Turkington V Plato: Title Rivals Size Each Other Up


After 27 races, the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rests on the remaining trio of encounters around the Brands Hatch GP circuit this weekend, Jason Plato now the only man that could usurp Colin Turkington for the Drivers’ Championship. 

The full layout of the Kent circuit will showcase the final three duels of 2014, Turkington entering as resounding favourite thanks to the West Surrey Racing driver’s 50-point cushion held over fellow champion, Plato, aiming to shock the system and pick up a maiden championship for Triple Eight‘s MG6.

The pair enter in different frames of mind to one another, one looking to finish the job without drama, the other only with wins on his mind during a season which, on-track at least, has showcased a fine standard.

Both have been in such a position before, the scenario none more similar than in 2009 when the current championship leader emerged victorious for an emotional maiden crown with the same WSR squad, Plato almost snatching it under Turkington’s nose from virtually nowhere.

On that occasion, Plato entered a mere 28 points adrift, seemingly out of contention.

That was before he claimed only the second ever BTCC hat-trick across a weekend around the Brands GP layout, Turkington surviving tangles along the way with the likes of Matt Neal and Fabrizio Giovanardi to achieve his destiny by five points.

Last year, Plato somehow showcased his knack of keeping the title fight alive by making Andrew Jordan wait until the final race of the year, having entered one point better off than the current day at 49 behind last season’s eventual champion.

Turkington aims to keep Plato in sight (Photo: btcc.net)
Turkington aims to keep Plato in sight (Photo: btcc.net)

The situation with three races remaining in the 2014 BTCC season is simple – Turkington only requires 18 points from the weekend to be provisionally crowned champion early, and the Northern Irishman enters the finale in a relaxed mindset knowing his rival has no pressure to be concerned with.

Turkington commented to The Checkered Flag on his opposition, Plato, saying: “He can take a risk because he doesn’t have as much to lose as me.”

With one goal on his mind, he added that his philosophy will not alter this weekend, saying: “Obviously, it’s the big one that we all have our eyes on. We haven’t done the job yet, we’re pleased with the pace of the car and now we’ve got to finish the job.

“The process has to be the same. We’ll keep the same philosophy, work hard and try to be as fast as we can – you can’t hang about and start looking in your mirrors because that’s when the trouble happens.”

Consistency has been a byword for Turkington this season, the WSR BMW package and electric outright speed of the man behind the wheel himself in 2014 almost enough to have wrapped up the title already, were it not for an incident at Knockhill during a frenetic opening race.

Turkington has claimed nine wins in 2014 (Photo: btcc.net)
Turkington has claimed eight wins in 2014 (Photo: btcc.net)

Turkington added: “It’s more important to cross the line than not at all, so that’s exactly what I need to keep in mind at Brands.”

“You need a quick car, you need to pedal it fast, but you also have to get the rub of the green too. Again, it just shows how strong and competitive we are here.”

Silverstone two weekends ago provided once of the classic BTCC encounters, Turkington emerging from an eight-car battle in third position by the time the pack took the flag having been attacked from all angles by the likes of Plato, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Alain Menu around him in the closing laps.

Turkington outlined the race as a ‘defining moment’ potentially in the season, hailing to TCF afterwards: “There’s always a race like that every season where it becomes a big battle. It defines the year, and that was certainly one of those races.

“I was keen to race with him”, Turkington added on his dices with Plato throughout the day. “I had a quicker car, but he was just too fast in those opening laps. Whenever I knew he was committed then I wasn’t going to close the door too hard. Having said that, I was keen to beat him in one race today!”

The scenario for his nearest (and now only) championship rival, Plato, is simple and more relaxed – enjoy the visit to Brands Hatch and win races.

The double champion has been in the running for the championship in every season-concluding meeting since 2006, last year having entered the very last race still in contention despite having entered 49 points adrift – just one less than his current gap to close.

The MG man, who holds the most wins in the championship’s history, says that winning remains the most defining factor of his racing DNA even in championship scenarios, and intends solely to add further victories to his name at a Brands Hatch circuit he says is a driver’s favourite.

“My make-up as a driver is to win”, Plato added to TCF after Silverstone.

...while Plato recently made it five (Photo: btcc.net)
…while Plato recently made it five (Photo: btcc.net)

“I know that I could have won more championships if I didn’t have that. But I would have won far less races.

“The most important thing for me at Brands is to win some races. I’m not interested in the championship –  I want to win two races, and I hope it lashes down with rain, because that will suit us.

“I think any driver loves Brands Hatch. It’s a track for men.”

Plato’s knack of maintaining the championship fight, even against stiff opposition as has been a talking point through out 2014, was brought up after Silverstone regarding his ability to ‘keep bums on seats’ all the way until the very end of a season.

“It might be nice with those sentiments if you could advise me where I could send an invoice! If I can put £100,000 on the gate at Brands Hatch, then maybe I should speak to Alan Gow and Jonathan Palmer for a little slice of that,” he quipped.

Photo: btcc.net
Photos: btcc.net

Head to head:

2014 so far:

Turkington

Plato

Wins

8

5

Poles

2

3

Podiums

18

13

Top 5s

22

19

Top 10s

25

25

DNFs

2

1

Position

1st

2nd (-50pts)