Jason Plato bids to protect his points lead at Donington Park tomorrow in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.

And he says he’s expecting “more than a tough time”.

Plato got his title defence off to a flying start with two wins in the season’s opening three races at Brands Hatch earlier this month.

But the Oxford ace, now the most successful driver in BTCC history in terms of race wins, believes staying ahead of his turbocharged rivals around Donington’s much faster and more open circuit lay-out will be difficult.

Plato said: “I suspect I’m in for more than just a tough time at Donington.

“At Brands Hatch I was able to get in front, then stick out my elbows a bit and hold them back – it’s that kind of circuit.

“But Donington is very different. It’s wider and there are longer straights and several uphill sections where the turbos will really stretch their legs.

“It’s not a whinge, it’s just fact – Donington along with Silverstone are the two places we’re going to be most up against it compared to the turbo cars, so our strategy is simply to wring the car’s neck and take the most that is possible from each race.”

Plato, in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze, is protecting an eight-point lead in the championship.

Among those chasing him hardest are Henley in Arden’s Mat Jackson in his Airwaves Racing Ford Focus ST and Droitwich’s Matt Neal in his Honda Racing Team’s Civic.

Jackson was twice on the podium at Brands Hatch, while Neal picked up a win in the day’s third race.

Neal said: “I see where Jason’s coming from when he talks of the turbos having an advantage on raw pace at Donington.

“Certainly up the hills we’ll be looking good, but over a race distance he will be somewhere in the mix – he always is. These turbo engines are still new to a lot of the teams, so we’re all still figuring out how to keep down the extra tyre wear they bring.

“Also, we don’t have the engine braking that he has with a normally aspirated engine and Donington is a very hard place on brakes.

“In a pre-season test we did there we were cooking our brakes within three laps, so we might have to play it a bit conservatively, whereas Jason and the other Chevrolets will be able to push from start to finish.”

With nine drivers on the grid with proven race-winning credentials, tomorrow’s three headline BTCC races are sure to be full of unpredictability.