PLATO IN RML CHEVROLET FOR BRANDS HATCH SEASON OPENER Jason Plato in a privately-entered RML Chevrolet Lacetti is a dramatic late entry for Sunday's (5 April) opening round of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands ...
PLATO IN RML CHEVROLET FOR BRANDS HATCH SEASON OPENER
Jason Plato in a privately-entered RML Chevrolet Lacetti is a dramatic late entry for Sunday's (5 April) opening round of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch.
Oxford-based Plato, one of the BTCC's star attractions and who has become an arch rival to Vauxhall's reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi in recent years, had looked likely to sit out 2009 after his SEAT team withdrew at the end of last season.
But this morning Plato and the Wellingborough-based RML squad - which runs Chevrolet's World Touring Car programme - have struck a late deal to appear at Brands Hatch this weekend.
And Plato's appearance is sure to add to the huge excitement that always surrounds the start of a new BTCC season as he once again prepares to go doorhandle-to-doorhandle with the likes of fellow top-line touring car names such as Giovanardi, Matt Neal, Colin Turkington and Tom Chilton.
Both Plato and the RML squad have enjoyed huge success in the BTCC, the UK's premier motor racing championship. Plato won the Drivers' crown in 2001 while RML achieved a total of seven Drivers', Teams' and Manufacturers' titles when it ran Vauxhall's and then Nissan's factory BTCC programmes in the Nineties.
However, its participation at Brands Hatch this weekend with one of its 2008-spec Lacettis is very much independent to its WTCC role with Chevrolet.
Plato, aged 41, said he was ecstatic about being able to race at Brands Hatch - he previously raced with RML when it ran SEAT's factory cars for a season in 2004's BTCC - but he also urged caution about the challenges ahead.
He commented: "This was too good an opportunity to miss. The BTCC has played such an important role in my life so being at Brands Hatch is hugely important to me personally. Whether my being there makes Fabrizio look over his shoulder I don't know - all I know is that my job is not to make it easy for him, or indeed for any other driver on the grid.
"At the moment, we don't know how long we'll be around. We're trying tremendously hard behind the scenes to put together a full programme for 2009. Right now, I'm just very excited to be teaming back up with some good friends and respected colleagues at RML.
"We are so going into this as the underdogs, without a shadow of a doubt. But I've got great confidence in RML's abilities to engineer a racing car and I've got to draw upon all my experience because I'm probably going to be a bit rusty. If we can get within 20 per cent of what Brawn GP did in Melbourne then we'll be doing well. We're certainly not there to make up the numbers.
"We'll be going into this with no running, except for a shakedown. All the BTCC cars run on Dunlop tyres and fine-tuning the Chevrolet so it gets the most out of them in the limited time we will have available is going to be a considerable hurdle. We just don't know how it's going to react so let's just see what develops. If there's anyone who can get to the bottom of any problems we find quickly, then it's RML."
RML Chief Executive Ray Mallock said: "I echo Jason's sentiments exactly - it was too good an opportunity to miss! There's a convenient gap in the WTCC calendar, meaning some of our personnel were available for Brands and we have some 2008 kit still lying around so it would have been a shame not to put it to good use at Brands Hatch. Plus, Jason is very well known at RML - it's a perfect combination and we're all delighted even if it is a last minute entry that we can be on the BTCC grid together again."