Jason Plato has admitted that it was a bolt from the blue to be told that SEAT is to cease its UK motorsport involvement at the end of the 2008 season.
The Spanish manufacturer announced this afternoon [Thursday] that it was to pursue 'other marketing activities' from 2009 which in turn will see its involvement in the BTCC come to an end after five years. The news will also see the SEAT Cupra Championship draw to a close after six years of competition.
The announcement leaves both Plato and team-mate Darren Turner looking for drives for 2009, with Plato one year into a three-year deal signed at the end of 2007 – a deal he revealed to Crash.net
at Thruxton last October shortly after losing out on the drivers' title to Fabrizio Giovanardi.
While the news has come as a shock to BTCC fans, it has come as just as much of a shock to the drivers themselves, with a meeting this morning revealing that the programme was coming to an end.
"We had a meeting this morning where we were told of the decision and it has come as a bolt from the blue," Plato told Crash.net
. "All I know is that the BTCC programme is ending for next year and the Cupra Championship has been dropped so they can focus their marketing activities elsewhere. From the meeting we had this morning, it is clear that it is a decision that they have really had to wrestle with.
"I'd like to think I have played a big part in their success and have been a good ambassador for the SEAT brand. However, this is a volatile world we live in - the motorsport world - and nothing is forever; things can change on a six pence, and they often do.
"SEAT has had a lot of value from the UK motorsport scene, but I think it's important that people also look at the good that SEAT has done for UK motorsport through both the BTCC and the Cupra Cup. But like I say, nothing ever lasts forever."
Plato, the 2001 champion, goes into the final weekend of the season at Brands Hatch with an outside chance of taking a second title – although he has long admitted that his hopes of taking the crown from arch rival Giovanardi have already gone.
With that in mind, Plato had instead taken the approach of simply trying to win as many races as possible through the remainder of the campaign, and he admitted that his philosophy would remain the same on Finals Day.