Bevan became famous in British Saloon Car Championship competition during the early 1970s. Thanks to the efforts of a small band of enthusiasts, including Bevan's grandson Jonathan, one of the ex-Bill McGovern title winners has recently returned to the race track

Historics
Sep 30, 2021
The increasingly varied CV behind a new BTCC title challenger Plus

The increasingly varied CV behind a new BTCC title challenger

A driver with limited funds behind him, it’s been a tough road to the top of the British Touring Car Championship for Jake Hill. Now he’s a title contender, accomplished historic racer and in-demand coach. It’s a great life for this self-confessed motorsport junkie

BTCC
Aug 26, 2021
The outright tin-top wins achieved by a forgotten tin-top great Plus

The outright tin-top wins achieved by a forgotten tin-top great

Already established as a formidable force in the British Saloon Car Championship, the Triumph Dolomite became a legend in 1977 when Tony Dron's Broadspeed machine frequently embarrassed the mighty Capris

BTCC
May 18, 2021
Five key plotlines to follow in the 2021 BTCC Plus

Five key plotlines to follow in the 2021 BTCC

It’s been a busy silly season in the BTCC since the chequered flag fell to end the 2020 campaign last November. While last year’s top two have stayed put, there’s plenty of talking points elsewhere, which should result in another fascinating year of tin-top action

BTCC
May 7, 2021
The giantkilling 'dad and lad' operation taking on the BTCC's best Plus

The giantkilling 'dad and lad' operation taking on the BTCC's best

The Lancashire squad of Ciceley Motorsport has been a BTCC race winner for several years with Adam Morgan and Mercedes. But the switch to WSR-built BMWs and addition of Tom Chilton as a true barometer for Morgan should see the team step up into title contention

BTCC
May 6, 2021
How a returning champion is feeling at home again in the BTCC Plus

How a returning champion is feeling at home again in the BTCC

After topping the times at the end of British Touring Car Championship pre-season testing, it feels like Gordon Shedden has never been away. But after plenty of changes behind the scenes, the three-time champion is bedding himself in to pick up where he left off

BTCC
May 5, 2021