Wind tunnel and CFD work over the winter will mean the team arrives at Brands Hatch for the season opener with a revised aerodynamic profile for their trio of MG6 GT NGTCs, which has already impressed in winter testing.
With the work the team has done, star driver Plato is confident he'll once again be at the front.
"We were the quickest car out there last year, we should have won the championship and we didn't because we made some mistakes." He said, "that's the main thing, we can't afford any DNFs this year."
2014 will see the return of two of the series' great champions in Fabrizio Giovanardi and Alain Menu, and this is something Plato, a two time title winner himself, is particularly happy about.
"I'm genuinely excited about having them back because they're my professional racing driver sparring partners." He told me. But despite being double champions, Plato doubts they'll be right back up there from the off.
"are they going to be in the running at the early part of the year? You'd probably have to say not as much as they might think they might be. And because of that does that mean they're a force at the end of the year for a championship? I don't know." He added.
As well as the return of two of the BTCC's biggest names, there is set to be a record of grid of 31 cars this season, something the former Chevrolet driver thinks could cause give the to drivers other problems, particularly during qualifying, especially at the shorter tracks on the calendar.
"if there's too many cars on the track, you might not get a lap in and that could screw your weekend up." he conceeded. "That could be the story of Brands, we'll just have to wait and see."
Full Jason Plato interview
Dominik Wilde: People have been saying you look quick in testing this year, what have you done over the winter to improve the car?
Jason Plato: Well there's been a full aero program, both wind tunnel and CFD, that's really been the main focus of the team's development. We haven't got any bits on the car yet, we'll have a new aero package for Brands, and continuing on with our on-going since day one development with springs and dampers. The formula as itself is massively compromised in that we can't do what we want to do to the car because we're not allowed to and it's the same for everybody. Well I say everyone, there's a way of trying to achieve what you want to do by doing weird things and it takes some time to go through all those weird setups and the last two years we've been working steadily away and we've done some different things over the winter which we've tested so far this year and have given the result we're looking for.
Dominik Wilde: Would you say the NGTC rules, in that respect, make it harder for teams because they don't have the freedom?
Jason Plato: I think it probably makes it easier for the not so good teams to get somewhere near and it's frustrating for the big teams as we know exactly what we want to do but we can't do it. We want to get hold of a part, throw it in the bin and redesign it but we're not allowed to, and obviously the independent teams, some of them wouldn't have those skill sets within their organisation to redesign and do stress analysis and all that sort of stuff so in many ways it's probably a good thing. We just have to make sure that when there's the next iteration of re-design the teams are consulted, it just needs to be refined a little bit.
I think we're in really good shape actually, we're in the best shape we ever have been. We know where we fucked up last year with reliability, some of that was just a genuine bit of bad luck and some of it wasn't so we ironed that out, the team's really sharp, everybody's on the ball. This is our year, it's got to be.
Dominik Wilde: So you're certainly expecting to be up there when we start at Brands?
Jason Plato: To be honest I never have not been (laughs) so if I'm not there there's a fucking catastrophic problem! (laughs again) We were the quickest car out there last year, we should have won the championship and we didn't because we made some mistakes. So that's the main thing, we can't afford any DNFs this year. Of course we're going to get one I guess, or two but we can't have five. Five DNFs and a couple of no scores, you can't win a championship like that. So yeah, I'm pretty sure we'll be trading places for pole I would think.
Dominik Wilde: And with seven champions on the grid, you of course being one of them, what's it like to have so many champions on the grid and be in that mix. Is it good to have Fabrizio (Giovanardi) and Alain Menu back as well?
Jason Plato: I'm genuinely excited about having them back because they're my professional racing driver sparring partners. I've had some brilliant races with Alain and learned a tremendous amount from him when I was at Williams and in those days he was the best touring car driver in the world and I was fortunate enough to sit and watch how he goes about his trade and try and learn a bit from him which I managed to do. Fabrizio's just a great, great guy and he's a good bloke, I respect him enormously. So yeah, to have them back is going to be fun. How quick they're going to get on the championship pace, and what I mean by that is not necessarily one lap performance but how well they're going to get their teams working, how well they're going to look after their tyres, are they going to be in the running at the early part of the year? You'd probably have to say not as much as they might think they might be. And because of that does that mean they're a force at the end of the year for a championship? I don't know.
I don't think there's a difference to where we've been in the last couple of years because if it was a piece of piss to win it I would have won 20 times, and I don't so it's tough. There's some good people out there, some good teams but I think what it will do is the quality of racing at the sharp end of the grid will become better.
Dominik Wilde: What about having 32 cars on the grid?
Jason Plato: It's going to be a pain in the arse! (laughs). Well the races look after themselves but it's qualifying. You have to make sure you get a lap in and through no fault of your own, if there's too many cars on the track, you might not get a lap in and that could screw your weekend up. Thre's there (Brands Hatch Indy), there's Knockhill that's going to be tricky to get a lap in. That could be the story of Brands, we'll just have to wait and see.
Dominik Wilde: So would you say the championship could be won or lost on Saturdays?
Jason Plato: Yeah could be, it could be. It's the same for everyone. You've got to make space for yourself, everybody has to be quite disciplined and courteous and you'll always find the more experienced guys are on the ball, they've got eyes in the back of their head and they don't get in people's way and you'll always find it's the inexperienced guys who do get in people's way. It's not because they mean to, it's because they're not on the ball, so that's partly down to TOCA to make sure that a heavy word is said and a forceful word is said, 'look come on guys just give each other a bit of respect and courtesy and if someone's behind just get out the way'. Hopefully half the grid will play ball on that.
Dominik Wilde: Because of that, do you think a split qualifying could be, or qualifying changes, could be on the horizon?
Jason Plato: I think it's unlikely because split qualifying can be very unfair because, take today [Media Day], it could be dry one minute and piss wet through the next. The only way to do it is to have a qualifying session where you eliminate. Have to qualifying sessions where you have everyone goes out, then 10 cars fired off, you're out of the game, or even 15.
Dominik Wilde: So Formula One style?
Jason Plato: Yeah because then you're guaranteed 15 lads will be able to make space for each other. That's the only true way to do it. you couldn't say 'right, half of you go out one session' you've got to say everybody out together. Right there's 30 cars, top 20 go through, that's the only fair way to do it. Maybe, maybe that could be on the cards. Maybe that might be an idea, I guess we'll have to wait and see how many of the top runners clogged up at Brands and if there's loads then there'll be an uproar and we'll all be whinging and moaning, I guess we'll have to wait and see.