Amid the launch of the new F1 season, one rather important piece of motorsport news seems to have slid past relatively un-noticed. We need to put that straight, because BTCC legend Andy Rouse’s stubborn 19-year-old record of 60 British Touring Car victories is no more.
If you’re a follower of the slidey, three-abreast Touring Car mayhem – and you really should be – the new incumbent will be no surprise. Yes, it’s tousle-haired wheelsmith and minor TV celebrity Jason Plato. His double win driving a works Chevrolet Cruze at Brands Hatch last weekend took his personal victory count to 62, making him officially the best BTCC driver in history. And we reckon it’s going to be quite some time before anyone troubles this particular landmark.
As the Top Gear office features a few of Jason’s former acquaintances, we phoned the man himself this morning to congratulate him, and it’s fair to say he’s rather chuffed: ‘I haven’t dropped Andy a text to tell him that he’s out of the history books yet, but I will. I’d still like to have driven some of his cars, though. The hairy-assed Ford Sierra RS500 would have been awesome – you could drive sideways in those things and still be quick.’
Plato’s career started in an altogether less hairy works Renault Laguna in 1997. He got pole position on his first ever outing and scooped his first victory at an end-of-season race at Snetterton. Not bad.
‘After Renault I moved on to Vauxhall,’ says Plato. ‘The old Vectra was probably the worst car I’ve driven, though – it just didn’t work very well – but they sorted themselves out with the Astra. It was probably the best touring car in the world at the time. I won in it a couple of times, too.’
His highest win density was at Seat, where he claimed 32 victories between 2004 and 2008 in petrol and diesel Leons before moving on to Chevrolet. The ex-Ascar driver, who won the BTCC title for the second time last season, is now eight points clear of Mat Jackson at the top of the Championship.
He’ll be racing at the second meeting at Donington in Leicester on April 17, but if you can’t wait till then, here’s just a couple of videos of Plato and Rouse being awesome. There are many more out there: