Plato lays down 2015 BTCC gauntlet to his rivals as he tops the times at Media Day Test.

Team BMR sets the pace in Season Launch test at Donington Park with Plato pipping 2014 Champion Turkington.

Two-time Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato laid down the gauntlet to his rivals today (24 March) at the Season Launch official test at Donington Park. The seasoned campaigner set the fastest time during the afternoon running – a 1:10.249s – just pipping his new Team BMR stable-mate and reigning BTCC champion Colin Turkington by 0.006s. (BMR’s race winner from 2014, Ireland’s Aron Smith only managed 3 laps but will surely take solace from the fact that his team mates topped the sheets in similar Passat CCs.)

In identical VW CC machinery, the pair look set to lock horns throughout what will undoubtedly be another thrilling campaign, and with times already so close at the top there are sure to be fireworks when racing commences at Brands Hatch in Kent on 4/5 April.

With the top two from last year’s championship setting the pace, it was a very impressive showing from the two Mercedes A-Class machines of Aiden Moffat and Adam Morgan that saw them placed third and fourth in the time sheets for Laser Tools Racing and WIX Racing respectively. Morgan secured his first ever BTCC win at the Brands Hatch finale last October, and as Moffat makes the switch to a new car it looks like an exciting season in prospect for the ambitious young duo.

A team pairing took up station in fifth and sixth, as Triple Eight Racing drivers Jack Goff and Andrew Jordan put in a formidable tally of laps around the Donington Park National Circuit. Indeed the only driver to complete more circulations than Goff was Team BMR owner Warren Scott, who managed to post the eighth fastest time having lapped the 1.98-mile track an impressive 68 times.

Hunter Abbott was seventh fastest in his Exocet AlcoSense Audi A4,  with the returning Honda Civic of Martin Depper in ninth. Sam Tordoff secured top BMW honours in his first timed session for the newly-announced Team JCT600 with GardX squad in tenth, just ahead of Dave Newsham who has switched to a Power Maxed Racing Chevrolet for this year.

Honda Yuasa Racing unveiled the stunning new Civic Type R this morning in front of a huge media gathering, and the car will surely grab headlines as the it hits the track in earnest even before the production car hits the showroom floor. Matt Neal piloted the #25 car to the 12th fastest time.

Attentions now turn to Brands Hatch for the first three BTCC battles of 2015.

Jason Plato said: “We had an issue which cost us about an hour today which is a little frustrating as we had a plan of things we’re trying to get though and it’s left us with a couple of questions on the set-up that aren’t 100 per cent answered. It was a good day though – the guys have had a tough six weeks and I think now it’s time to down tools, get everything ready and checked for Brands Hatch and make sure we don’t have any reliability issues. We’ll be on the pace at Brands – if we’re not quickest we’ll be there or thereabouts and I think we can win races.”

Colin Turkington said: “It’s been a good day because I’ve been able to do a lot of laps. I’m still adjusting to the car and so the more time I’m in it the more it feels like mine. I want to be in there all the time and learn as much as I can before the season starts! I’m really looking forward to the start of the season – it’s coming around really quick but today has been another good learning exercise and it’s given us lots to look through and will hopefully get us to Brands Hatch with an even stronger package.”

Adam Morgan said: “It’s gone really well today – it’s always nice to get back out on-track with the rest of the field and compare times. To have two Mercedes cars towards the top of the time sheet is really encouraging. It was a bit of an unknown coming into today as you never really know what people are doing in testing. We seem to go very well around Brands and we’ve had a good two-day test there – there’s no reason why we can’t look to be right at the front.”

Aiden Moffat said: “It’s a great way to start the year, I think we could’ve gone a bit quicker if the weather hadn’t changed, but we can take a lot of positives out of today. The Mercedes really works with you and gives you confidence. I think we’ve come a long way – we didn’t do much pre-season testing last year, but we haven’t made the same mistake again and we’re in a much better place already. I think initially we’ll be aiming for the top ten – we have got good pace but we’re not going to get too carried away just yet!”

Jack Goff said: “It’s been nice to get on track at the media day, having never really managed it before. It was good to pound round and get some more laps under my belt. Overall it’s been a really good day, I managed a new tyre run and I definitely think we have more to get out of the car, despite finishing fifth.”

Click here for the full classification from the Season Launch test.