The likes of Lewis Hamilton
and his fellow F1 stars have been labelled 'dull as ditch water' whenever they open their mouths for pre or post-race interviews, with two-time British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato lambasting the sport's PR circus as 'pre-scripted nonsense'.
Plato was speaking during the 2011 BTCC curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch last weekend – a meeting over the course of which he notched up a brace of victories to overtake tin-top legend Andy Rouse as the most successful competitor in the championship's long history, establishing an early eight-point lead in the title standings to-boot as he bids to successfully defend his hard-fought 2010 crown.
Palpably revelling in the BTCC's laidback atmosphere that encourages freedom-of-speech and colourful banter rather than seeking to stifle it, the 43-year-old admits he only wishes that other areas of motor racing did the same.
“The manufacturers and the teams [in the BTCC] give the drivers enough free slack where we can be real people rather than corporate taps,” he told Autoblog
. “If you just look at F1, it's as dull as ditch water as soon as they open their mouths. It's pre-scripted nonsense.
“The classic example for it is Lewis Hamilton
– stunning talent, great talent to watch, but I turn the TV off as soon as I see his lips move because it's just nonsense. What the manufacturers here do is allow us to be personalities, and that engages the public.”
Plato is quick to add, however, that the rivalries in the BTCC are very real rather than simply being staged for the television cameras – and he leaves none of his adversaries in any doubt whatsoever that he remains as hungry for success as he has ever been, quipping that he will carry on competing 'until I die' and stressing that his racing takes precedence over his TV presenting work for Channel 5 motoring show Fifth Gear
“We kick off and say controversial things at times, but it is real, it is what we are thinking,” the 62-time race-winner explained, joking that he 'hates every other driver in the paddock!' “I am not here to make friends – I've got enough of those at home. This is a job, I wouldn't trust any of them anyway and I am sure they wouldn't trust me, so why have friendships? There are a lot of proper intense rivalries.
“If I didn't think I could win, I would stop – winning is everything. I don't subscribe to this view they teach you at school that it is the taking part; that is an expression that losers use. My motivation and my fire in my belly is stronger now than it ever has been, and there is no reason why I can't do this until I am 50, 50-plus maybe.
“Gabriele Tarquini won the World [Touring Car] Championship two years ago at the age of 49, and I think experience does count for quite a bit in this game. So long as I still have that burning desire, I will keep going as long as I can because it is a great way to earn a living and I am very lucky to have the opportunity.
“It's great fun to do the filming [for Fifth Gear
]. I love it – we get paid to thrash cars around, and really nice cars at that, so who wouldn't want to do that – but the focus is this, and the TV people know that people will get let down if I have to let them down because of my motor racing. That is the priority, and everything has to fit around it.”