Jason Plato has admitted that there is 'a lot of activity' in terms of finding a way back onto the British Touring Car Championship grid in 2009 – and insisted that he is not interested in a future on the World Touring Car Championship scene at this stage in his life and career.
The 2001 BTCC Champion was left high-and-dry by SEAT's shock withdrawal from the leading tin-top series at the end of the 2008 campaign, with currently no confirmed drive for next season – and competitive options relatively thin on the ground.
Aside from wild speculation linking the 46-time race-winner to a Volvo return to the championship, there have also been suggestions that neither Matt Neal nor Tom Onslow-Cole's drives are altogether safe at Vauxhall, with Steve Neal openly admitting that he wants his son to return to the family fold to line up alongside fellow former double title-winner James Thompson in a Dynamics Honda 'dream team'.
Taking on 2007 and 2008 champion Fabrizio Giovanardi at VX Racing would be, Plato confessed, a challenge he would relish – but he maintained that he has number of irons on the fire, with the only series he is ruling out being the WTCC.
“There's a bit of progress,” the 40-year-old told Crash.net Radio
. “There's nothing to report at this stage – it's all a little bit early – but there's a lot of activity in terms of desire to have me back on the grid.
“From my point-of-view too, I desperately want to be in the BTCC, because it's a fantastic series and one that I love everything about, so I really want to be in it. There are a few opportunities, so I really want to make sure that we make the right move.
“If there was an opportunity at Vauxhall, of course [he'd be interested]. I nearly signed for them last year but instead chose to take the long game with a three-year contract with SEAT, which of course didn't work out!
“I don't know if there's any truth in the rumours, but I can possibly see how that might work. If they (Dynamics) signed Thompson and then get Matt back that would be interesting. As far as I know he does have a contract, but yeah, that would be a fantastic seat, alongside Fabrizio.
“We're looking at all sorts, but my focus is on the BTCC. It fits well with me, my brand, what I do, all the TV work that I do, and obviously I've just had a little baby daughter, so travelling all around the world and being away in the WTCC isn't that attractive if I'm honest. It would mean my two businesses would suffer and also the commitment I have to my TV work, so the BTCC really works well.”
Plato was speaking during Wembley Stadium's annual Race of Champions extravaganza, in which he went out against Formula 1's youngest-ever race-winner Sebastian Vettel as England slumped to age-old rivals Germany in the Nations' Cup quarter-finals.
“The main thing is we're through to the quarter-finals,” he had said ahead of the showdown, “and it's a big one isn't it? England versus Germany! I think there's some bloke there that's done a bit (Michael Schumacher), although I'm racing against Vettel, who's an absolute star, isn't he? It's going to be interesting…”
by Russell Atkins