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Plato: "I'm very much looking forward to Brands"

Wednesday, March 26 2014

Double Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato heads to Brands Hatch this weekend (29/30 March) as a favourite for race victories as he gets his 2014 title campaign off the starting blocks.

The MG team's lead driver has been uncharacteristically quiet during the winter, however he insists there is no underlying reason for this: "Just plans when you have two businesses, two kids, a wife, television commitments, you just get busy!"

His time has also been taken by testing commitments, as the Triple 8 squad adds further development miles to the MG6. The car dominated on occasion last year, but Plato isn't sure that will be the case in 2014. "I don't know. I honestly don't know," he admitted. "You never know until you get out there because with pre-season testing you don't know what anyone else is doing, how much boost people are running or how heavy their cars are. I think it's fair to say that we are better prepared than we have been since the programme began, because we now understand the car better in the wet, we've got some genuine manufactured development parts coming for race one. I'd be surprised if we're not in the mix."

Despite having a third driver to help drive this development, Jason doesn't see this as a particular advantage: "To be honest, Marc Hynes is not in our team, so from my perspective he's one of the enemy. He's a close enemy, his car is prepared by Triple 8, but he's not there to help me. I'm sure there will be a system, and it makes sense for us to assist in some areas to get him up to speed as fast as we can. I'm not sure how it's going to pan out."

The 'enemies' include returning champions Alain Menu and Fabrizio Giovanardi. Having competed against both in the past, Jason welcomes their return with enthusiasm: "Absolutely, two guys I respect enormously. I learnt a lot of my trade from Alain when I paired up with him on my debut at Williams in 1997, and back in those days he was the best Touring Car driver in the world, so that was probably one of the best things that ever happened in my career. Likewise Fabrizio, out of all the very top people I've ever raced against, he's the one who I get on with the best. A very healthy friendly rivalry where no quarter is given, but nevertheless there's a lot of mutual respect there from both sides. To have them in the mix will just be ace for all of us."

Nevertheless Jason isn't one to feel under pressure from the increased competition this year. "That depends who you are," he argues. "If you're saying that to the person who qualifies last at all the races, you're probably right. But if you're saying that to one of the leading contenders then I don't necessarily agree. I think it's going to be competitive, I also think it will take Alain and Fabrizio a bit of time to get everything working the way they want, but I still think you'll see the usual characters at the sharp end of the grid. You know, every year is hard! It's just another year of motor racing with some great people in it and it'll be really hard to win."

So fully fired up after the winter, Jason can't wait for the weekend: "I'm very much looking forward to it. Brands Hatch is a circuit I love, I've had some great success there over the years. We're obviously going with the mindset that we want to be winning some races and spraying champagne and obviously because we do that we get to kiss some girls as well!"

Tickets for the opening round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch on 29/30 March are available from £26, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.