This weekend I was at Rockingham for the British GT & F3 championships where I witnessed Felipe Nasr win the F3 title and ex BTCC driver Jonny Adam win the first race of the season for the Beechdean Aston Martin team alongside Andrew Howard. Also this weekend another ex BTCC driver Steven Kane won the American Le Mans series race at Baltimore with Humaid Al Masaood.
Meanwhile, it was all kicking off north of the border in Scotland as Knockhill hosted the British Touring Car Championships. Whilst there were many talking points throughout the event, the main one involved Jason Plato and Tom Boardman in race three. With the current champion leading, Boardman was close behind seeking his first race win. It was obvious the Seat Leon was faster in a straight line and as the pair started lap 4 the Chevrolet received a nudge from behind under braking for the first turn. However, a subsequent nudge further into the first complex was enough to send Plato off and into the tyre wall leaving Boardman to claim his first BTCC Victory.
Now whilst there was contact, it was slight and probably avoidable but on another day in another situation would not have led to a retirement. However opinions are divided as to whether there should have been punishment handed to Boardman as a result. Obviously, Plato himself was not happy, but had the roles been reversed, I’m sure he would have written it off as a racing incident. While he is never happy to be on the receiving end, he has given out more than his fair share of contact in the past.
We can all argue and debate this subject for a long while, as all the Plato fans will disagree with the non Plato fans and vice versa. That’s fair enough. We all love rivalries and let’s face it, you get heated debates in all sports from rival fans. However, I would like to think that nearly every fan of Jason Plato would agree that his angry response on Twitter that evening, plenty of time after the ‘heat of the moment’ was totally unacceptable. To call a fellow competitor a ‘Talentless Pikey’ stepped way beyond the boundary of professionalism. Whilst there maybe one or two drivers in the championship who’s talent could be debated, Tom Boardman is not one of them. Jason’s response to a BTCC fan and twitter user who told him it was a stupid thing to say was also unacceptable and showed him for the ungracious and sore loser he can be.
Jason is a well regarded driver, for that there is no doubt and a role model to many. Also, as a representative of the BRDC he should be setting an example and acting in a professional manner. There are many sports stars who have landed themselves in hot water over comments on twitter and I would like to think this situation doesn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be. At the very least, a public and personal apology should be made.
There are many good racing drivers out there that struggle to get sponsors and a budget together to enable them to get a race seat. Good PR and a strong fan base help these guys no end. This isn’t the case for Jason Plato, sponsorship deals and public exposure come along frequently to add to his extensive fan base and many teams would offer him a race seat at the drop of a hat. If a young upcoming driver had his attitude and behaved the way he does at times, then they would no doubt be kicked out of a team quite quickly. Unfortunately, Plato is a big draw for the BTCC and he knows that. He loves being a big fish in a small pond and is happy to voice his opinions when it suits him. He is quick to criticise others but doesn’t consider his own actions and their possible consequences. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, no man is bigger than the British Touring Car Championships and it will continue to survive without him. I have no problem with drivers showing passion, but he went beyond that and I hope someone makes him realise the error of his ways pretty soon.