Had it not been for bad luck on more than one occasion, Jason Plato could well have ended the 2006 season with a second Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship title under his belt.

As it was, eight retirements told its own story in the final reckoning as he was forced to settle for second behind Matt Neal but the SEAT man goes into 2007 looking to put that right as the only front-runner to have a proven S2000 package behind him.

Crash.net spoke to Jason to look to the year ahead...

Q:
We've had confirmation that Darren is going to partner you into 2007, it's looking like a strong season for SEAT.

Jason Plato:
Absolutely. Darren did a great job last year although generally 'Team Yellow' was hit by some bad luck and Darren had his fair share of it. From a team point of view, it is really important to have a harmonious line-up and me and Darren are good friends, we see each other socially and we don't live too far apart. I know he'll play a very straight bat and so will I. For starters, we've got a great atmosphere in the team and he's bloody quick so he will keep me honest, which is good as it's really important to have good competition within the team.

The fact is that we are starting with a car that we have a years worth of experience with, we know where it is good and where it is weak and also have the benefit of having a good pre-season testing plan in place where we can iron out a few little problems we had. We are going to start the season very strong but we can't underestimate anyone else, particularly those who haven't built cars as they are all good people.

Q:
SEAT have been in the BTCC for a good few years now but this will be the first season when the team has retained the same two drivers, every season before now you've had a new team-mate coming in to partner you. How important will that continuity be?

Jason Plato:
Really important because when Darren gets his bum in the car he is going to be straight on it and know what he likes on the car and it means that all our development work and pre-season testing isn't lumped on my shoulders - we'll have two drivers who can contribute to the team effort and try and move the car on, rather than what has happened in previous years where people have been learning about the car and learning about how the team works. That has all gone now and the continuity is really important and that is the way it needs to be.

Q:
You are seen as many peoples favourites for the title and some expect you to arrive at Brands Hatch and just run away it, but how do you see 2007 panning out?

Jason Plato:
It would be nice if that happened! Our car was very good at Brands last year and it is a circuit that suits the kind of build that our car is. That said, we have a couple of BMWs entering and we don't know how strong they will be, although we know how good that car is in the World Touring Car Championship. It's difficult at this time of year to predict anything because no-one really knows what is going to happen, but if you are a betting man I would say we are a reasonably good bet.

Q:
We've got a slight change to the calendar for the season ahead and are going to Rockingham - is that a change you are looking forward to?

Jason Plato:
I've never raced at Rockingham actually although I remember watching the races there is 2002 and they were cracking. I've done a little bit of testing there, mainly promotional work for SEAT, so I've driven the lap a fair bit but that is un-chartered territory for all of us I guess. I'm looking forward to it and it's a great venue. It's a shame that Silverstone isn't on the calendar but that's the way it is. I think we are all looking forward to Rockingham though as it's a new event.

Q:
Looking down the grid, you keep the Leon, we know RAC has the BMW, VX Racing switch to the Vectra and Halfords are building the Civic so you have a car you know whereas the others don't. With that in mind, how vital will the first few meetings be, when you can maybe take advantage of that and get points on the board?

Jason Plato:
That for me has always been the key to putting a championship campaign together. You have to score points in the early races - not in terms of building a buffer up, but more because it just takes the pressure off and means that we are in a position to capitalise on new car blues or teething problems that other teams may have. Ok, the BMW is an existing car, but WSR don't have experience of running it and there is only so much testing that you can do pre-season and testing isn't racing. We have to capitalise on any mistakes or any lack of experience that other teams have in the early part of the year and it will be crucial for us to score big points early on.

Certainly for the first few meetings, that is our target - not necessarily to have the mind-set that we are going to win races but that we have reliability on our car, know what it likes and that it is all about bagging points and not getting involved in silly scrapes. We don't need to go out there like it is the final race of the year, we just need to score consistently and then when the season gets underway, we have that buffer.

Q:
How do you see the strength in depth of the series this season?

Jason Plato:
I think that Alan Gow and the people behind the scenes at TOCA have done a great job over the last two years in rejuvenating the series and putting a bit more sparkle back into it. Last year, we really saw where it is going to go and at Silverstone there were 30,000 people which is football territory, so the championship is in rude health and will only go one way - which is to become stronger. Yes we will have more cars on the grid and arguably will have more quality and more depth to the field. It would be nice if all the drivers were world class drivers but that isn't going to happen for the time being but as times goes on we are going to see more continental style drivers arriving because it is a fantastic championship.

Q:
Your season last year went from one extreme to the other. The car was always quick and when things went right you were winning but when they didn't you were retiring and there didn't seem to an in between.

Despite something like eight DNFs, you took the title to the wire so you must be quite confident of going on and scoring a second BTCC title in 2007.

Jason Plato:
My tail is in the air for sure. We should have won last year and we didn't, we lost because we had eight DNFs, I made some mistakes, the team made some mistakes and we had car problems and so on and so forth. This year, it is important for us to knuckle down because we have a fantastic opportunity, not only to retain the manufacturers' title for SEAT which is crucially important for them as a brand, but also to win the drivers' title. 2001 is a long time ago and I want that title back.

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