Jason Plato experienced highs and lows at the opening round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch earlier this month. He showed fantastic pace in his Team BMR Volkswagen CC, but lost a potential race win when a puncture pitched him off the circuit.
He's heading to Donington Park in confident mood, thanks to a car that's free from success ballast, and the fact he qualified on pole position there in 2014. Here is his guide to the optimum lap around the track:
“You can see as I cross the line to start the lap, there are a couple of cars in front of me. If I had been in a testing session I would have aborted the lap but when you are in qualifying mode, with all the tyres and brakes up to the right temperature, you simply have to go for it anyway.
"Your pulse is generally a bit higher on a qualifying lap, but you can’t get too wound up with traffic and then make a mistake because of that. You flash your lights like crazy and hope they move out of the way but it is just something that you have to deal with.
“I was flat-out down the Craner Curves and then we get to the Old Hairpin right-hander, which is a real test. You have to make up your mind before you get there about how much of the corner you are going to bite off. It is a bit of guestimation.
"It is like biting in to a chilli – you have to decide how brave you are going to be and then commit to it. You have to be over the normal limit because if you are on the normal limit, you will not be fast enough. It is a question of how brave you really want to be.
“It is a corner that when you get it right, you always think you could have done quicker but you will see that I am sliding around on opposite lock there. That means I gave it all I could.
“McLean’s is another corner where you use guesswork. It is hard to get right and there is gravel right on the edge, so the penalty for getting it wrong is harsh.
“Then it is up to Coppice, and you are judging the feeling that the car has given you from Redgate, the Old Hairpin and McLean’s to give you the confidence to attack there. As I come out of the corner, you can hear the car bog down – we had a small electrical issue that cost us a tenth of a second or so.
“The chicane at the end of the lap is always a compromise. You have a delta time on the dashboard where you can see how the lap has gone. Because the straight before it is nice and long, the data catches up with itself and it is pretty accurate by the time you get to the braking zone.
"That means you have a important choice to make – do you push it and try and grab as much kerb as you can, and risk losing time? Or do you back it off and try to keep it safe? Personally, if I am up on time, I will try to go at about 95 per cent to bank the lap time. When you get it right, Donington Park is a very satisfying lap.”