British Touring Car Championship star Jason Plato, who has won a record 98 races in the category, will not compete this season after the Power Maxed Racing squad decided to focus its resources on 2021.
The Power Maxed squad has competed in the BTCC since 2015, and has run a pair of Vauxhall Astras since 2017. Plato joined the outfit last year, and won the final race of the season at Brands Hatch.
Plato was due to be joined by BTCC race winner Mat Jackson for this year, but the squad has said it will not run in the disrupted 27-race season that is due to begin at Donington Park on 2 August. Team boss Adam Weaver said the decision was “the right thing for us to do in order to preserve our resources for next year. I want to clarify that this is in no way us ‘giving up’. We are simply hitting the pause button on these agreements.”
Weaver said that all sponsorship and branding agreements would be carried over until 2021, adding: “It means we’ve got even more time to develop the Astras and will come out of the blocks fighting next March.”
Plato made his debut in the BTCC with the works Renault squad in 1997 and, aside from a two-year stint in the oval-based Ascar stock car series in 2002/03, has been a regular frontrunner since then. He has started 599 races and has scored two championships, in 2001 and 2010, alongside his record 98 race wins.
Power Maxed has confirmed Plato will return with the team next year. Plato, 52, said: “It may not be what people want to hear, and we are all gutted to not be racing as we had planned but the really important thing is to make sure we are in a position to race again in 2021 and for many years beyond, and this was the best way for us all to guarantee that.”
The team said that Jackson will have “first option” to drive for the team next year, and Power Maxed added it is aiming to run a car as an independent entry at BTCC rounds this year, running either young talents or established touring car stars who aren’t committed to a full season.
The decision by Power Maxed not to compete this year comes shortly after former BTCC champion Andrew Jordan stood down from his drive with Team BMW due to a financial shortfall. Both decisions are related to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Series boss Alan Gow said: “These are trying times for everyone, but we will all weather the storm by supporting each other as best we can.”