Jason Plato is hoping to finally kickstart this most frustrating of BTCC seasons at Croft this weekend, as he enters qualifying with competitive power under the bonnet for the first time.
The Adrian Flux Subaru Racing Levorgs were granted additional boost for qualifying at Oulton Park, and then a further increase for the Sunday’s racing.
And it showed, with Ash Sutton winning his first race for Team BMR and Plato wrestling his understeering car to the fringes of the leading pack for the first time since the opening race of the season at Brands Hatch.
This weekend, they go into qualifying with that additional boost, which Plato hopes will see him racing at the sharp end of the grid for the first time in 2017.
Although the planned back-to-back test with Ash Sutton’s race-winning Subaru Levorg was postponed, the Team BMR engineers have been through Plato’s car with a fine-toothed comb, and all the two-time champion can do now is hope they have solved the issue that reared its head after the big smash in race two at Brands.
“We’re going to arrive at Croft with the engine power we had at Oulton Park, which is significantly more than we’ve had, and we are a lot closer than we were,” said Plato.
“Come qualifying we will be in much stronger shape than we were – we had an engine increase for Sunday, but not for qualifying.
“I’m going to go with determined grit to try and get a result and try and understand how we can make my car tick.
“If we have the same sort of issues with the car this weekend it’s clear we’ve got an issue and the only way we will understand it is to drive both cars and see what the difference is on identical set ups.”
Plato has been struggling with understeer since that fateful crash into the pit wall that derailed his season before it had even begun.
“Historically I can’t drive massively understeering cars – I need a car with a very strong front end and for some reason my car hasn’t got a very strong front end and it appears Ash’s has,” he said.
“You can see that my car has much more understeer than Ash’s. So many things can make a difference racing – we’re talking a few 10ths of a second, but it’s those 10ths that make a difference.
“Ash drove my car pre season at Pembury and said he wanted exactly what I had. At the pre season test my car felt great, then Brands Hatch, bang, and it hasn’t worked since then.
“It’s possible that the way the cars are now, with the centre of gravity adjustment, has affected me more than Ash. I don’t think it is that, but it’s possible.”
Plato again stressed the importance of racing at the sharp end of the grid, rather than starting way back in the pack as he has done for most of the season.
“I don’t have any success ballast, which should help me get nearer the front. You’ve got to be at the sharp end on the grid because racing is very different back in the pack – people’s corner speed isn’t as good as it is at the top end of the grid, so engine performance level is even more important in the middle or back.
“I’m looking forward to the weekend, going into free practice and qualifying in much better shape with power and torque than we ever have and that’s going to be great.”
Live coverage of the racing is on ITV4 from 11.15am.