Jason Plato says that he is now focused on upholding the honours of MG in the Manufacturers Championship in this weekend’s penultimate Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship meeting of the season, as well as his second place in the Drivers’ standings at a Silverstone circuit he and MG excel at.
The BTCC champion of 2001 and 2010 sees his title chances hanging on a knife edge with six races to go from the remaining two visits at Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP, lying 55 points behind the emphatic Colin Turkington in the championship standings.
Although, mathematically, Turkington has the opportunity to wrap up his first Drivers’ Championship since 2009 this weekend, the Northern Irishman would need to outscore Plato by 13 points to rule the MG driver out of contention, something which Plato is not looking at as he focuses on maintaining his recently-taken stranglehold on second in the standings at Silverstone.
The 1.64-mile national circuit is a happy hunting ground for Plato, the Oxfordshire-based driver having notched up 10 victories at the home of British motorsport since his debut season in 1997, four of those coming with his current Triple Eight squad in the previous two years with an MG6 suited to the shorter layout.
“The target for Silverstone is simply to win races and score more points than the Honda Team,” said double BTCC champion, Plato.
“We have two jobs at hand; Firstly I need to increase my buffer to Shedden for second place in the Driver’s championship and then we also must increase the lead we have in the Manufacturer’s championship and shut out Honda. I was surprised to see the Hondas suffering at Rockingham; it looked to me as if lady luck wasn’t with them.”
Championship leader Turkington extended his points lead with a double victory at Rockingham three weekends ago, the West Surrey Racing BMW driver having claimed eight wins to his name in 2014 thus far.
Speaking of the the championship leader, Plato added: “There’s not a lot we can do to neutralise him, all we can do is focus on ourselves and do our very best.
“Colin is way out ahead in terms of points, weight corrected qualifying/race pace and start line performance. I’m the only driver to have genuinely beaten Colin since Thruxton. He has won every race one and two apart from when I beat him at Snetterton and then when he had his grid penalty at Knockhill. Whilst we may be quicker this weekend, I still see him ahead of the others.”
Turkington is yet to claim a win around the Silverstone circuit in a BTCC machine however, and told TCF: “There’s still too many races to go yet and so many points up for grabs these days. It’s not over until it’s over, and Silverstone is the one that we think we’re going to have to work really hard at to get some results.”
Plato jumped up to second in the points thanks to a pair of podium finishes at Rockingham, coupled with a disastrous outing for Honda Yuasa Racing‘s Gordon Shedden in Corby, Plato now nine points clear of the 2012 champion.
The battle in the Manufacturers Championship remains fierce between MG and Honda also, the former moving back ahead by just 22 points thanks to the efforts of Plato and team-mate Sam Tordoff, who has claimed back-to-back pole positions at Knockhill and Rockingham.
Team Principal, Ian Harrison, adds that he expects his squad to be right at the sharp end once again this weekend, saying: “I expect us to be at the front this weekend as the best front-wheel-drive team. The championship is up for grabs in terms of the Manufacturer’s title, so we need speed and good reliability all weekend to cement the small advantage we have in the points.
“Both drivers need to achieve a large haul of points for the Team going into Brands to stay in front. As far as the Drivers championship is concerned, its all about Jason building the gap in 2nd place, and him finishing the championship in that position has to be our aim”.
Current Manufacturers Championship Standings:
1) MG/Triple Eight