Jason Plato has insisted that he would never want to benefit from team orders in his bid for glory in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), adamant that the driver who takes the chequered flag first should be the one who deserves to do so.
The question arose when Plato was following Racing Silverline team-mate Mat Jackson
in the opening encounter at Silverstone just over a week ago, en route
to an historic Chevrolet one-two-three [see separate story – click here
]. Many surmised that Jackson would receive a call asking him to move aside and let the 2001 BTCC Champion past to grab the extra four points he would earn for victory and leading the race, but for last year's overall runner-up no call ever came – justifiably so, Plato asserts.
“I wouldn't sanction or want that, absolutely not,” the 41-year-old bluntly told Crash.net Radio
. “A win is a win, and I wouldn't accept one that way. That's not in my make-up; I would never want anyone to do that to me, and I'd never want anyone to do that to Mat or one of my team-mates who deserves a win, not at all. There aren't any orders in our team, and quite rightly so – these guys have got sponsors and partners that they've got to do the job for, and the team is not centred around me. We're a three-car team here.”
Indeed, in that race those three cars – those of Jackson and Plato, and the third RML entry of promising young BTCC newcomer James Nash – literally left the opposition trailing, a performance that the 50-time race-winner describes as vindication and repayment for all who have backed the team since the start of the season, when it looked like neither he nor Jackson would be racing at all this year.
Race two yielded that landmark 50th career victory over a charging defending double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi
in tricky wet/dry conditions, but race three was something of an anti-climax, after an early coming-together with former F1 star and British Grand Prix-winner Johnny Herbert dashed Plato's chances of making it a hat-trick of podiums.
“It was a great moment for the team – superb!” he enthused of Chevrolet's first one-two-three in the BTCC since 1975. “It just shows with a little bit of time, look how we've engineered the cars. They're the class of the field at the minute.
“To be honest, for the first two-thirds of race two it was okay, and then the rain started to come and it got trickier. It was a difficult thing because when you're in the lead you're the first one [to discover the conditions] and you're the one that's pushing, but I love driving in those conditions because you learn an awful lot about yourself. I think the more you do it, the more happy and the more confident you feel, and the key really is knowing that each lap that goes on the grip goes down and you must drive accordingly – you've got to correct your aggression and keep tempering yourself.
“The problem is, how much do you do that by? How much do you ease back? The important thing to remember is making a big mistake might cost you two or three seconds, whilst just easing back might cost you a couple of tenths. It's a constant re-assessment of the situation, and it's really interesting that what goes on in your head and the things you feel are very different from what you would feel in a normal racing environment.
“I knew with three laps to go that unless I made a big error, Fabrizio wouldn't come past, though it's fair to say when there were three laps to go I wished there were two to go, because I knew he was coming good and also the Vauxhall works well in those conditions – it's a longer wheelbase car than us, a bit more stable and less twitchy – and Fabrizio is a class act.