He may not have troubled the podium after a luckless weekend at Silverstone, but Jason Plato still managed to raise one of the biggest smiles of the afternoon.
Nursing his accident-damaged Subaru towards the hospitality area during the final race of the day, the two-time BTCC champion grabbed an impromptu pint of lager before catching a lift back to the pits from Andrew Jordan.
Plato’s quick livener was caught on TV cameras and beamed around the circuit, but it was scant consolation for another frustrating day in a troubled season.
“It was from one of my sponsors in the hospitality suite,” said Plato. “I thought ‘I’m parking outside here, I’m thirsty, I’ve got no more driving to do, having a rubbish day, I’m having a pint’.”
Pretty much anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Adrian Flux Subaru Racing driver, from a black flag in qualifying that pegged him to 11th on the grid, to being hit in race one when making progress and then that race-ending smash in the finale.
“The balls just aren’t rolling in my direction this year,” he said. “I was a bit disappointed in qualifying. I reckon I could have put myself third on the grid, but got black flagged for no reason. You’re meant to have three warnings, but I had no warnings. We’ve looked at the on-board video and I wasn’t outside track limits once.
“Then I got wiped out in race one. I had a brilliant start and I was looking all right and then just got wiped out. Ironically it was James Cole who hit me, but he was hit from behind by Shedden I believe. It turned me round at 110mph and that was that.
“Once you have a bad event then you’re back in the pack again, and it’s difficult to overtake round Silverstone because we’ve got no power. Once you’re at the back with people that have got no success ballast and no corner speed you start to lose all momentum.
“I had a good second race to get up to 15th but then I was taken out in race three. Turkington went off the corner before, got back on and got caught up with my incident, which helped Ash out!”
Team-mate Ash Sutton, of course, had been penalised for contact while overtaking chief title rival Colin Turkington in race two, forcing the championship leader to the back of the grid for race three.
According to the Plato, the stewards’ decision to reverse the placings and demote Sutton to the rear was “utter rubbish”.
“I don’t believe he deserved that penalty,” he said. “I think Turkington pushed him off the track, and it’s a race full of incidents. There were plenty of other things that happened in that race that weren’t even looked at.
“But Ash got away with it. The sun was shining on him on Sunday, he’s still in the lead and it’s all working well.
“We’ve got to get him to win the thing, and it will be fantastic if he does.”
With a boost reduction before Silverstone affecting the Subaru Levorg’s straight-line speed, Plato is hopeful – but not expectant – that the power will be restored for the finale at Brands Hatch.
“I’ll be very, very annoyed if we don’t get some power back,” he said. “We can show with the data how slow we are in a straight line, but we should still be strong at Brands Hatch.
“The car will be great there – it’s a perfect circuit for us. It’s corner speed dependent, and we have a really good chassis, which is what you need around there. You do need grunt round there, but it’s a chassis circuit for sure.”
Even though Plato’s own hopes of a third BTCC title disappeared long ago thanks to handling issues that dogged him for most of the season, he’s fully behind 23-year-old Sutton and can’t wait for the denouement on the GP circuit at Brands on October 1.
“It’s all set up and Ash has the advantage,” he said. “It will be very interesting. We are all set, everybody will be on tenterhooks, people will be on edge and it’s going to be an exciting, fantastic finale.
“I’ll start off with no ballast, and if we had the power we fully deserve there’s a chance I could win all three races
“I have a great history around the Brands Hatch GP circuit, and I’ll be up there doing my bit, playing the game and trying to get Ash over the line.”