Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Rory Butcher says he is ‘confident’ of leaving this weekend’s British Touring Car Championship races at Croft with some silverware, as he aims to close in on the dirvers’ title fight.
Butcher claimed a trio of top ten finishes last time out at Thruxton, although the Scot slipped back in the drivers’ championship battle.
Despite having never claimed a podium in the BTCC at the North Yorkshire circuit, with Butcher’s best result being a fifth last year, the 34-year-old remains optimistic of challenging for podiums due to the nature of the circuit suiting the Toyota Corolla.
Indeed, when previously raced by Tom Ingram, the Speedworks Motorsport-developed car was victorious in race three at the track in 2020.
After setting his season back on track three weeks’ ago at Thruxton, Butcher has his sights set on more than just top ten finishes this weekend.
“I really enjoy Croft – it’s quite close to Scotland, so I tend to get a lot of my sponsors coming along,” said Butcher. “It generates good racing, with a fantastic atmosphere all the way around the lap.
“It’s a circuit of extremes, from the super-quick Jim Clark Esses, Barcroft and Sunny In / Out to the slow-speed complex in the final sector and the tightest hairpin on the calendar.
“You’re never going to find the perfect set-up, and striking the best compromise is a massive challenge from an engineering point-of-view, while as a driver, you need to be able to rapidly adapt your approach from one corner to the next.
“The venue has done a brilliant job of resurfacing the track, which has made it much smoother and grippier, but the bumps remain so the car needs to be really well dialled-in to deal with that.
“We had a good pre-season test there, and the Corolla’s short wheelbase makes it very agile and nimble through the tight, twisty stuff, so I’m confident it will handle the circuit well.
“Not only that, but one of our main strengths since Oulton Park has been braking performance, and I’m really looking forward to exploiting that again.
“Our potential has been building throughout the year, and after a tricky start to the season, I’ve really fallen in love with the Corolla – we’re best buddies now.
“Whilst the number one priority at Croft has to be another solid weekend, at the same time, we know we have the pace for podiums so I feel we should be coming away with some silverware.
“The team is doing a good job, the car is in a great place and I’m feeling strong, so if we can put that all together, hopefully the results will follow.”
Christian Dick, Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, pointed to the team’s 2020 weekend as reasons to be positive, when former driver Ingram had started the three races from the back of the grid yet still had the pace to progressively work his way to the front and win race three.
“We’ve had a little break since Thruxton, and now we’re all champing at the bit to get back out there and go racing again,” added Dick.
“Croft is a circuit where we have performed well in the past, and where we know the Corolla is quick – to not only qualify on pole position there last year, but to then battle from the back of the grid at the start of race day to a win at the end of it proves that the Toyota is a force to be reckoned with around the track.
“Croft poses a very unique challenge, with fast, flowing sections that require maximum commitment offset by a much slower and more tortuous end to the lap that calls for millimetre-perfect precision.
“It’s almost like two circuits in one, and that makes free practice there more important than at most tracks as you really need the time to dial the car in and achieve the optimum set-up.
“Having enjoyed a very solid weekend at Thruxton where he showed good speed and scored well in all three races, Rory is primed to maintain his upward momentum at his second ‘home’ circuit.
“I think we’re in for a very good weekend, all-told.”