Jason Plato has warned that driving standards in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship have been 'appalling' and frankly 'unacceptable' on occasion in 2011 to-date – pointing the finger at some of the series' new arrivals and insisting the situation 'needs to improve'.
Plato was an innocent victim in what was inarguably the biggest shunt of the season thus far when Gordon Shedden squeezed Liam Griffin's Airwaves Ford Focus into his Chevrolet Cruze on only the opening lap of the second race at Donington Park last month, sending the defending BTCC Champion off onto the grass and – with broken steering and no brakes – unable to do anything to prevent his car from careering into the bank on the inside of the Craner Curves at unabated speed, spectacularly cartwheeling several times before finally coming to rest.
If the Racing Silverline machine was somewhat battered-and-bruised in the incident [just take a look at the dramatic picture gallery below
], Plato, thankfully, was able to walk away shaken if otherwise unharmed – but as he reflects now upon both that incident and also general etiquette in the championship over the opening three meetings of 2011, the 43-year-old is adamant that the present standard of poor on-track manners must no longer be tolerated.
The 'winningest' driver in BTCC history spoke to Crash.net
as he promoted the new, ultra-powerful Kärcher K6.610 pressure-washer – nicknamed 'The Beast' and produced by the same manufacturer that has so famously cleaned some of the world's most iconic monuments, including Mount Rushmore in the United States and the Statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro – and he described it as 'amazing, and a product everybody should have...it's revolutionary in its market, an all-singing, all-dancing beast'.
“I've only ever been over twice in a touring car, but in the Williams-Renault in 1997 at Croft, I didn't really have chance to see the shunt coming,” he mused, talking about the two heftiest accidents he has ever had in the sport. “At Donington, Gordon [Shedden] took out [Liam] Griffin, who speared into my left-front. I knew as soon as I was clouted that the impact would put me out of the race.
“As I left the track at 130mph, my first thought was that I could probably get between the gravel trap and the fence. A split-second later, I realised I didn't have any steering, but I thought, 'it's okay, I can still slow it down by braking' – and of course, I didn't have any brakes either because the contact had cut the pipes when it took the front-left wheel off! At that point, I knew I was going to have a big shunt, and by the shape of the bank, I knew I was going to go over.
“At Donington, [driving standards] were appalling. I don't deny anybody an opportunity to race in the BTCC; I came in from Renault Spiders – I was not a superstar when I arrived. I don't deny newcomers a chance – but they need to have complete spatial awareness and to heed the blue flags. They need to have a feeling of who is around them – and there have been far too many instances in qualifying and practice where some of the newcomers just don't seem to have a clue what's going on around them.
“In Europe's premier tin-top championship, that's not acceptable. This isn't club racing – everybody should be driving in a professional manner. Standards need to improve.”
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