David Bartrum's Blog
Motorbase BTCC blog – 30-8-12
The Knockhill race weekend was very good. Sunday was a great day for Aron and he kept up his pace from Snetterton into qualifying and the races. He had some good hard battles and just missed out on his first podium, but it is coming. He showed some real determination. There was an incident with Mr Plato, but we will touch on that later. It was really good to see the pace that Aron had. Unfortunately in the last race he had a power steering problem: it is very rough over the kerbs, not to mention the two monster saves he made, and sometimes the power steering decides it wants to be re-set. It's a standard road car based system on the S2000 cars and quite frankly I don't think Ford had Knockhill in mind when they designed it!
We were also very upbeat about the NGTC car. Three more races and more good results, although in the second race we broke the exhaust. Mat was going round and we could see the exhaust hanging out the side of the car and we could see that he kept opening the door because of the fumes. We kept telling him to come in and then the clerk of the course told us he had to come in. He is a stubborn buggar who, when high on fumes seems to listen even less. That is the drive he has for results and he's not the first person to push himself in those situations and go with his heart instead of his head! He was ok when he came in but light headed. I sure as hell didn't want to find out what he would have been like 5 laps later! He was going to try and keep going for another five laps, but there was no way. He did need to go to the medical centre for a bit of oxygen and a check over, but he was alright.
The NGTC car is still a massive learning curve: it's still only two weeks old. It's had very little development work, so we are very grateful for the four weeks we've now got to put some more effort into it. We needed the data from Knockhill: we needed to fly over the kerbs and go up hill and down dale and really push the car to the limit to find out how we can improve it for next year.
Everything for the second half of the season is very much a test and if we get something out of it, we are a lot better off for next year. If we had started 2013 with a fresh NGTC car, other teams would have a year or a year and a half on us. We needed to get one out there working to get the data and know where we are going straightaway for next season. So we're happy to be ticking all the boxes as we go. We experienced the most extreme circuit for kerbs and undulation and we faired ok. We've had our first run in the wet in which we qualified less than a tenth behind the Championship leader, so there was a lot to be happy with!
The only sour note of the weekend was Jason Plato's reaction to the incident with Aron. I realise he will see it his way and we will see it ours, that's natural. I was disappointed in the penalty which TOCA gave us because we've been on the receiving end of nearly identical incidents with Aron & Rob Austin in round 1, TOCA verdict – Racing incident, Liam & Lea Wood at Croft, TOCA verdict – Racing incident. Someone does it to Plato, TOCA verdict – 3 points & a £500 fine. Is it because its Plato? Maybe, who knows? With that in mind when we heard that 888 & Plato had appealed we were surprised, turns out Jason wanted more! He even suggested that Aron had a job to do on him! What can you say to this? Paranoid maybe?
Jason is supposed to represent British Motorsport, in two roles even beyond his role in the BTCC with MG & 888. He is the face of the KX young driver programme mentoring young aspiring drivers & has a major role at the BRDC as a Director. Yet despite all of this he remains the most outspoken, shouting his mouth of to anyone who will listen about how badly everyone else drives! Sorry, am I missing something? Is this the same Jason Plato who rammed Matt Neal off in a fit of rage/revenge at Snetterton, the same Jason Plato who rammed Gordon Shedden of at the last corner of Donington after pushing him along the back straight whilst Gordon tried to brake, and the same Jason Plato who simply disposed of Dave Newsham disgracefully at the first race of the season? And that's just this year. He has been one incident away from a 3 month ban for a little while due to his own indiscretions on track in the last 12 months. Pot and kettle spring to mind!
He suggested Aron doesn't deserve a race licence. Quite frankly, he is the man who needs banning from the championship. Why TOCA didn't give him points for his revenge mission at Snetterton on Matt Neal is anybodies guess! Probably because he has so many points already. MG & his sponsors should think twice before renewing his contract if he continues to behave like this. He makes damning statements that other teams and drivers are merely 'playing at this' and we're just 'pretenders' unlike the paid professional drivers. At most, if this was the case there would be a 3 car grid, this is modern day Motorsport. I amongst other would love to have the budgets of yesteryear and be able to pick two fully paid drivers like Andy Neate & Jason Plato as 888 have been able to this year!
How he keeps a job with the BRDC is beyond me. He is a Director in the most influential club in British Motorsport, he is in a role which people need to respect him and look upon his as someone who sets an example of how a race driver conducts himself both on and off the circuit. In my opinion he does neither! It's a joke that they have someone with such low regard for fellow competitors and young drivers in such a position. It's hypocritical. There is a new young driver programme which he is fronting. He then accuses Aron of being 'a pretender' because he pays for his drive. Will that be the same for all the drivers under his management who are paying for their drive? I doubt it, I'm sure he will change his mind then! Quite frankly no driver having been mentored by him would be welcome in a race car of mine.
All of that said I do respect his driving ability, he is clearly very talented. He also puts on a great show for the public, who seemingly love a bad boy. Maybe we're just another part of his show this week. I just think if he kept his mouth shut and his thoughts to himself the world would be better for it. I can only assume, and half understand that Aron is on the receiving end of his passion from the reality that Jason's Championship received a massive dent at the weekend due to him making a mistake of his own by drifting over into Aron, giving Aron very few options. Jason made the uncharacteristic error in which he lost out, something he doesn't do very often. I think most drivers would have driven exactly how Aron did, and the others probably would have ended up in the gravel themselves!
I'm extremely impressed with the way Aron has handled himself throughout this. He has definately come across as the more mature and controlled driver in all of this. Aron hasn't come from nowhere, he is backed by Motorsport Ireland due to his recent achievements prior to this year and he is a star of the future, of that we have no doubt. Motorbase Performance are young in comparison to the likes of 888, Dynamics & WSR but we are not pretenders either.