Jason Plato said he wasn't going to get too downhearted despite his faint HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship hopes all but coming to an end during the penultimate rounds of the season at Silverstone.
The SEAT Sport UK man went into the weekend trailing Fabrizio Giovanardi by 41 points, but with 104 still to play with in the final six races of the campaign.
Things looked good for Plato after qualifying, when he put his Leon TDi on pole position and Giovanardi could only qualify eleventh. While Plato then converted his pole into victory in the opening race, Giovanardi battled through to finish although that still allowed SEAT ace Plato to take eleven points from the Italian's advantage.
Plato looked well set to secure victory in the second race as he stormed into an early lead, but with the team having elected to run a wet set-up for the second race due to the continuing rain, he suddenly saw his front tyres go off and dropped down to seventh – with Giovanardi winning the race.
Despite going back to set-up similar to the one used in race one for the final race of the day, Plato was then hit with the same issue – once again having got into the lead of the race – and with Giovanardi again finishing ahead, the 2001 champion saw the gap to the leader grow to 44 points with just 52 left to play for at Brands Hatch later this month.
“Had it been a dry day, which you'd have thought you had a chance of in August, I think it would have been a different story but that is how it goes,” Plato reflected to Crash.net
after the racing had drawn to a close. “We have to make our car work in the wet and we did in race one. Race two, we put the wet set-up on as we hadn't had time in race one with the rain coming in so close to the start, but the car didn't like it and we struggled a bit.
“While it was quick to start with, it just hit a point where it lost all of it's front grip and wouldn't turn and didn't want to stop very well. It was frustrating to have led that race so we went back to the dry set-up for race three and thought it was looking good as we dominated the early laps. But then we hit the same problem again where we lost the grip. It was similar to the feeling you get when you overheat your tyres and there is no rubber left but they weren't overheated, the rubber hadn't ballooned up or anything like that, so there is something strange we need to understand.”
Again admitting that his title hopes had already gone long before arriving at the Northamptonshire circuit, Plato added he couldn't complain – despite the obvious disappointment of the weekend – and tipped Vauxhall to be the team to beat on Finals Day on 21 September.
“I'm just there to win races and the title isn't relevant for me anymore,” he said. “It hasn't been for a while. I'm just trying to win races for me, for SEAT and for the guys back at base who do the hard work and prepare the cars for us. I have to do the best I can for them.
“It would be very easy to get pissed off and negative, but in times like this I have to remind myself that I'm a lucky, lucky lad. This is my passion and the thing I truly love as a job, and I'm lucky enough to do it as a career. While things haven't gone well today and we have had some misfortune, it's not too bad. We have a great series with the fans being entertained and there is a great buzz in the paddock.
“I think Brands Hatch will be whole lot more challenging. Of all the circuits on the calendar, I think Brands will be our worst track. Whilst I think we will be competitive there, I think the Vauxhall will be pretty hard to beat.”