Jason Plato and Colin Turkington sent shockwaves through the BTCC paddock at the weekend as their history-making Subaru Levorgs found their race pace for the first time at Oulton Park.
Double champion Plato had promised a podium finish ahead of racing, quite a claim given the Adrian Flux-sponsored Silverline Team BMR cars had been down the field in the opening two rounds – and failed to make the starting grid at all at Thruxton on safety grounds.
But boy, did he and team-mate Turkington deliver, the latter taking pole and a first ever BTCC win for Subaru in race one (also a first race win for a flat four engine) with Plato charging up to third from sixth on the grid.
A second place for Turkington and two further thirds for Plato in races two and three confirmed the impression the Levorgs would be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.
Plato had remained philosophical at the car’s early-season troubles, always insisting that once the Subaru’s set up was right, it would scare the life out of the more established BTCC players.
“I’ve had an inner calm about this project for the past five years, but it’s understandable that others may have started to get twitchy because we hadn’t been delivering the goods,” he said.
“Thruxton was a massive kick in the backside for us; it was a very tough call to make and I’ve never done anything like that in my career before.
“So we really needed this weekend – the account’s been opened, we’ve made a deposit, and now we’re looking for great things.”
The scary prospect for their rivals is that Plato is confident there is further improvement to come from a car that’s effectively been tested in public in the opening rounds.
“We’ve definitely got improvements to make in the chassis, in the set-up, and the way we drive the cars, which are very different to anything else,” he added.
“There’s a different vibe in the paddock now. We’ve got the best technical package by a country mile and now we’ve found the sweet spot we are going to be dangerous. This year, sooner rather than later, we’ll be virtually invincible in a straight fight. This is a goliath slayer.
“Everyone has known its potential and they were quietly nervous; now it’s full on anxiety. I’m more excited about the next five years than I ever have been in my career because we’ve got some magic to play with.”
Anyone who knows anything about motorsport will know of Subaru’s rallying excellence – it’s a company that takes winning seriously – and its unparalleled fan loyalty, a factor not lost on Plato.
“Part of the attraction of Subaru was its huge and loyal fan base – they’re no longer part of the rallying scene, and it seems from the weekend that a lot of those fans looking for a motorsport outlet have switched to the circuit to follow the team,” said the BTCC’s winning-most driver.
“It’s a great brand with an enormous following, and we’re delighted to have them on board.”
Next round: Croft, June 18 and 19