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Seat Sport UK: Plato’s emotional return to Brands Hatch

Jason Plato will make an emotional return to Brands Hatch on Sunday 25th April and race on the Kent circuit for the first time since winning the British Touring Car Championship title there in 2001. This time he’ll be driving the all-new SEAT Sport UK Toledo Cupra – the car in which he sensationally won round two of this year’s Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship in at Thruxton, on the team’s BTCC debut.

Plato showed that he has lost none of his superb race craft and skill to win Driver of Day and record an historic maiden victory for the Toledo Cupra at Thruxton (on April 11th). The tighter and twisty Brands Hatch Indy Circuit should suit the car more than the ultra-fast Thruxton track did, but SEAT Sport UK’s aim at Brands Hatch is to collect as much race data as possible – essential at such an early stage of the Toledo Cupra’s BTCC campaign.

Rob Huff didn’t race at Brands Hatch last year either, having already won the Holiday Inn SEAT Cupra Championship title and his place in the SEAT Sport UK BTCC team. He knows the Indy Circuit well and the many overtaking opportunities will suit his driving style. Not finishing the last race at Thruxton means that Rob’s Toledo Cupra will not have any extra weight added to it when it starts at Brands Hatch.

Jason Plato said: “I’m really looking forward to returning to Brands Hatch. The last time I raced there was in October 2001 and I left with the BTCC title and a huge smile on my face! I like Brands and I’ve always raced well there. In theory the tight Indy Circuit should suit the Toledo Cupra better than at Thruxton because there aren’t so many long straights, but once again I’m not making any predictions. Winning at Thruxton was fantastic, but it was also a surprise. Our race plan certainly worked there and if we walk away from Brands with some more points we’ll be happy.”

Rob Huff said: “I’m really revved up after the team’s success at Thruxton and my aim at Brands will be to finish all three races. I know I have the pace, I started fifth and was up to second in the second race at Thruxton, and I know what I need to focus on. I like Brands Hatch, although I’ve only raced there once before in a front-wheel drive car as most of my previous outings have been in single seaters and my old rear-wheel drive MGB. I’ll be starting with no ballast in my car, so I’ll be looking to exploit that for sure.”

The SEAT Toledo Cupra will venture out onto the Brands Hatch circuit for the very first time at 10.05 on Saturday 24th April, when the first of two 40 minute free practice sessions gets underway in preparation for the single 30 minute qualifying session at 15.25.

Qualifying determines the grid for the first of three 24 lap BTCC races around the 1.22 mile Brands Hatch Indy Circuit (round 4 of the series), all of which take place on Sunday 25th April. Round 4 will start at 11.30, and the result of that race will determine the grid positions for Round 5, with the top 10 starting in reverse order. Round 6 starts at 13.30, and the results of that race will determine the grid positions for Race 3 at 16.10.

It happened at Brands Hatch

Brands Hatch has been a happy hunting ground for Jason in the past, as he clinched both the 1999 Renault Spider Cup and 2001 BTCC titles there.

Rob worked briefly as a driving instructor at Brands Hatch. That didn’t stop him almost rolling his Clio at 90mph at Dingle Dell in 2002 though!

Brands Hatch has been the scene of many a close battle between Jason and James Thompson. In 1997, James was none-too impressed with one of Jason’s manoeuvres, as it put him out of the race. Whilst Jason was on a pit-stop, James ran down the pit lane towards him, arms waving and ready to give Jason a good ear full. This run was captured on Jason’s in-car camera and later edited in slow motion, set to the music from Chariots of Fire and given to Jason as a memento!

Rob clinched 2nd place in the 2000 Palmer Audi Winter Series at Brands Hatch, having climbed from 17th to 5th in just eight laps of the Indy Circuit on the final race of the championship.

Having been crowned Renault Spider Drivers’ Champion, Jason and some of his racing rivals decided to celebrate the end of season by partying in drag. Thinking that they would be the only ones left in the hotel on the Sunday night, they walked, in stilettos, straight into the rest of the racing fraternity who had also decided to return home on Monday morning. “I was in this saucy black dress and in full lipstick and make-up,” remembers Jason. “Walking into a bar dressed as a woman and straight into a load of my race mechanics who I thought had gone home was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.”

Rob did a rare thing when he raced his MGB last at Brands Hatch – he stopped before the finish line to let a rival win. Spencer McCarthy had got crossed-up in more ways than one at Paddock Hill Bend and Rob and, with nowhere to go, Rob hit him – ironically back in the direction he was supposed to be heading. “There was a lot of fist waving coming from Spencer’s car,” remembers Rob. “I didn’t mean to upset him so I thought I’d let him win to cheer him up – after all, I only race MGs for a bit of fun!”

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