Jason Plato was a picture of frustration after what he described as his “worst ever touring car weekend” at Donington Park.
But the two-time BTCC champion put his own woes aside to praise Adrian Flux Subaru Racing teammate Ash Sutton, who grabbed two podium finishes in the generally under-performing Subaru Levorg.
Plato was also quick to put his own racing troubles in perspective after the terrible accident that has left young F4 driver Billy Monger with life-changing injuries at the Derbyshire track.
“I’m thinking of Billy and his family and friends,” he said. A Just Giving page has been set up to help the 17-year-old rebuild his life after the accident.
Plato, who had such high pre-season hopes but has finished down the field at both Brands Hatch and now Donington, blamed a lack of power and the new centre of gravity regulations for his own disappointing showing.
After retiring in race one with an engine problem – “the car was going backwards at a rate of knots” – Plato struggled towards the rear in races two and three as Sutton battled at the front of the pack to snatch two third-placed finishes.
“All weekend I just had no power,” he said. “I’d get past on the corner but was being overtaken two or three at a time on the straights. Our engines are not producing the power like the rest of them and we have no control over that. We’re so slow in a straight line.
“The centre of gravity regulation destroyed our chassis – the car’s not working as well, or as balanced, as it used to. It’s very frustrating.”
With the flat-four powered Levorg’s natural centre of gravity advantage now blunted, Plato said the engine needs more boost to be truly competitive, despite Sutton’s improved showing.
“I’m very pleased for Ash – he drove brilliantly and had a brilliant race weekend. But you should not read too much into that from the perspective of the performance of the cars in general,” he added, with teammates Josh Price and James Cole also struggling at the rear all weekend.
“Taking nothing away from Ash, he raced at the sharp end of the grid. Everybody’s got relatively good corner speed and there’s a rhythm and a momentum to the race. If you’re near the back it all stops in the corners and our performance is all in the corners.
“He drove a great race one and then had the benefit of that better grid position and the softer tyres. But unless we fix our power, then it’s possible Ash will have a weekend like mine.”
In the meantime, work is underway ahead of Thruxton on May 6 and 7, with Plato not convinced his car has fully recovered from hitting the pit wall at Brands Hatch.
“We are looking into my engine, maybe something’s happened after the crash,” he said.
“But it’s clear to see with the boost level which has been given to us, our engine isn’t producing the power it should be. I’d say we’re 30 to 40hp down on where we need to be. We just can’t compete while we’ve got no engine power.”