JASON Plato hopes he has finally lifted the Croft ‘jinx’ after taking a spectacular win in Sunday afternoon’s final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at the Darlington track.
The former Kings School in Tynemouth pupil managed to salvage his championship chase in the third race of the day as he took the chequered flag after a tough afternoon.
“It feels like we’ve broken the jinx, because every time I come to Croft I seem to have a little bit of bad luck,” he said. “Hopefully now after this, next time we come here things might be different.”
Despite being an early pace setter during Saturday’s free practice sessions, Plato’s run of bad luck showed no sign of ending when his MG KX Momentum Racing MG6 broke down in qualifying as he was about to start a fast lap in his bid for pole.
He qualified fifth for the opening race, but his Croft curse struck again when he stopped on the way to the grid with more electrical problems. Getting back to his garage he was able to join later in the race for some track time, but eventually pitted for good.
As a result he had it all to do in Race Two as he lined up 21st, with arch-rival Matt Neal - who had taken pole in qualifying and won the first race - started from the top spot.
But it was to be one of his most memorable drives of the season so far as he stormed through the pack, taking three places in one fell swoop as he passed Frank Wrathall, Tony Gilham and team-mate Andy Neate at the Hairpin to eventually cross the line seventh.
As Race Three got underway, it was Nick Foster’s eBay Motors BMW which led the way, having started from pole as a result of the reversed grid system. But he soon surrendered the lead to Plato’s team-mate Andy Neate.
Moments later the Safety Car was deployed as marshals battled to retrieve the cars of Lea Wood and Liam Griffin which had crashed heavily at the tough Tower Bend, giving the pack the chance to group up together.
At the restart, Plato - who had already made it up to fourth place before the drama - made easy work of Wrathall’s Dynojet Toyota Avensis to move into third, before taking second a lap later when Robert Collard slid wide at Tower.
He soon caught up to team-mate Neate, and a few laps later made the move for the lead. Once in front he eked out a comfortable lead to cruise to his 70th BTCC career win.
“When I got up to second I sensed that Andy was starting to struggle for raw speed, plus there were a lot of drivers starting to gang up behind us so I had to go for it,” he explained.
“After a tough day, with problems in the first race that put us on the back foot, it’s satisfying to finish off with a win.
“Today’s win was crucial in making sure we keep the Hondas in sight but, as a team, we are still learning about the MG6. It’s important we manage our expectations but we have a few test days planned for the break.”