Plato prepares to take on Snetterton’s straights

After the “perfect storm” of Croft, Snetterton’s long straights are likely to pose an entirely different problem for Jason Plato when the BTCC rolls into Norfolk this weekend.

Plato shared a front row lock out and a race one podium with teammate Ash Sutton at the rear wheel drive friendly Yorkshire circuit before the competition’s summer break, with Sutton also winning race two.

It marked a significant turnaround for Adrian Flux Subaru Racing, and the post-racing question on everyone’s lips was: is this a turning point or a circuit-specific result?

We’ll find out in Norfolk, as the BTCC celebrates its Diamond Jubilee with a double-points, 60-mile race with its own separate qualification.

And while Plato is confident that further improvements have been made to the Levorg’s cooling system during the two-day testing session at Snetterton earlier this month, he’s wary of making any bold claims about his chances this weekend.

Work behind the scenes…

Photo credit: Gergo Toth Photography. Also main image.

“We made some good progress, working on the chassis, braking and various different differential set ups,” he said.

“Each time we made a change, thought about it, adjusted it, we were slowly chipping away and making the car easier to drive and faster.

“We made some good gains on the cooling, which is now at an acceptable level we believe, but we will never really know until the heat of battle.

“What was apparent is that we’re still a long way away in terms of straight line performance and that’s a concern, but then it always is.

“We’ve just got to do the best we can and try and get the car really sharp and get everything out of the chassis and then we will be where we will be. Hopefully we can make up some time in the corners and on the brakes to negate some of the losses in the straight bits.

“We’re doing everything we can to maximise performance out of the engine, go there and try and produce the best result possible.”

Straight line performance still needs work…

Photo credit: Gergo Toth Photography.

Where Croft was tailor-made for the Levorg, Snetterton’s two long straights are likely to shine a harsh light on the Subaru’s lack of grunt – unless the Team BMR drivers can put the car at the front of the grid.

“We had the perfect storm at Croft – a very abrasive circuit, hot track temperatures, rear wheel drive friendly and running little success ballast, plus getting it right on the day,” said Plato.

“We could put the thing at the sharp end and in clean air you can circulate round quickly and what we lose on the straights we can make up in the corners.

“Take the perfect storm away, go to a circuit less rear wheel drive friendly, less abrasive tarmac, not as grippy, with really long straights and a lot of medium-to-slow speed exits and we may struggle to do the lap time.

“If we’re not at the front of the grid it’s almost impossible to race other cars because they pull away down the straights.

“You close up in the corner and lose down the straights. At the end of the straight you’re never in a position to overtake because you’re too far away.”

A good grid position is vital…

Plato explained how a good grid position can make such a dramatic difference in a car with such a specific set of attributes, and handicaps, as the Levorg.

“If we’re in the top 6-8 cars then the pace of the lap is generally better around the corners than if you’re down in 15th,” he said.

“If you find yourself there, guys are going round the corner slower, things concertina up and there’s more of a risk of a car driving past you down the straight so you have to defend, which compounds the problem.

“If we’re near the front and we can get through the corners quicker, using our chassis, there’s a better chance we can hold on down the straight.

“If we can go off the front two rows we can have a decent weekend – if we can’t it could be a long, hard frustrating weekend.”

 Longer racing plus double points set to make interesting racing

Plato, twice BTCC champion, believes the double points race, run over 20 laps instead of the usual 12, will provide a fascinating insight into the relative pace of every car on the grid – as well as playing into the hands of rear wheel drive cars.

“The rear wheel drive cars wear out all four tyres more evenly, whereas they tend to wear out just the fronts,” he said.

“If the fronts start to go your performance drops off a cliff, so I’m predicting front wheel drive cars will struggle, rear wheel drive do better because of physics.

“Everybody will be running base weight, with no success ballast, so it will really show how quick people are down the straights. That race will be a really true picture of people’s engine performance…”

It could all fall into place for the BMWs, with a combination of rear wheel drive and engine power down the straights, but Plato said: “My elbows will be out as far as I can get them out.”

Saturday’s qualifying is live on ITV online at 3.05pm and 5.35pm, with racing live on ITV4 from 10.30am on Sunday.

Find out more about Adrian Flux’s Track Day Insurance.


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