Jason Plato admitted that Fabrizio Giovanardi has been a worthy champion after losing out on the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship title to the Italian for the second successive season.
Plato went into his final weekend with the SEAT Sport UK team with a slim chance of the championship crown but saw his hopes ended in the opening race of the weekend when he could only finish fifth – thereby failing to score the points needed to keep the title race alive even with Giovanardi failing to score.
Indeed it proved to be a somewhat bizarre weekend for the two front-runners with Giovanardi picking up just one point from the three races and Plato managing just the six he secured in race one after both ran into problems.
However, Plato conceded that Giovanardi had deserved his second successive title and said his consistency had been key in deciding the title fight.
“I can't take anything away from Fabrizio and Vauxhall,” he told Crash.net
. “They have been the model of consistency and have had had the reliability. Since the middle of the season when we got to grip with our diesels, we have been quick but unreliable. That is through no-ones fault, it is just how it is sometimes. They have deserved to win.
“For us, it's not the ideal end to the year but that's motor-racing for you; sometimes things go well and sometimes they don't. We were unlucky today and again got clouted by Matt Neal in circumstances that weren't necessary. It would be nice if he could learn to overtake people without bashing into them; the blokes a prick. It wrecked our day to be honest, it put me out of race two with damage and race three was what it was. It's been a sad weekend all round.”
With SEAT now pulling out of British motorsport following the conclusion of the season, the curtain comes down on one of the most successful parts of Plato's career but he admitted there were many fond memories he would keep of his time with the team.
“There are many fantastic memories I will take until the day I die,” he said. “My relationship with SEAT is a wonderful one and we are great friends who understand each other and work well together. I had the chance to mould the team and use the knowledge I gained from working with teams like Williams and Triple Eight.
“I remember the conversation I had with Mark McKenna, who was the head of marketing at SEAT at the time, two weeks prior to our first race when he said what are the goals for the season and I told him we'd win. He was dumbfounded but we went out and won at Thruxton. That was a special moment, not just for me, but for everyone as we realised we could do well. I've had a lot of wins with them since then and 70 per cent of their time in the BTCC they have been on the podium, which is amazing.
“For me though, the thing I'll remember most is that, without the conversations with SEAT back in 2002, I wouldn't have met Sophie. She worked at SEAT and ended up becoming my wife and my friend for life and now we have a fantastic little baby. I have an awful lot to thank them for.”