Jason Plato has hit out of those who feel SEAT has an unfair advantage in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship after snaring pole position for the penultimate rounds of the season at Silverstone.
The 2001 champion stormed to top spot in qualifying at the Northamptonshire circuit with team-mate Darren Turner in second place as the diesel-powered Leons locked out the front row of the grid for the fourth successive meeting.
His time of 1min 00.327secs put him 0.144secs clear of Turner while Colin Turkington was 'best of the rest' in the Team RAC BMW; 0.142secs further back in third.
However, Plato insisted that, despite another front row start for the diesels – which arrive at Silverstone on the back of six wins in nine races since the summer break – there was no unfair advantage for the team especially on a day when Vauxhall's Matt Neal got ahead of the Leon TDis to pace the opening practice session.
"I'm really pleased," he told Crash.net
. "However, I don't think it's a case of everyone being able to go on about the diesel having an advantage because this morning, Fabrizio did a 60.5secs and he has done a 61.2secs in qualifying, so he has lost seven-tenths of a second somewhere. Maybe they have eased off a bit because they had engine problems in practice, but for anyone to say we have an unfair advantage would be bullshit. If Fabrizio had done his practice times in qualifying, he'd have been right behind us in third place.
"The regulations are there and set in stone – we aren't breaking any or doing anything wrong. SEAT had the foresight to develop the diesel engine and now we are seeing the benefits; people can't cry foul about that. We are
quick on the straights, but then again we still lose out in the corners."
Although he continually admits that the title is already a foregone conclusion, with Giovanardi still 40 points ahead, Plato admitted that if he could win the opening race and his rival was unable to score from eleventh on the grid, then the pressure would start to rise on the defending champion.
"I want to get two wins and then see what race three brings," he said, "that's all I can do. Fabrizio is right in the danger zone though. He has Jackson and Collard behind him the likes of Jelley, Vaulkhard and Jordan in front.
"If I win the first race and he can't pick up points, then the pressure will be on him; my approach won't change. That's what we need to happen."