Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Plato's Philosophy

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Plato's Philosophy

Article excerpt

If you finish second, you're the first of the losers

THE all-action Green Flag British Touring Car Championship roars into town this weekend.

And one man aiming to make his mark at Croft Circuit is 2001 champion Jason Plato.

Now based in Monaco, the Newcastle-born race ace returned to the series this season with the new SEAT Sport UK team.

He wasted no time in rattling off his first victory and remains hopeful of a top three finish in the final standings.

"It's great to be back up here," said Plato, now a successful TV presenter as well as a racing driver.

"It's an opportunity to meet up with friends and I'll probably stay around for about a week afterwards too.

"You always get a good crowd at Croft. They don't get top level motorsport there very often whereas at Silverstone they are bombarded with it."

Plato's last appearance at Croft came with the visit of the SEAT Cupra Championship in May last year, when he and former model Nell McAndrew fronted the Racing Rivals TV docu-soap that followed the series.

You've probably seen him on ITV1's Speed Sunday and Fifth Gear on Channel 5 - but he remains a racing driver first.

"Television is not my primary focus," he stressed. It has integrated well with my motorsport and it's another feather in my cap.

"Apart from Jenson Button I'm probably the best-known driver in the UK, so it's something that other drivers don't have."

Plato quit the BTCC as champion in 2001, but made a dream return to the series by taking his SEAT Toledo Cupra to victory in only his second race back at Thruxton in April.

"It's fantastic to be back and to be with a team so colourful and professional," he said.

"If I'm honest, we were all surprised to win at Thruxton - after all we're racing against the best people in the world at this game.

"It was fantastic to be making history - it was SEAT's first win globally.

"And it would have been our first one-two as well, had Robert Huff not been disqualified."

He scored his second win of the year at Mondello Park last month but he stressed that, however difficult it may be for him, this year is about development rather than winning.

"This year is about developing the car so that next year we can mount a full-on assault on the championship," he explained.

Testing regulations are notoriously strict in the BTCC and he added: "Because of that we have no technical data.

"It's a new team so we'll take the car to a track for race weekend and we have nothing to compare it to.

"Testing and development is done over race weekend.

"That's when we have to try things out.

"Sometimes we know we have got a fair chance of doing well, sometimes we know that we won't - but we have to do it anyway because we've got no option.

"We want to learn as much as we can so that we can go on an all-out championship attack next season. …

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