Paul Platt, MSA Superkart Champion-Q&A
19 October 2012
"After the season you've had, could you be forgiven for thinking you're Sebastian Vettel in disguise?"
"Ha ha! I'd like to. I'd like to have his wages as well but you know what I mean. It's been quite a successful year. Out of the nine races that count, we won seven of them. For the others, I came second in one and brought it home seventh in the other one."
"You've been racing for 21 years, what do you think of the competitiveness of the field you've faced this year?"
"It's been quite competitive. It's a shame James O'Reilly didn't do a full season with us. That would've been good as well. The quality of the field has been quite good.
My first season in the 250 National class was in 2009. I found it hard to be on the pace all the time at every circuit. Getting the kart set up right, stuff like that.
But this year, the competitors have been quite good. Louis Wall kept me honest at Silverstone. There wasn't much between us there, passing each other lap after lap. Down the Wellington Straight into the Luffield, every lap we were changing places. I thought he was going to win but I always outbraked him into that complex. It's been quite competitive."
"We know Toby and Ben Davis had the DRS system, how did your kart develop over the course of the season?"
"I changed things every meeting. Every time we went to the track I'd have something new. Starting off at Oulton Park, I had a revised rear diffuser to try to generate rear-end grip and stability so I can take more rear wing off to generate more top-end speed and lessen drag.
Then we went to Silverstone and the thing we changed there was the nose cone. I engineered a full flat bottom to help aid cooling of the front brake system and also change all the airflow under the nose cone and floor tray straight to the diffuser. I also made a different rear wing for that meeting. I had two rear wing set-ups. I'd come in and change the rear wings back to back. I didn't quite get it working right, but I got the bigger endplate on the rear wing. That was another development.
There was a test day for the 125s at Oulton Park in the middle of the year. On the Friday I went testing there and we tested the rear wing again. It generated more top end speed.
Everytime I was going to the circuit, I thought somebody else would have something different or would be little bit more on the pace. I always had to change something to be one step ahead of them. With the summer coming up, I'd taken away the rear radiator. The PVP can't run with a single radiator as the Anderson can because of the airflow in the sidepods and side radiator. It's not sufficient.
Again I engineered a better cooling system inside the pod and when the summer months came, especially at Thruxton, I had to have more air scoops going to the radiator."
"During the season you've been excellent out in front but also when you've been passing traffic, do you think you're not only faster at this stage of your career but also a more rounded driver?"
"The older you get the wiser you get, especially in racecraft. You've got to think, especially when you're racing with people you don't race against as well, three bends ahead, three corners ahead. By the time I've got to the second or third corner ahead of me I've already set myself up for a passing manoeuvre or what I want to do for that corner. Going down the straight I'm thinking three corners ahead so I know which position to put myself in so I can counteract what they're going to do.
I'm quite a good reader of what people are going to do in the race."
"Do you think you've had that ability throughout your career or have you recently developed it?"
"I'd say I probably developed that since '98 when I used to race Super 4. '99, 2000-01 on short circuit. I was good at the driving there and then into the long circuit when I then got the kart set up better. That was a good learning curve for me, the 125 class because it was very close racing. It always kept you on your toes and you always had to think about what might happen. The harder the competition got, especially the MSA class, every day's a school day. You're learning all the time.
One of the things at the Grand Prix this year was when I caught up to Jason Dredge and passed him, I kind of sussed him out. I got up to Louis, he was a bit more of a challenge and didn't want to let me go. I've looked at the footage of the Grand Prix. I passed him twice on the last two laps and down the back straight underneath the Bridge, I thought I passed him but he came back at me because I left the door open.
I've learned that once I've definitely passed someone, I've got to make sure I've shut the door. Don't presume that he won't come back at me."
"You had a new experience going to Le Mans with the twins. How did that come about?"
"I didn't know about that drive until after Thruxton. When we finished and packed away after I'd won the championship, John Riley and my dad came up to me and said, 'You're not going to Croft now.' I said, 'Why?' John said, 'You're going to Le Mans with me to drive one of my twins at the final round of the European championship.'
I was like wow! I could feel the hairs being raised at the back of my neck. I've always wanted to drive a twin cylinder, especially at a European round. To race at Le Mans on the Bugatti circuit, was a fantastic feeling.
We went there for practice day on the Friday. I'd never driven a twin cylinder, I'd never driven an Anderson kart and I'd never driven the circuit. Everything was brand new to me. I'd never sat in the kart until that day.
We took everything back to basics, fiddled about. I had to change my driving style compared to how I drive the 250 single. I'd say it's a cross between driving a 125 and a 250 single. I got quite quick actually to the end of the day. On the free practice before the qualifying I was fourth quickest, which I was very impressed at. During qualifying, I was half a second quicker compared to what I had been at free practice and I was four tenths off the original lap record.
I thought that's got to be fast enough and I wanted to save my tyres for race one. I came in, noticed that the time was ninth quickest. For qualifying two, I put a new set of tyres on for that one to bed them in for race two. I was fifth quickest in that one. So I thought we shouldn't be too bad.
On the start of race one, between fourth and fifth gear, it jumped out of gear, dropped a couple of places and went back into the field. Going into the first corner, Marcel Maasmann got it wrong, drifted sideways. Chris Needham crashed into him. I backed right off because there were karts starting to fly off everywhere, crashing into each other. Someone hit me up the back end, spun me sideways to the right and then another kart came along and hit my front right wheel. I was spinning clockwise and then a kart hit me on the left wheel which spun me anti-clockwise the other way to a standstill.
That snapped the chassis, snapped the steering, the exhaust. We had to change the exhaust to the older spec and we had to weld the chassis up. We got it just ready in time and managed to keep up with the front lot for the first five laps. But by lap eight the tyres were shot. I managed to finish seventh. In my first European championship round, I was happy to finish in the top ten."
"Where do you think you'll be next season?"
"At the front, that's where I'm planning to be."
"Sorry I mean in which championship?"
"The MSA. The European championship is far too expensive. On our budget we can only afford the British championship. The European championship is three times the amount of money if you want to be competitive, at the front in that, which is where we'd like to be.
The main aim next season is to do the treble. Win the MSA championship, retain the O Plate and win the GP. That's the main aim next season. A tall order, but that's what we'll be aiming for."
by Simon Stiel